This September, far from her usual professional haunts of London, Los Angeles, Paris or Milan, you’ll be much more likely to find hotel consultant Anna Hayward in a bell tent in the Wiltshire countryside.
Having traded the hubbub of the city for the rolling fields of Chalke Valley, Anna is heading up VERVE wellness festival, two days of talks, workshops, yoga, spa treatments, mindfulness and more. There will also be a host of activities designed to get the festival’s attendees (both big and small) back to nature, including foraging, forest bathing, farm runs and bushcraft.
In that same spirit, Anna and co-Director Charlotte have pledged to make VERVE a zero-waste festival, leaving no mark on either the farm site itself or the surrounding area, an officially designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
We caught up with Anna to talk about what’s in store for festival guests, getting kids off screens and into the great outdoors, and the glamorous world of waste management.
Tell us about the creation of VERVE – what inspired you to set it up?
I have always been passionate about exercise and healthy living, and I knew that when I left London I wanted to do something work-wise that encapsulated all the things I love.
The landscape of Ebbesbourne Wake, which is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wiltshire, is stunning, and the perfect place for a festival celebrating nature and wellness. We will be using the outdoors as much as possible for activities which will include yoga, woodland workouts, forest bathing, a wild spa, farm runs, stargazing, bushcraft and foraging.
Can you tell us a little about your speakers and how they fit into the bigger picture of VERVE?
I’m so excited about our speaker programme! I’ve tried to keep the nine talks as current and varied as possible so that everyone will get something from them. Sky Sports presenter and wellness podcaster Tony Wrighton will give us seven hacks for more energy in our daily lives, bestselling author of The Kindness Method Shahroo Izadi will talk about creating new habits, and actress Serena Evans will give us tips for more confidence. Then we have TV presenter Tonia Buxton giving us her best anti-aging hacks and Aoife Drury discussing how to improve sex and relationships. WeSleep will also attempt a mass meditation of up to 200 people to show people how to fall asleep using breathing and relaxation techniques.
VERVE Festival founders Anna Hayward and Charlotte Cummings
While we tend to focus on wellness in indoor spaces, we very much appreciate the physical and mental benefits of getting outside. But when so many of our day-to-day responsibilities tie us to the indoors, how do you strike a balance?
The Global Wellness Forum hailed prescribing nature as one of the top wellness trends of 2019. When I lived in London, I always lived next to a park – being in a green space is just good for the soul. I think getting outside, even if just for a quick walk, lifts your spirits and improves mental health.
We did a yoga session in the woods last weekend, and one of the journalists who came commented ‘I’ve previously enjoyed Pilates in a studio, under strip lights, but standing in the outside was an all-encompassing experience. Surrounded by trees, birds singing and the light drifting through the trees, your mind really started to switch off.’
What are some of the steps you’re taking towards making VERVE a zero-waste event?
We’ve teamed up with The Good Plate Company, who specialise in zero waste management, to ensure that VERVE leaves absolutely no impact on the farm or the environment. They will create disposal points and provide a dedicated waste manager and daily waste collection. Nothing will be sent to landfill; waste will be composted, recycled or sent to an EFW (energy from waste) facility. We will publish a waste analysis report after the festival. They will also provide 100% organic, biodegradable and compostable tableware to our food and drink suppliers at a highly discounted rate.
Your programme does a great job of getting kids involved, offering activities from yoga and storytelling to bushcraft and parties under the stars. Do you have any tips for families who want to get outdoors together on a more regular basis?
Bushcraft Initiative, who are running our outdoors programme, will speak at VERVE about the major mental health benefits of getting kids off their screens and back to nature. As children we spent all our time playing outside and it’s a shame that these days so much of what kids do is centred around technology. I would just say get outside – go to the park, the beach, the woods, throw a ball around, get on your bikes, go camping. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that!
Win a Family Ticket to VERVE
Anna and Charlotte are offering one reader the chance to win a VERVE Family Weekend Ticket for two adults and up to two children, worth £260. If you’re tempted by a two-day wellness retreat in the Wiltshire countryside, head to our competition page now to enter. Good luck!