[This story was first published in the April 2018 edition of etc magazine. The original story can be read online here on pages 52 and 53. ]
Emily Jessica Turner meets the founder of Fit As A Fiddle, a new festival celebrating happiness and positivity
What started off as one woman’s passion project, aiming to encourage others to find happiness, has become a celebration of energy, health, and positivity, in the form of a brand new wellbeing festival.
We’ve all experienced adversity in our lives, something Fit As A Fiddle (FAAF) festival founder Hannah Worthington is well aware of.
Hannah, who lives in Halnaker, suffered from a severe and prolonged bout of adrenal fatigue due to stress brought on by prolonged bullying. She was determined, however, to build herself back up and regain her strength, and found herself intent on promoting happiness, particularly by recognising and learning from other people’s’ skills.
“FAAF was borne out of the idea that whatever you’re going through, you can develop and find your strength alongside other people sharing positive vibes”, Hannah tells me over coffee. “I want the festival to be a really positive thing, as it’s aimed at women who want to find their strengths or share their passions in the right sort of setting.”
Since October last year, Hannah has been preparing to run the festival, which will serve to help visitors learn how to become stronger, both physically and mentally. “Empowerment is a word we’re hearing a lot at the moment, but it’s what I’m hoping this festival will achieve,” Hannah explains. “I want FAAF to promote energy and living life to the full.” Activities are set to encompass holistic health and wellbeing, fitness, music, and food.
As if planning a festival in a few months wasn’t challenging enough, the 29 year old, who describes herself as an ‘all round positive girl’, is busy with her own career and passions. By day, Hannah is a solicitor for a global car manufacturer based in West Sussex, and by night, she is a musician and DJ.
FAAF is set to take place from Friday, May 25, to Monday, May 28, meaning that guests staying for the whole festival can stay for four nights in one of the yurts on the festival’s East Ashling site. Those staying for the three days of the festival are also given breakfast and a champagne hamper as part of their ticket.
The boutique, luxury festival is taking a holistic approach to wellbeing, promoting nutrition, fitness, community, and positive mental thinking, as well as getting back to nature.
Hannah wants guests to feel like they’ve stepped outside of their usual routine and can get ‘back to basics’, which is one of the reasons why she’s excited for ticket holders to stay in the yurts. These tents are permanent structures on the site near the woodland, but they don’t just offer the usual camping experience – they also feature wood burning stoves, sheepskin rugs, and plush bedding.
“This means that people can escape what they are used to, the usual Monday to Friday sights and routines,” explained Hannah. “I know how important it can be for mental wellbeing to get outside and see the landscape, and staying in a yurt will take us outside the mainstream so we can do this.”
During her illness, Hannah rescued Kenny, a Greyhound. Walking her four legged friend gave her a reason to go out every day, meaning not only that she could see the world around her, but also gave her the opportunity to exercise. “Fitness gives me confidence and at the worst times, it was the only thing that I could focus on,” Hannah explains. “I think fitness and holistic health ought to be seen as one, so the festival is a true combination, really!”
Fitness is clearly important to Hannah, who used to be a personal trainer, as she talks with passion about the mental health benefits of getting active. This, she says, is one of the benefits to hosting the festival in Sussex: “the area lends itself so well to running and sports, you can keep going for ages before reaching a road.”
Hannah plans to have three sets of activities running simultaneously throughout FAAF – a sedentary option such as a wellbeing talk or mindfulness workshop, a mild physical activity including yoga or pilates, and a more challenging physical option, such as HIIT.
Saturday and Sunday are set to be jam-packed with activities, featuring traders, sports, and food.
Together Yoga are taking over part of the festival, offering, among other types of activity, yoga under the stars with a live DJ set. Hollie Grant of Pilates PT will also be offering sessions, and different genres of dancing will be available to those who want to take part.
I asked Hannah which activity she was most excited to take part in at FAAF. “The aerial hoop dancing, provided by Centre Stage Dance Academy,” she told me. “I’m going to hang the hoops in the woodland – I’ve tried a lot of different sports, but I’ve never tried aerial hoop dancing before!”
As well as encouraging guests to experience the natural landscape of Sussex, Hannah is also prioritising local speakers and traders at the festival. As well as wholesome national brands such as Pukka Herbs, Oatly, Spoon, and Deliciously Ella, FAAF will be collaborating with local food producers such as Goodwood, and the gin and tonic bar will be stocked with products from Brighton and Chilton gin companies.
Community is a theme which keeps coming up when discussing FAAF with Hannah. This is partly the reason why she is offering 70 spaces for the whole weekend, with 100 extra tickets on Saturday and Sunday – this way, guests can get to know each other and share the experience together.
It certainly sounds like the community coming together at FAAF will be varied: “we have a hen party attending, young mums who are excited to see their friends, older teenagers, and people my mum’s age,” Hannah says.
Although the festival wasn’t aimed at women, it has attracted a mostly female audience. “Some are in high powered jobs in London looking for a retreat,” Hannah continues. “Some from ‘stay at home’ positions and they have forgotten what makes them truly tick.”
The idea behind FAAF is that people with different strengths and skills can come together to encourage each other – there will be social media influencers, professional experts and motivational speakers as well as GB athletes.
Extending this positivity out to those who are dealing with incredibly difficult times is central to what the festival hopes to achieve.
“FAAF will not be commercial this year,” Hannah tells me. “We’re going to be supporting MOVE, the charity founded by my friend Jemma, who overcame cancer. It’s a charity which is close to our hearts and helps young people living with cancer to keep fit and strong through treatment.”
After her experiences with cancer in her 20s, Jemma, who is now in remission, felt that everything had been put into perspective, and realised that life is too short. She set up MOVE as a charity to educate young people with or close to someone with cancer. The charity advocates that young people keep themselves fit within their individual perimeters or capabilities, something that Hannah wants to promote at the festival.
The shared ethos of MOVE and FAAF makes the two natural partners, and Jemma, along with some team members from MOVE, are set to take part in the festival. “It’s so exciting to be able to give a platform to this important charity, who have only been around for two or three years,” explains Hannah.
For more information about the festival, or if you are a local trader interested in getting involved, visit the FAAF website at http://www.fitasafiddlefestival.co.uk/. Readers can get 10 per cent off their ticket price for day tickets by entering ‘etcfaaf’ at the checkout on Eventbrite.