Could Green Man Festival be moving location?

Around four or five weeks ago, I was tipped off that the Welsh Government had bought a 240-acre farm near Talybont-on-Usk in the Brecon Beacons.

I sat on the information, as nothing had been confirmed and the purpose of the purchase was not clear.

In an environment where Welsh farms are being bought up by big businesses to plant trees and offset their carbon emissions, there seemed to be a suggestion at that time that tree-planting could form the basis of this deal.

However, last week it emerged that those rumours were false. The Welsh Government had bought Gilestone Farm, but it had in fact appointed the organisers of the Green Man Festival to run it.

Green Man Festival takes place on the Glanusk Estate, near Crickhowell. Credit: PA Images

The Welsh Government and Green Man Festival have so far refused to make any comment. But the lack of detail has led to widespread speculation in the local community about what the site may now be used for.

Posts on social media pages talk of everything from a wholesale relocation of the festival from its current home on the Glanusk Estate near Crickhowell, to a simple continuation of the site as a working farm.

Fay Jones, the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, says she's been swamped with messages and emails.

"My phone and my inbox have gone nuts with people getting in touch about this issue," she said.

"There's no doubt that we all love the Green Man in Breconshire. We are very proud of it. It's a huge part of the cultural spectacle.

"But there are, I think, some questions for the Welsh Government to answer on this project. I'm a little bit confused about how it came about, and my constituents certainly are. As far as I can see, it doesn't appear to have gone out to commercial tender."

Livestock farmer Chris Alford is based next door to Gilestone Farm.

Livestock farmer Chris Alford is Gilestone Farm's next-door neighbour. His farm was actually part of Gilestone when he bought it 20 years ago, but it is now separate. He says he is unhappy with this sale, and feels that public money could have been better spent on improving public services in rural parts of Wales.

Although the Welsh Government have not made a comment, it is thought that the farm will still keep some sustainable farming and maintain efforts to tackle climate change. So does this give Chris some peace of mind?

"Not really, no," he said.

"The word is that it will be kept as a working farm, but that it will employ 174 people. But what are they going to be doing? Gilestone can only really sustain two full-time working people. So it makes me wonder, what are their intentions?"

A meeting of Talybont-on-Usk Community Council was held to discuss exactly that earlier this week. Some villagers say that if 'satellite' festivals similar to Green Man are staged on Gilestone several times a year, it would put pressure on the infrastructure of the area, which has narrow country roads and limited facilities.

They query what impact an influx of people would have. They also worry about potential noise and light pollution in the Brecon Beacons - an area designated an International Dark Skies Reserve.

Resident Robert Wyn welcomes the possibility of more tourists to Talybont.

But some welcome the possibility of more tourists to Talybont. I met resident Robert Wyn outside the village shop. He says he is looking forward to seeing work created in a quiet, rural part of Powys.

"I don't know much about it yet, but the general idea sounds good to me," he said.

"They need more to attract tourists in. When I was a little boy, you hardly saw anybody around here. And these days, what other work is around here for youngsters?"

With little over three months to go before this year's Green Man at the end of August, much of the local gossip is around the length of the lease given to the festival for Gilestone. Some people believe it could be as much as 99 years, and they say they want to know how the farm will be developed during the future.

Fay Jones MP is keen for residents not to jump to any conclusions.

She said: "Green Man is fantastic at organising events. Last year's festival - even with all of the Covid regulations - was brilliantly well-organised. So I have no doubt that Green Man can do a great job here. But I do think that we urgently need to see the detail of these proposals."

Many in the farming industry are worried about future purchases of this nature.

The wider concern - in other parts of rural Wales - is to what extent schemes like this between the Welsh Government and private companies could be replicated. Many in the farming industry are worrying about what sort of precedent it sets, and whether further farms could be bought up in this way.

It is a point that Chris Alford raises too.

He said: "Gilestone Farm is a wonderful site that is capable of growing nutritious crops and healthy animals. It has had tourism enterprises added to it as well, and has been a beacon for diversification.

"But this purchase by the Welsh Government has all been cloak-and-dagger, and shrouded in secrecy. Nobody in the local area has known what has gone on. Whatever happens, we want to protect food production and food security here."

As to what happens next, and when we will hear more, is anybody's guess. A public meeting is likely to be arranged when further information becomes available. For now though, people in Talybont-on-Usk are left with many questions, but not many answers.

Both the Welsh Government and Green Man Festival say they have no comment to make at this time.