Talking to Tara Gladstone

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A chat with Tara Gladstone of The Good Life Society

We originally knew Tara Gladstone during the five years she spent working at Anyways Creative. Leaving that position a year or so ago has allowed Tara to focus more on  her family’s business – The Good Life Society.

The Good Life Society is the collective name for a number of events which aim to instil a sense of community in attendees, where they can learn new skills and try new experiences, all mentored by experts in their fields. This all takes place on two of Britain’s most beautiful private estates.

The Good Life Experience is an annual festival for up to 2,000 people on the Hawarden Estate in North Wales. It’s a long weekend that can include everything from campfire cookery sessions, the chance to learn new craft skills, talks from the likes of Michael Morpurgo and John Cooper-Clarke, creative workshops, market places, fairground rides, a line-up of music including blues, jazz, folk, world and classical. And all set in the beautiful, dog-friendly grounds of Hawarden. It’s a festival that lasts days but with an influence that should last a life-time.

We went for the first time in 2019 and loved it.  We were so looking forward to returning again in 2020 but, alas, we couldn’t. Unfortunately, The Good Life Experience has had to be cancelled for 2021, too, but the team has been working on a new event called Camp Good Life. And we’re very pleased to report that Camp Good Life Autumn will now be going ahead in September this year, while Camp Good Life Spring will take place in April 2022. These will effectively be smaller, and more intimate, versions of The Good Life Experience. Though tickets for the two events will mainly roll over to existing ticket holders, there will be a small number on sale for Camp Good Life Spring in due course. Watch their site for updates.

Camp Glen Dye sees about 30 people getting together on the Glen Dye Estate in Kincardineshire, Scotland. These residential camps are held at Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages, set in 30,000 acres of Scottish moorland and forestry. Here you’ll be able to learn from the best, meet like-minded people, eat great food and lots more, all while also staying in genuine luxury.

Summer Camp is a new annual event for up to 60 people that lasts for two weeks on the Hawarden Estate. Taking place in July, with guests staying in the Walled Garden of the estate, it offers a chance to escape into a rural idyll with talks, workshops and expeditions led by expert crafts-people, before settling down to an evening of good food around the campfire.

The Good Life Society can be seen as a family business. It was born out of a discussion around what living The Good Life meant between Tara’s parents – authors, retailers and farmers Charlie and Caroline Gladstone with Cerys Matthews and arts consultant Steve Abbott. That led to the first festival in 2014, one that was curated entirely by its founders.

While we’re on the subject of Charlie, it provides us an opportunity to mention another connection between Breed and the Gladstone clan. Charlie has a book coming out soon, via Do Book Co, called ‘How to get the best from everyone’ and our own Matt Blease is providing illustrations for it.  We can’t wait to see more.

And with that, let’s get back to Tara, with a few questions:

How would you describe your role with the Good Life Society?

My role is hugely varied and exciting. I was hired to project manage The Good Life Experience, but since I started this job, my role has changed massively. I now really work across all creative projects on a few of my parents’ businesses, which means I can work on anything from a festival, to a photo shoot, to recording a radio show, to a pub opening all at the same time. For The Good Life Society specifically, my role is to bring everything together for our events – all ideas, plans, problems, timings, budgets, people – make them all work, and make them work well. I oversee all of our events, but the funny thing is that because I started in 2020(!), we haven’t held an event since I started. While this has been painfully tough for the business, it has been a great opportunity for us to really go into the businesses, challenge ways of doing things, bring out fresh thinking and allow us to really nail what we do next. I’ve really thrived off working on this process.

Had you been involved in some way since it started?

I have actually, and my work at the festival was what helped me to get my job at Anyways, where I worked for nearly five years (that particular year was last-minute traffic management, but that’s a story for another time!). I’ve never worked full-time for the family businesses until now, but I always helped with some smaller elements in the lead-up to our events and the festival, helping plan small parts, and helping on site during the weekend with parts like stage management. The festival really taught me what kind of line of work I wanted to do when I was 22 and had no idea. I’ve always liked the sweet spot between business, logic and creativity. 

How did your experience at Anyways Creative influence what you’re doing now?

I learnt so much at Anyways from so many amazing people. I actually wrote to Alex Bec, one of the directors there, last week and just told him that I honestly use things I learnt there almost every day. Anyways taught me the value of creativity, and of having core beliefs. It taught me a lot about people management and communication. And it taught me how to make what you want to happen, happen. I met so many amazingly creative people that are capable of so much, so it really taught me that there’s someone out there who can do what you want – who can bring your idea to life, so just to go looking for them! 

What would you say the intention is behind The Good Life Society and the events it runs?

The intention of The Good Life Society is at its core to bring good people together, to have a good time. We wanted to really bring the things that we love to the forefront, because we believe in them and because when you believe in something it shows in authenticity. Food, the outdoors, the fresh air, good music, learning new things by listening to amazing talks, meeting new people. 

Our intention is to bring people together who share interests, to do it in a beautiful place and with a clear authenticity. 

What’s the history of the Hawarden Estate and the Glen Dye Estate?

Hawarden Estate and Glen Dye Estates have been in the Gladstone family for a long time. My great-great-great grandfather married into Hawarden Estate and my dad, grandfather (and his dad, etc) grew up there. I would say that one of the most amazing things that my parents have achieved is to bring these places into the modern age, breathing life, creativity, and energy into them through sheer hard work, love and amazing businesses. This is something I am also thriving on being a part of and pushing even further, as part of a new generation. 

How does The Good Life Experience differ from most other festivals?

We have always been very specific with what we want The Good Life Experience to be. We don’t want to put all of our money towards getting a ‘big name’ headliner, and to rely on that name to get customers in. We want to create something that people come to for the full package, for the food, the music, the craft, the activities – all of it! Although I wouldn’t complain if we had Radiohead on our main stage…!

I think there are two things that really set us apart. The first is our location – it really is special. And we open this up totally to the festival, while having minimal lasting impact on the natural environment. The second is the variation of things going on at our weekend. We have so many parts to our festival, each of which is run by someone from our small team (alongside their full-time jobs). Music, food, craft, outdoors activities – all of them are done with 100% effort, love and a desire to give our guests the best weekend of their year.

Is there a different audience for each of the events run by The Good Life Society?

Our events go all through the year (not this year/last year, though!), and are different lengths, places, and prices. So, we do have some variation, but because we have really strong core values of creativity, a love of food, the outdoors, learning and of culture, we do have a similar core audience at our events. Of course, though, we are always meeting new people at them, too. Our audience is what pushes us to get better and better each year!

We have an amazingly supportive audience, and we see a lot of familiar faces at all of our events. It’s so special to be able to truly know the people that come back to your events time after time. I think part of that also comes from having a small team, too. As time has gone on it’s amazing to meet new people each year, too, and to learn where they have come from. We know of people that meet at one event, and then end up attending another one together. It’s so amazing to see that happen.

How has COVID affected the festival in the last year? Do you have plans to keep things going in some form?

We have been massively affected by COVID and it’s been a truly tough year. We’ve had to postpone or cancel all of the plans for The Good Life Society. Our last event was in October 2019, which just feels like an age ago! We are lucky to have a very supportive audience, and the majority of people have stuck with us and rolled their tickets over to our next event. This has meant that we can put on future events and can keep doing; our next event will be Summer Camp in July of this year. 

Are there future plans to add more events each year?

Yes! For many years we had The Good Life Experience, and then we added Camp Glen Dye. We have now added Summer Camp and Camp Good Life. All of these exciting plans and ideas were what led to us creating The Good Life Society – we needed a place for all of these events to live.  We are a really small team, but we are constantly thinking of new things to do and try, so I know that our list of events will keep growing and growing. 

What are your own ambitions for the future?

I have lots of ideas up my sleeve, and I want to do some freelance work alongside the work that I am already doing. I also have lots of ideas for our family businesses, too. The last year has taught me to push myself, to make changes, but to also roll with the punches. As our businesses grow and change, I want to grow and change and help them to be the best that they can be. 

Photo credit

Department Two and Hikaru Funnel