Wilderness…A Quintessentially English Festival

Wilderness, circus

Ahh festivals, the only time it’s completely fine as an adult to wander around in fancy dress all weekend. Never will you see so many straight men, faces artistically adorned with glitter and wearing the most outrageous psychedelic leggings. I bloody love it! It’s a great opportunity to embrace your inner child, get into character and be whoever the hell you want to be. Wilderness did not disappoint and brought out an eclectic bunch of English eccentrics. Yep even Prince Harry was there* (*allegedly – security told me)!

As I’m British I’ll start by telling you about the weather… Have I lost you yet? All I have to say is the sun shone loud and proud for us (most of the time) on the beautiful Oxfordshire village of Charlbury. This is big news non-British readers! I vowed a few years back after a particularly wet and miserable Bestival on The Isle of Wight that I wouldn’t do another UK festival. You shouldn’t have to get soaked to the bone in your 30s for a whole weekend, traipsing about in damp clothes pretending that it’s ok. Piling into the Oxfam tent desperate for warm dry clothing and coming out with a leopard print fleece and a man’s duffle coat. So this year we did it proper like and went Boutique, we had our own shed! It was the best shed ever, with proper beds and a power socket and on the wee bit of Sunday rain we were protected in our wooden festival haven. I woke up each day feeling fantastic-ish!

So I was under the misconception that all our big UK festivals are all about the music. Tis not the case with Wilderness. Lying on our luxurious beds we flicked through the festival programme/book. My roomie casually read that The Huffington Post team were doing a blogging workshop, ‘when?’ I screamed! ‘Err right now’. I’d missed it. At that moment I read through that blooming book from cover to cover and highlighted everything I wanted to see. Two highlights for me were Irvine Welsh’s appearance and discussion about recently published ‘Sex Lives of Siamese Twins’ and a workshop with newly published authors, Kerry Hudson and Deepti Kapoor. Irvine is as you’d imagine, naturally witty and the kind of guy you want to hang out with. I tweeted him trying to get him to come raving in the woods that night but alas he must have been enjoying the champagne and lobster (yep you can get both at this fancy festival). The two new authors were joined by a lady from publishers Chatto & Windus and between them they revealed a few gems on getting published. In case you’re interested the key is to sack off your ‘real life’, move somewhere cheap and dedicate a minimum of six months to hammering out your book. Easy huh. It was actually very inspiring.

Wilderness, festival, food

Other stuff to do at Wilderness… well you can eat like a King/Queen (or a Harry)! I’m not exaggerating here as the food stalls served freshly made paella, curries, chilli, hog roasts and I’ve already told you about the lobster. I think someone must have taste tested every stall’s offering before allowing them on board as the standard was so high, in fact there wasn’t even a bowl of slop or cheap burger in sight! Angela Hartnett no less was cooking up a storm in the Banquet Tent and if you fancied it you could go to a cooking lesson with this culinary legend. There was a wellbeing field which is fairly standard these days but unlike many other festivals it didn’t just consist of a soggy looking fortune teller and juice stand. My mate got hung upside down for ten minutes of Inversion Therapy. The idea being that gravity can do its thing and pull you naturally back in line. The Spa look pretty exceptional with hot tubs by the lake. Oh yes the lake! You can wild swim, go for a dip or hire a rowing boat. It would have looked like a scene from a period drama if everyone wasn’t coated in glitter, dramatic head dresses and tutus (boys & girls… mostly the boys). There were fancy dress shops a-plenty, so if you’d left your top hat and intergalactic leggings at home there was no need to panic, Wilderness 2014 had it all.

Festival, lake

For massive circus fans like myself there was a trapeze, where you could humiliate yourself or show off your circus skills. Hours of entertainment on a hazy summer afternoon. I don’t believe anyone got bored here as there was something for everyone including the kids. They had their own dedicated area packed with things I didn’t investigate. Stand-up performances, yoga sessions, capoeira, archery, fishing, horse riding, philosophical talks, theatre, travellers tales, poetry readings and a decent selection of bands. But where is the naughtiness I hear you cry? Oh it was right there amongst the trees. As night fell, the woods was the place to head for some all night raving. The DJs did there thing whilst acrobats hung from the trees and swung high above the sea of dancing festival goers heads. There’s something a little bit special and paradoxical about immersing yourself in nature and letting any inhibitions go to dance all night dressed as a woodland animal.

Then the music… So throughout the weekend you could catch a variety of acts dotted about but the standout day had to be Sunday. Check the website for the full line-up but for me it was all about Jessie Ware and even more importantly London Grammar. Picture this… You’re in the luscious green sprawling English countryside, in the grounds of a huge country estate. It’s dusk and as the sun disappears the sky turns black and a gigantic full moon appears just left of the main stage, a ’Supermoon’ no less. There’s a wood nearby which you know is filling up with raving woodland creatures and the field in front of you is a mass of heads in eccentric hats and hairpieces. Hannah’s vocals cut through the night and mesmerised an entire field of people for their whole set. London Grammar absolutely smashed it.

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