Festivals, we LOVE them. We spend our summers trudging through the mud, dragging our giant rucksacks to a boggy field, drinking warm rose out of a box – all to listen to some of the best in music and performance and feast on some of the most exciting street food.
However, festivals are evolving and offering much more in the way of creature comforts than they used too – now Michelin starred chefs will cook you intimate dinners, renowned yoga instructors can give you one on one sessions, you can even learn a new skill – from paddle boarding to painting, festivals these days are much, much more than just music.
Wellness is now a key element to a good festival, and Wilderness (this August 5th – 7th) is one that has really taken looking after yourself seriously. From its birth in 2011, there has always been a focus on providing guests with opportunities to sit back, relax and pamper themselves. Our most favourite offering has to be the beautiful outdoor lakeside spa, situated on the edge of the swimming lakes (where a morning dip should be made mandatory) which boasts a collection of rustic looking wood-fired saunas, warm enough to soothe those aching limbs and a sauna to detox any naughtiness from the night before. Whether you fancy a jacuzzi in the sunshine, sipping on a glass of bubbly, or looking up at the stars whilst indulging in a night-time session, we have to admit, the Lakeside spa has always been a real highlight of Wilderness for us. For those lucky things who have bagged themselves a spot in the boutique camping, you may even be able to board the hot tub bus – a double decker housing a group of hot tubs, a Finnish sauna, hot showers, phone chargers and a beauty corner with hairdryers, straighteners, mirrors, the lot!
To find out more about how this incredible spa idea came about, and how on earth we might be able to get our hands on one of these wooden beauties, we met with the geniuses behind all of this, Bart and Alexandra who set up Bathing under the Sky, the leading provider of outdoor wood-fired hot tubs and saunas. As well as Wilderness they provide spas for a whole range of festivals such as Green Man, Bestival and Secret Garden Party as well as private parties, events AND sell them individually for anyone looking for an outdoor spa all year round.
– How did you both meet and tell us what inspired you to start Bathing Under the Sky?
Bart and I first met at the airport when he came to pick me up the first time I came to England in 2005. He was a friend of a friend and has always been a very generous and kindhearted guy so he agreed to travel for miles to pick up a complete stranger. With Bathing under the Sky, it was a love at first bath when we tried one of the wood-fired hot tubs on a trip to Peak District. We were completely overwhelmed (and surprised) of how calming and relaxing it was. We already had some business plans for when we move back but were looking for a way to see if we could work as business partners. After this experience, we started talking, doing research etc. and the idea was born – never did we envisage the success and popularity would grow as much nor that we’d take it to public events
– Was it a love of the great outdoors, or a passion for health &wellness which sparked the ideas for the outdoor hot tubs (or a little bit of both)
– What is it that makes sitting in a hot tub in the great outdoors so magical?
It’s very calming and after a busy word day it’s the best way to unplug. It makes you spend time outside, not looking at any screen just the green of your garden and the sky. Of course, the sound of the crackling fire, rather than the sound of jets is very relaxing. What makes it truly special is the preparation process and the anticipation of a job well done. It takes 4-6 hours to heat the hot tub to the ideal temperature so you’re spending even more time outside, monitoring the temperature, chopping the wood. We and clients, who purchase our hot tubs find this very cathartic.
– Who designs your beautiful hot tubs?
They come from Scandinavia and the design is hundreds of years old. No one really knows who originally came up with the design but it is very traditional in the Nordic countries. We had to adapt it to make it transportable but it is still such a simple and genious concept.
– Why have you chosen Western Red Cedar as the wood to make the hot tubs? What makes it particularly good/suitable?
It is something of a Ferrari or Lamborghini among wood It contains natural preservatives that resist moisture, decay and insect damage. Cedar also has the ability to withstand extreme temperature variations including moisture and heat. No other wood has the insulating value of Western Red Cedar, it is the choice of outdoor wood for most high-end custom homes in Canada and North America, and of course, it is very beautiful.
– Another magical thing about your hot tubs is that they are wood fired, why did you choose to do this? Are there any benefits?
One of the biggest benefits is that instead of a sound of motor jets you listen to the sound of crackling fire and it makes it truly spectacular. Also, the process of heating and the sense that you did a good job makes it so much more enjoyable to sit and relax in the hot tub. Benefits are also economical – our heaters are internally placed and therefore the temperature of the water is well maintained. Instead of a day long process of heating of the tub with external heaters, it only takes 4-6 hours to heat them from tap temperature and it only decreases a couple of degrees overnight, so in a domestic setting you can use it again the next day and jump right in.
– Where do you find the biggest demand is for the tubs? Private parties? Festivals? Corporate dos?
All of the above really, especially in the summer. There is also a huge demand to purchase our hot tubs,with our pre-loved hot tub offer very popular in Autumn and Winter which is when the hot tubs are most enjoyable.
– How did you get into festivals?
Secret Productions who wanted to bring the hot tubs to the launch year of Wilderness approached us in 2012. Having never been to a festival before, we accepted and set about working extensively to make the experience safe for public bathing – one of our proudest achievements.
– Which is your favourite festival to work at?
They all bring something different to the table and are very enjoyable. Our first year at Green Man in 2015 was absolutely fantastic – the audience was extremely well behaved
– Why do you think there has been such a shift towards wellness at these music festivals? What’s changed?
I think it has a lot to do with the stress of modern lives – people are no longer only looking to party at festivals but to relax and unplug which is what we are all about. Also, people need to recharge their party feet and spend some time away from the crowds and our guests really appreciate the chance to do that.
– Do you find that there is now increasing competition for your products/business?
There certainly are new companies trying to achieve what we have done and every new season we come across someone new. Whether they survive the season is another question… The whole operation, especially at festivals, is very complex and demanding not to mention all the regulations we have to comply with requiring extensive research and patience. As far as we know, no one does it on a similar scale or quality.
– The hot tub bus is probably our favourite thing in the world… Are there plans for more? Can we have one?
It is rather cool, isn’t it? It is a world unique bus and I think at this stage we would like to keep it that way. But we’re always adding new things into our offer, such as some very lush shower trailers and mobile phone charging for this season. Who knows what the next season will bring but I am sure that Bart is already cooking something up.
– What does the future hold for Bathing Under the Sky?
Our ambition is, and has been for some years, to have our own permanent site serving as an outdoor well being centre for people to come and enjoy the great outdoors.
Wilderness weekend tickets are STILL avaliable to buy here – but be quick!
For any enquiries regarding events, future festivals and hot tubs do visit Bathing Under the Sky: https://www.bathingunderthesky.com/
Follow @BathingUnderSky on Twitter