Have you ever wanted to experience an out of body ‘gong bath’? Listen to Ruby Wax discuss mindfulness and self-help? Float in green lakes (hoping not to get bitten by a pike)? Or learn the art of Malaysian laksa making?
I didn’t realise I did either, but upon reflection whilst en route home I couldn’t quite fathom how or why anyone wouldn’t want to experience these things, and everything else Wilderness has to offer.
2013 was Wilderness’s third year on the festival circuit. It’s the brainchild of the fabulous bunch behind Lovebox and Secret Garden Party, set in the stunning Cornbury Estate, home to Lord and Lady Rotherwick. Previous years have seen performances from Laura Marling, food devised by Valentine Warner and entertainment from the Tax Deductible Theatre Company (your guess is as good as mine!), and this year was no less varied or impressive.
Wilderness is a well thought-out festival, with a ‘back-to-nature’ feel to it. Whether you’re after early morning yoga, Charles Dickens ghost stories or taking a boat trip around the lake, everyone feels involved in something special.
Days started with fresh smoked salmon crumpets and pints of organic sparkling elderflower, followed by debates, performances, cricket-themed am-dram, bandstand jazz and divine dining with either Ottolenghi, Russell Norman and Polpo or Mark Hix in the banquet tent. The opportunities to explore seemed endless.
When the sun went down revellers could explore the woods and valleys to find high-calibre DJs, masked faces and bursts of golden confetti. I loved the extreme contrast from relaxed ambience during the days to spectacular raves by night, and although bereft when a rather early curtain was drawn (music stops around 2am), it meant I got a good nights sleep in preparation for the next day’s adventures. The large proportion of families in attendance means there is a higher degree of respect amongst the camp than a typical festival, and children are provided with a vast and exciting play area – I was almost jealous!
For me, the live bands fell slightly short. Tom Odell engaged the crowd but wasn’t particularly memorable, and although Rodriguez (Searching for Sugar Man) was well suited for the occasion – intriguing, thought provoking and unusual – I didn’t feel that he was the appropriate artist to headline Saturday night. But it is perhaps the very lack of big name bands that allows Wilderness to stay a little under the radar – less music festival, more celebration of all things eccentrically English. I was told that sadly this year there would be no camel riding, although perhaps in retrospect that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing!
If you’re wanting to listen to insightful speakers and folk singers, dance with some hot totty, or simply enjoy the blissful Oxfordshire countryside with friends, then Wilderness 2014 will be the one for you.