We couldn’t quite believe it. Were we really going to a festival? And could the weather warning really be true we wondered as we slipped and slid our way around the live-in vehicle field where our campervan was parked. But then the clouds parted, and the party started.
‘The weather gods might not have been there for us, and, but the Covid gods got us there, and it felt like a minor miracle for modern times’
Wilderness. Oh festival of fabulousness. Where the Wildings range from tottering toddlers in fairy-light-festooned trolleys to party-hard bikini-wearing 20-somethings (including the guys) dancing in the valley ’til dawn, and middle-aged ‘like to think we’ve still got’ it families like ourselves.
The one thing that united us all this year was the wide-eyed astonishment and sheer joy of togetherness, in one huge hedonistic display of happiness.
The fun started in earnest on Friday lunchtime with the Big Covid Shake Off where we danced to pretty much every dance you could think of. We twerked, jitterbugged, and grooved our way into the weekend (while our children cringed with embarrassment).
Working our way around the sponsored experiences, drinking pretty much every Malfy gin cocktail on offer and playing catch the (smoke filled) bubbles at Nordic Spirit, everywhere we turned there was an experience just luring us into the tents and enclosures, only to be thwarted by the kids wanting to go on the rides.
‘The one thing that united us all this year was a wide-eyed astonishment and sheer joy of togetherness, on a massive scale, in one huge hedonistic display of happiness’
We spent a small fortune on what must have been the fastest waltzer in the UK which the children loved more than anything else at the festival (which makes me think I might just leave them at home and promise unlimited rides at the fair next year).
The experiences at Wilderness are wide, varied and cater for all tastes. From upside down yoga and Brazilian martial art capoeira, to Sexi Flexi (Sex Education meets Jane Fonda) and the legendary Wilderness Cricket where each year the number of streakers seems to rise and rise (though thankfully no, ahem, rising was visible).
This year’s costume was theme was Maximalism and everywhere you looked people had made such an incredible effort.
‘I’d forgotten what it was like to dance, sing and let everything go and I enjoyed every marvellous minute’
Event photographer Alex R Elms, responsible for most of our amazing pics (http://www.alexrelms.com), agrees: “I’ve never seen so many beautiful people” he enthused, capturing the most dazzling array of outfits this side of Rio through his lens, although the lack of ethnic diversity was palpable.
But, boy, did the rain pour. Just when the Atrium exploded with the legendary Hip Hop Karaoke (jump, jump), the heavens opened, but who cared if the rain poured because being part of a crowd who knew pretty much every word was the most incredible experience. I’d forgotten what it was like to dance, sing and let everything go and I enjoyed every marvellous minute.
‘at the The Mother of All Weddings hosted by Sanderson Jones, countless couples of every combination participated in a mass ‘wedding ceremony’ with singalong power ballads by the Sunday Assembly Choir’
The rain clouds came and went. In the meantime, there was plenty to entertain away from the loud music and fairground rides from wild swimming (to counteract the lack of showers and grim lavs) to watching Rogue Theatre‘s magic and wonder.
There we met mermaids and bearded mermen, giants with broken hearts, and a mesmerising Moon who kept us enchanted with classic for tales and songs with a difference that made us giggle and gasp. Think fairies, fable and folklore meets Fleabag.
Love was everywhere. On Katherine Hamnet t-shirts to raise money for the Choose Love charity, at the The Mother of All Weddings hosted by Sanderson Jones (wedding celebrant, comedian, and secular vicar extraordinaire) where countless couples of every combination participated in a mass ‘wedding ceremony’ with singalong power ballads by the Sunday Assembly Choir.
One particularly heart-warming moment occurred when the Wilderness Orchestra, accompanied by Irish singer Camille O’Sullivan, played Madness – It Must Be Love dedicated to newlyweds Nick and Venetia.
‘Nick Weston’s Hunter Gather Cook experience was incredible – a chance to experience innovative food AND keep dry. A win win!’
It wouldn’t be Wilderness (or OxInABox) without mention of the food. My 13-year old’s top three Wilderness highlights included “the food, the people and the welcoming atmosphere” although he only seemed to sample chicken nuggets and chips.
But we adults worked our way around the street food stalls from Greece to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. We enviously eyed the Wilderness Kitchen where dining experiences included the Michelin starred Brad Carter, Elizabeth Haigh, Tom Griffiths and ‘2021 chef to watch’ Jay Morjaria.
I also heard that Nick Weston’s Hunter Gather Cook experience was incredible. For those lucky enough to bag tickets (they sell like hotcakes) the dining experiences were both a chance to experience innovative food AND keep dry (win win!). Next year, one for us without the kids perhaps….
‘nothing could detract from this amazing, hedonistic, flamboyant, joyful weekend. Thank you Wilderness for pulling off this magical experience for the 10,000 Wild Ones’
And finally, the heart of Wilderness has to be the music. Main stage highlights included Bicep, Rudimental, Loyle Carner, Georgia and Jamie XX, there best dancing to Don Letts’ DJ set and the Daft Punk covers band Introducing Live. ‘We’re up all night to have fun’ capturing the mood.
Our only gripe was the campervan contingent being moved further away. Clearly the boutique campers are taking over – fields and fields of people who’d paid for a bell tent with showers, hairdryers, and hair-straighteners.
But nothing could detract from this amazing, hedonistic, flamboyant, joyful weekend. Thank you Wilderness for pulling off this magical experience for the 10,000 Wild Ones. The weather gods might not have been there for us, and, but the Covid gods got us there, and it felt like a minor miracle for modern times.
To get on the mailing for next year’s tickets go to https://www.wildernessfestival.com/
To check out Alex R Elms photography go to http://www.alexrelms.com