Wilderness – infamous for its hedonistic smorgasbord of diverse activities, music and distractions – is perhaps Oxfordshire’s most eclectic festival, and we were there to enjoy every minute.
And through sun, wind, rain, sequins and fancy dress we did just that; raving, dancing, singing, eating, laughing, drinking, camping, people watching and dressing up until the very last dying note, and loved every single second.
There is nowhere else like it, nowhere that swamps you from the word go in such a dazzling and intoxicating array of offerings, from the headliners FatboySlim and The Chemical Brothers to the streakers, cricket, wild swimming, choirs, orchestras, beatboxing, yoga, DJ amphitheatre and street food. Just leave your inhibitions at home!
There is nowhere else like it, nowhere that swamps you from the word go in such a dazzling and intoxicating array of offerings
Open hearted and ready to be entertained we embraced Wilderness whole from the moment we arrived to pitch our tent in an idyllic spot under the majestic line of ancient trees leading into the glorious Cornbury Park with no scheduled plan or ‘must see’ performer in mind.
A 15-minute walk from General Camping to the main park, punctuated with stunning scenery and lakeside views of squealing wild swimmers and the renowned ‘Lakeside Spa’, the paddle board yoga classes were already underway.
Just leave your inhibitions at home!
First stop was The Peacock Bar for some tasty house cocktails where we soaked up the atmosphere and floor filling music. As for the people watching, it’s an Oscar worthy activity all of its own at Wilderness – locals Florence Pugh and Kate Moss just a few of the celebs we saw enjoying themselves.
Following the music to the Thrill Collins trio within the leafy hollow of The Jumpyard, we boogied to classic pop songs in the diminishing daylight, before a short walk over to a packed out The Clubhouse to acknowledge the extraordinary talents of New Orleans based Funky Brassy. Joyful brilliance for the heart and soul.
The Chemical Brothers played remixed classics and brilliant old school trance to a colourful crowd stretching as far as the eye could see
A rather overcast and chilly Friday was ‘Bunny’ day, another Wilderness quirk that we had pre-planned for. Rabbit ears firmly in place, we wrapped up and set off.
A box of delicious Japanese gyoza en route to The Wilderness Stage set us up for Jo Whiley’s 90s anthems – a set of perfect musical nostalgia, the huge crowd dancing to indie classics from Blur and Oasis to the fabulous live stage pyrotechnics during The Prodigy’s Firestarter.
Back out for Confidence Man (superb) and headliner’s The Chemical Brothers, who opened with the rousing ‘Go’ before playing all their remixed classics and brilliant old school trance, the colourful crowd stretching as far as the eye could see…incredible. The blistering finale involved real giant pastel balls bouncing towards the crowd as thousands of bunny ears waved in ecstasy.
The attention to detail at Wilderness is like no other. it is a true feast for all the senses and you cannot possibly experience it all in one weekend
Sweat cooling, we found everyone jumping at The Hustle – old and new groove tracks – and then past the Veuve Clicquot tent playing Blondie en route to catch the end of the Brave Poets. The Moroccan brothers performed their beautiful North African beats and incredible dancing on a 360-degree stage to an intimate crowd. What a night! What a start! We crashed without removing any glitter and awoke awash in remnants of the evening’s gaiety.
Strong winds and rain had swept in overnight inflicting havoc on the smaller, less absorbent tents in our area, causing a few to regroup or go home, which was a shame as the best was yet to come.
‘Our tastes tickled, our minds and hearts opened, we were totally converted and a little besotted’. bring on 2024′
We took the opportunity of rainy and cold conditions to browse some of the indoor offerings from shopping to incredible beatbox artist @kimmybeatbox who blew us all away. Letters Live at The Atrium was also hugely entertaining – famous readers including Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy. Decamping under a large tree to escape the downpour, we still managed a stunning meal of white fennel sausages and slow cooked beans with salsa verde from the renowned Cubbitt House at The Pop-Up Market.
Saturday evening was sublime, we swerved the headline acts and watched the critically acclaimed Acid Klaus perform their electro dance pop under a canopy of trees in The Jumpyard. Then into The Valley, car-sized speakers on full volume with DJ Paulette and Kerri Chandler, for an intense three hour boogie. We missed Arlo Parks and The Wilderness Spectacle, but our 30,000 steps more than made up for it.
Could we survive another 24 hours, the answer a resounding yes!
Could we survive another 24 hours, the answer a resounding yes! Breakfast managed and the legendary Wilderness Cricket with Bearded Kitten was on the menu and we laughed until our ribs ached at the hilarious commentary, annual streakers and giant inflatable penises. I can’t think of a more eccentric, warm hearted, audacious “British” spectacle. It made me weep with happiness.
Sequins in place, we happily trotted off to watch a sublime FatBoySlim perform on the main stage, stopped on the way by a drag queen at The Peacock Bar who wanted a photograph of our outfits as inspiration – we knew we had reached peak Wilderness at last!
Happily exhausted and a little grubby we packed to leave – wanting that magical Wilderness feeling to last beyond the gates
The attention to detail at Wilderness is like no other, it is a true feast for all the senses and you cannot possibly experience it all in one weekend.
Happily exhausted and a little grubby we packed to leave – just wanting that magical Wilderness feeling to last beyond the gates. Our tastes tickled, our minds and hearts opened, we were totally converted and a little besotted – bring on 2024.
Wilderness 2024 at Cornbury Park runs from August 1-4. Tickets will be available at https://www.wildernessfestival.com/tickets/