Wilderness Festival UK
August 9, 2018
The hippies, new age tribes and freaks were well and truly ‘out to play’ at the Wilderness festival in Oxfordshire, UK this August
Hippie Kushi came to Wilderness this week and partied in the heat. The UK is having a heatwave and temperatures were very high during my five-day adventure into the Oxford countryside.
I had a wonderful time experiencing the freaky people, the new age hippies, trance bunnies, sparkling disco divas and well muscled ‘Made in Chelsea types’. No one could argue that this is an event full of an eclectic mix of people of all ages, races, styles, sexuality and outlook on life; but the one thing we all had in common was the feeling of togetherness, the fun, the dressing up and the chilled out atmosphere.
My good friend David drove us up from Hampton and even the journey was something to remember. We drove through areas of forest, beautiful old villages with thatched cottages and passed pretty medieval churches. As we drove along tight country lanes we had to avoid tractors as we went.
We were some of the first festival goers to arrive at the site and parked up quickly before struggling across fields to erect our tent. David, being a man of style and comfort, soon had the tent looking like a palace and before long our single tent became part of a massive canvas town of festival goers; and so we were ready to explore the Wilderness site.
But what is the Wilderness festival all about?
Adam Bloodworth of the METRO newspaper wrote this article on Wednesday 9 Aug 2017 12:41 pm; Source: Metro news
“Wilderness festival, like Secret Garden Party and Standon Calling, is one of a relatively new legion of festivals, and one which has been designed with experiences in mind, rather than the relentless headliner-chasing you’d associate with something such as Reading & Leeds. Wilderness has a particularly verdant setting. Rather than pander to the programme, guests are more likely to be gently rolling out a much wider festival experience, where stirring countryside, lake swimming, and general daytime conviviality compete with high-energy nightlife from some of the most ambitious clubbing stages in the country. This is what surprised me most – a festival veteran but Wilderness newbie – that Wilderness could not only cook up Michelin starred meals, but a relevant nightlife spectacle too, worthy of another entire crowd altogether. Long table banquets sell out in advance. Dance music heavyweights including Jackmaster and Eats Everything played in The Valley – with its dance floor framed by audio-visual immersion speakers, it is the best stage I’ve seen for nightlife in the UK. At Wilderness, the nights differ so much from the days it is difficult to believe that this clubbing mecca is the same festival that hosts satirical games of cricket by day. The nightlife at The Valley was in clear opposition to the relaxing days.”
“But back to what you’d expect from a festival in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. A Talk and Debates line-up tackled tough subjects, like the recent increase in female deaths from party drugs, and presented a headline live show of Letters Live, which informally featured surprise appearances by Benedict Cumberbatch and Russell Brand. This is where the A-List go to return to their roots and feel at home. Relaxing by the water’s edge. There’s also a full-scale theatre. Performances traversed from the very good to the developing, but even so, space and time has been given to the exploration of proper theatre on site. For next year, don’t miss the cabaret, but get there early to queue. (Organisers note: we’d love a bigger – perhaps outdoor? – auditorium for the more popular shows next year to dodge the long queues for non-bookable shows.)”
“And the weird happenings careered from the day line-up to the night, I discovered, having stumbled upon a psychic performance at half past midnight in a far-flung tent. Talks and debates were scheduled through the day and night. If there’s a prevalent theme, it is healthy living and tens of outdoor activities go from the expected (yoga) to the unexpected (wild running). Food, too, is decadent, but generally sympathetic to what is good for your gut. The restaurants on site include Ottolenghi, Cafe Murano, Patty & Bun and trend-setting Bao. I enjoyed Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred Italian feast in the Cafe Murano tent, a restaurant which never disappoints in London, and how they emulated those dishes in a FIELD(!) I shall never know. Michelin-starred restaurants kept banquet feasts well stocked Waiters casually riffed about their late-night antics in The Valley while recommending bottles of ‘black forest gateaux’ Montepulciano for an affordable £32. A bottle of plonk at the bar elsewhere is £25, so this from a Michelin-starred sommelier is surely worth the upgrade. Then there was the music.”
“There is lake swimming for the brave, because tragically even in boiling hot weather the really deep lake never truly warms up, and a family-friendly cricket lawn with volleyball and group exercise sessions – watch out for the expertly delivered adult humour which is X-rated but the kids won’t know. Wilderness is most similar to Latitude festival if it had to be likened to anything, because of its spectacularly verdant setting and multi-disciplinary line-up. But Wilderness does it better by integrating its thousands of acts with more of a natural sense of cohesion. Letters Live at Wilderness. It could be the lack of big-name acts that ultimately makes Wilderness as relaxing as it is because there are never big crowds to fight through – although the neatly formed queues for feasting tables give the cricket umpires a run for their money in the frightfully British stakes”.
For me, my first impressions were of a huge crazy new age summer fair, full of funky looking freaks. One thing that should be pointed out is right from the beginning this was an eco-friendly event; paper straws, recycling bins, bio-degradable cups and so on.
First, we walked down to the lake which is in a beautiful green setting, surrounded by forest and hills. As we neared the path up to the festival arena we could see hot tubs and yurts in the distance with smoke billowing out of chimneys. This gave the impression of us approaching some kind of tribal village.
As we climbed the hill we stepped into a new age village of wigwams, teepees and yurts.
Dreadlocked and long bearded new agers were working on wooden spinning wheels making cloth while other tents had beautiful looking north African and Asian rugs laid out for sale. Strange statues, carvings and wicker furniture gave the whole area a kind of hippie community feel.
My first thoughts were that the festival was very quiet but this was silly as it was the first day and throughout that day more and more people arrived and the festival got busier and busier and the atmosphere began to change from quiet reflection to a buzz of anticipation.
When it came time to eat, the selection was vast. Every country in the world seemed to be represented here. Mexican, Cuban, Persian, Thia, Greek, Italian and Indian as well as plenty of vegan and vegetarian stalls.
This is when I realised this was not a cheap festival, prices are high (£12 burger, £6 pint beer), so bring plenty of cash. Lucky for us we stumbled upon a vegan/vegetarian New York school bus/restaurant called The Bhangra Bus Cafe, selling delicious Thai based vegan food at as little as £6 a plate; needless to say we returned there a few times.
After socialising back at our tent over a bottle of wine with other festival-goers, we set out for the evening’s entertainment. The bars and clubs were in full swing, playing everything from hippie rock, reggae, jazz to trance, tribal and 80’s disco. Was that weed I could smell? (surely not).
The freaks were well and truly out to play. Some amazing looking people meant my camera was constantly on the go.
We then came across the Atrium stage where I was introduced to a stunning band called ‘My Baby’. I loved them so much I bought their album when I got back.
“My Baby is a Dutch-New Zealand band from Amsterdam. Their music is a mix of blues, country, trance and funk. My Baby was founded in 2012 by previous members of the Amsterdam soul band The Souldiers. My Baby is Joost van Dijck (drums), his sister Cato van Dijck (vocals) and Daniel ‘Dafreez’ Johnston (guitars).”
“The band was discovered in their early years by bass player Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, Prince). In 2012, he performed together with the band during his Dutch tour, including Paradiso and the North Sea Jazz Club. In 2013, their debut album My Baby Loves Voodoo! got released on jazz label Embrace Recordings.”
- My Baby Loves Voodoo!, 2013
- Shamanaid, 2015
- Remedy II EP, 2015
- Prehistoric Rhythm, 2017
There are two main stages, the main stage and the Atrium as well as smaller stages such as the Travelling Barn where Other music types can be heard; folk, classical, jazz, world music and country and western; basically something for everyone.
The highlight of the festival for me was the people watching and the characters we sat and chatted to. We met some really cool and interesting people. We danced, we partied and we drank lots of cider.
Needless to say, we had sore heads the next day. So, after cooking breakfast on a camping stove we headed down to the lake. The whole five days were scorching hot and so people were jumping in the lake in their droves. Some naked, others a little more conservative. With all the muscles around I thought I should join a gym when I got back.
David had a dip and enjoyed a swim in the deep cool waters but as I am still learning to swim I stuck to sitting on the river bank enjoying the view.
Some fun was had at the cricket area, with festival goers dressing up as famous characters and playing a comedy cricket game which featured no less than 80 streakers invading the pitch. The compare was very funny and it made a fun change from the noise of the clubs.
The highlight of the second night was to be found on the main stage. Chic and Nile Rogers played all their hits. Thousands came to watch the set and the atmosphere was electric, we danced the night away. We were told that after this an all-night trance party took place in the valley. David wanted to go but this old hippie was ready for bed.
On Sunday, the last official day of the festival, we had a more relaxing day and enjoyed just taking in the sights. The main act in the evening was Bastille and we joined the ever-growing crowd to watch. Halfway through the show, a group of amazing looking new age hippies arrived. They were obviously all very close friends and they looked really cool in their weird outfits. I so wanted to know who they were but with the crowd all leaving the stage area after the show, we quickly lost them.
Monday morning meant it was time to leave and as we packed up our tent and left the site (with much difficulty due to the traffic) I had time to reflect on the festival.
I think my problem, in the beginning, was I arrived with pre-conceptions of how the festival was going to be. Once I accepted it was something quite different to that, more of a funky new age summer fair, I relaxed and began to really enjoy it. In some instances it felt like quite a middle-class festival, there are a lot of well-spoken beautiful people there but equally, there were plenty of all the other areas of society. For me, it was all about the people, not just the music. The characters we met made it the great experience it was. Wilderness festival gets a thumbs up from me.
Till my next festival, its time to head back home.