With deer running wild in the woods, trapeze artists flying from trees, a Bacchanalian midnight masked ball, an official House of Fairy Tales, horse riding in the forest and a Unicorn Theatre, Wilderness -winner of the Best New Festival in 2011 and Best Small Festival in 2012- has got to be the most magical festival ever. But it’s not all fairytale either: with its luxurious lakeside spa, delicious banquets from Ottolenghi, Hix, Polpo and Moro, and some seriously good bands –including Empire of the Sun and Noah and the Whale-, it thrives to satisfy all earthly desires too.
There is nothing like spending a long weekend at Wilderness, one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. I discovered it last year and can’t wait to be back in August, this time with my daughters, who have been on the case since seeing the photos I took of mermaids canoodling on the lake, the madly inventive costumes worn by party goers (I’ll never forget the human sized raccoon I saw emerging from the lake at 2am), the Bugsy Malone set recreated by Secret Cinema and all kinds of surprises deep in the woods, including an ice ring and a 1920s jazz big band, not to mention the giant skinny dipping contest at dusk: I didn’t take part, but that was quite a show.
Redefining festivals, the enchanting Wilderness offers non-stop entertainment, while remaining surprisingly peaceful and relaxing. “It’s a festival of experiences entirely shaped by the landscape of Cornbury and the surrounding Wychwood Forest, explain its organisers, Dean James, Tim Harvey, Jim Whewell and Jo Vidler. Each and every one of the amazing shows and happenings have been inspired by the lakes, valleys, copses and rides of our majestic home. From this year’s exquisite banqueting concepts to the epic theatrical shows we are bringing over from France, it will be a weekend of both electrifying entertainments and restful escape.”
Personally, swimming in the clear water lake followed by a wood fired sauna was my highlight, but for those in need of more challenging options, there was plenty to do. And indeed there is something for everyone: wild late night costumed balls and burlesque shows for the party animals, fantastic food for the gourmets, performances from the Shakespeare’s Globe for the theatre lovers, astronomy classes and philosophy talks by The School of Life for the deep thinkers, quality concerts for the music fans, yoga and meditation for the new agers, the most incredible outdoors spa for those in need of pampering, bush craft adventures for the kids, and the sheer natural beauty of the its emerald lakes, ancient woods, herds of deer and waterfalls for everyone. And this is just a small sample of the entertainment on offer…
The musical program includes a host of carefully curated artists such as Australian electro duo Empire of the Sun, indie London band Noah and the Whale and Detroit troubadour Rodriguez, who rocketed to notoriety following the BAFTA and Oscar winning documentary about his life, Searching for Sugar Man. As for the food, the offer is as far as possible from the usual pre-packed festival fare. Instead, there will be once again long-table banquets with Polpo’s chef Russell Norman, king of the delis Yotam Ottolenghi and restaurateur Mark Hix, while Exmouth Market’s Moro back in their Souk dining tent.
A word of advice: book your ticket very soon. Wilderness might still be a very young festival, but its reputation has already grown fast and it’s likely to sell out well ahead of summer… All tickets available via: www.wildernessfestival.com