“I hear you can drink champagne naked here while being serenaded by a string quartet”. Hinting at its decadence, Fyfe Dangerfield, frontman of theatrical London indie band The Guillemots made that comment during his band’s set at the first ever Wilderness Festival in 2011.
Deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, Wilderness Festival offers an oasis of music, revelry and relaxation. From 7th-10th August, Wilderness Festival 2014 occupies the grassy parkland and sunlit canopies of Cornbury Deer Park and offers a luxurious weekend escape. Whether you find yourself sweating in the late-night mass of bodies in the Pandemonium amphitheatre, or reclining in the hot tubs at the Lakeside Spa, Wilderness Festival promises an overwhelming sensory experience. Wilderness Festival tailors every aspect of its programme – from food and drink to music and partying – to the needs and desires of those who attend, creating a bespoke experience for all.
Heading up the weekend’s entertainment are Metronomy, Burt Bacharach, London Grammar, Jessie Ware and Sam Smith. A host of bands, artists and DJs that includes Mount Kimbie, Greg Wilson and Zero 7 join them on the bill. With eating, drinking, art, culture, relaxation and family entertainment all in plentiful supply, Wilderness 2014 could be the highlight of your summer.
Alongside The Guillemots on the line-up at Wilderness 2011 were headliners Anthony & The Johnsons and Gogol Bordello – two artists at opposite ends of a scale of extreme eccentricity. The breathtaking and beautiful folk of the former and the clattering gypsy-pop onslaught of the latter delighted fans, while also alerting critics to Wilderness Festival’s shrewd booking policy. Laura Marling, Daniel Johnston and The Low Anthem also played that year. Rodrigo Y Gabriela and Chicago alt. legends Wilco topped the list of musical attractions in 2012. Last year, as the festival continued to grow, sparkly pop outfit Empire Of The Sun headlined with folk band Noah And The Whale and psychedelic folk enigma Rodriguez.
At Wilderness Festival, the focus is as much on the culinary headliners as the musical ones. The festival is no stranger to Michelin stars and a host of chefs including Yotam Ottolenghi, Fergus Henderson and Valentine Warner have all ‘headlined’ the event. At Wilderness 2014, Simon Rogan, Angela Hartnett and Polpo’s Russell Norman will all host special woodland banquets. Guests will indulge in delicious food while sat at a king size table in the heart of the park. Rogan’s menu is reportedly packed with “wild and foraged ingredients”. Tickets for the extravagant banquets are supplementary to standard festival tickets. As well as the banquets, festivalgoers will also be able to dine at celebrated restaurateur Mark Hix’s onsite eatery, the Moro souk tent and an outpost of revered London establishment St. John. Anyone expecting soggy chips and rubbery burgers should prepare for a shock.
Further evidence of Wilderness Festival’s winning combination of wholesomeness and eccentricity can be found in its other non-musical offerings. Theatre group Macnas will perform a magical Celtic procession through the park, while Wilderness will also host a huge burning effigy by fire artists And Now:. The Huffington Post supports the Talks, Debates and Literary Arts section of the festival. Theatrically-minded guests will appreciate performances hosted by Shakespeare’s Globe and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Children will be enchanted by the Angel Gardens, and captivated at StoryStock. Their imaginations will run as wild as the surrounding forest at the Discover Children’s Story Centre, Wilderness Festival’s hands-on creative and literary space and charity. Other attractions include Charles Dickens and Roald Dahl museums and thrill-packed family circus The Flying Seagulls.
Since its 2011 launch, some of Wilderness’ most popular attractions are those that take place after dark. After the sun sinks behind the trees, the festival’s Late Night Revelry comes to life. Costumes and light shows play tricks on the mind in the darkness as DJs and performers propel reckless abandon among the revellers. It’s a long way from the relative tranquillity of those lakeside hot tubs, but Wilderness Festival’s late night entertainment is delivered with the same commitment to undiluted enjoyment. As it prepares for its fourth instalment, Wilderness retains the magical atmosphere that made its name. Those who want nothing more than to mill around before a large outdoor stage cradling cups of tepid lager need not apply. Wilderness offers far more than that.
Words by Ben Homewood
Images courtesy of Wilderness Festival.