03 August 2019 (gig)
07 August 2019
Once a year, on the edge of the Cotswolds in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside there is a Boutique festival that is like no other. Cornbury Park Estate opened up its gates 1st – 4th August to around 30,000 punters. Now in its 9th edition Wilderness has to be one of the UK’s more eccentric summer parties, this festival has pretty much everything covered from Music, theatre, comedy, dance, food & drink.
It won’t take you long to fall in love with the venue, as you leave the campsite to enter the main arena you walk past some of the parks lakes which are open for wild swimming and as the sun beats down its hard to resist a quick dip. For those more adventurous and have better balance than me then there’s the option to do stand-up paddle board yoga throughout the weekend. Also in this area you can find yourself at a lakeside spa with wood-fired hot tubs sipping back on a glass of champagne, it’s hard to imagine you’re at a festival with this kind of backdrop.
For those wanting to leave reality behind for the weekend then DJ Yoda’s Friday afternoon set at the Atrium stage was a good place to start as he presented ‘Sci-Fi movies’ a beautiful and funny mix of music ranging from pop to hip-hop, all set to the visuals of your favourite space themed movies (Star wars, Flash Gordon, Stranger Things). Half way through the set there’s a technical issue caused by the afternoon sun, the mac book over heats and powers down! Two big cooling fans are brought onto the stage and the show goes on to huge cheers.
Over at the main stage it’s the turn of Blanco White, his Latin-infused folk sets the mood just right for this evening main acts. First up its Tom Odell fully equipped with his Grand piano, the singer-songwriter manages to create an intimate feeling even with the large crowd that’s gathered to watch. With a beautiful sunset going down over the park his raw, distinctive voice belts out favourites such as ‘grow old with me’ and ‘another love’.
Friday night headline slot is taken up by Bombay Bicycle Club, the London four piece have been on a hiatus for a few years and Wilderness managed to book their only UK festival show this year. Opener ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ sets the tone for the night, by the end of the evening’s proceedings fans are covered in ticker tape and confetti. It’s good to have them back.
Another quick wild swim in the lakes on Saturday morning shakes off any cobwebs that might have been there from Friday night spent in ‘the Valley’ (more on that later). Before coming to Wilderness, I was told it was the UK’s poshest festival, yes there is Champagne tents, huge banquets with Michelin star chefs serving up amazing food and boutique accommodation with free pamper parlours but it offers so much more than that. Wilderness has something weird and wonderful for everyone no matter what age.
Onto Saturday afternoon and it was a chance to try and beat the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest spooning session. The crowd gathered and were asked to shake hands with strangers before joining into one massive conga line. With revellers in full swing it was time to grab your little and big spoon then get cosy on the ground. The final count came in as 1557 which smashed the previous record set in Australia.
George Fitzgerald then brings his live show to the main stage, with a large section of festival goers decked out in fancy dress or caked in glitter. This was a performance not to be missed, bouncy basslines and funky electro beats sets up the crowd for tonight’s main headliner Robyn. The pop songstress enters the stage to an all-white backdrop and the crowd are clearly in the mood to dance, ‘with every heartbeat’ and ‘dancing on my own’ get the biggest receptions of the night. It’s clear to see why the Swedish star has been on top of the pop world for over a decade now.
Over on the other side of the festival is where you want to be once it gets dark, at 11pm I turn up at the Jumpyard, it’s a small and intimate stage set on a sloping hill. Chris Tofu MBE who is running things tonight promises nothing but bass n beats and the next band on do not disappoint. Dutty moonshine Big Band are slowly getting a reputation for wild shows at festivals up and down the country. From the first beat they have everyone who has gathered jumping off their feet for the next hour or so.
Into the small hours and it’s time to head back down into the Valley, a large dance area located in a hidden valley in the forest, it’s the perfect setting for a late-night rave. Over the weekend there are sets from Jodie harsh, Erol Alkan and Richy Ahmed. There is enough lasers and smoke machines going off lighting up the forest skyline to make you think that the millennium falcon was about to take off.
Now its Sunday lunchtime in the Cotswolds and what more appropriate than a game of cricket? Although in this game there seems to be more naked streaking than ball hitting (even the scoreboard has a tally for the nude runners). Que a spontaneous dance of the Macarena in the middle of the pitch – cover your eyes kids!
Carrying on with the sports theme later in the afternoon at the playing fields it’s time for the Grand Irrational, a Monty Pythonesque spin on the famous horse race. Bookies taking bets with fake money that was handed out to punters, there’s a lot of laugh out loud moments.
In the early part of the evening it’s a short walk over to the Atrium for the return of ‘Letters Live’ a must see on any trip to wilderness. It’s a celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence. Guest performers include Jennifer Saunders, Ade Edmondson & Minnie Driver. Some of the letters are thought provoking and others will make you smile.
As the festival draws to a close its time to start ‘shaking that ass’ over at the main stage as dance powerhouse Groove Armada take to the stage. After a glorious weekend there seems no better song to end on than Superstylin’. The mass crowd still full of energy and wondering how the last four days flew by so fast.
So, if you’re looking for a hedonistic escape with a touch of class for a weekend next summer look no further than Wilderness 2020.