Today the very lovely and stylish Michelle from Pocketful of Dreams is taking over the blog with her review of Wilderness Festival. If you happen to be a festival aficionado or just like to see how other people get their groove on, then you’re in the right place as this particular one looks EPIC…
I seem to be the only 30-something in the land never to have attended a music festival. Madness I know, particularly given the fact that I plan events for a living. But all that has now changed and last weekend I popped my festival cherry with the one dubbed ‘Poshstock’ otherwise known as Wilderness Festival.
Held in a tranquil lakeside setting in the Oxfordshire countryside, this festival, I imagine, is the antithesis to all other festivals. Magnificent curiosities abound and you would never find yourself short of something to do at Wilderness, from the sumptuous wood-fired hot tubs lining a lake filled with brave swimmers, to the gourmet banquets and food trucks galore and the plethora of workshops, talks, activities and live music taking place across the weekend. It’s a culture-seekers delight, a little too try hard at times, but a lot of fun nonetheless.
My attendance at the festival was a totally last minute affair, I was gifted the tickets just last Monday by clients of mine as a thank-you for planning their own festival wedding, and by Thursday we had packed up the car and headed South. This spontaneous adventure meant we were attending with a totally open-mind and lack of preconception about what was in store. It also meant we’d well and truly missed the boat when it came to trying any of the fantastic activities in offer, everything from the yoga sessions, to the hot tubs to the gourmet banquets was fully booked and despite asking at the elusive ‘info tent’ on arrival the only way we could get in was to keep calling back 10-minutes after each thing was due to start to see if there’d been any no shows, needless to say we opted out of that kind of to-ing and fro-ing.
It was slightly disappointing to not be able to try these things out and I think we’d have had a very different and more rounded experience had we been able to sample a little more, but we still had a great time and saw a lot. Here’s some of my highlights and observations about the festival for those thinking of going next year…..
WILD SWIMMING & WOOD FIRED HOT TUBS
Perhaps something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime is wild swimming, the lake was pretty much always full of swimmers in the daytime, with many taking their pew along the lakeside to catch some rays (whilst the sun was out that is). It was reminiscent of childhood summer holidays in the alps and you couldn’t help but to feel adventurous and carefree even if not partaking in the swimming yourself.
Although we didn’t manage to enjoy the hot tubs at Wilderness we have seen these in action having booked the very same ones for our clients festival wedding earlier in August. By Bathing under the Sky, these beauties are divine and pure luxury, the staff are superbly attentive and really what better way to spoil yourself than in a hot tub in a beautiful forest, champers in hand?
FOOD AND DRINK
Wilderness is without a doubt a foodies delight and we were spoilt for choice when it came down to dining. From the breakfast trucks in the camping area we enjoyed toast, bacon rolls, tea and freshly brewed coffee. For a slightly more relaxing breakfast we headed to the Sanctuary to a lovely little pop-up restaurant (name eludes me) with red and white checked tablecloths enjoying Huevas Rancheros and a chilled coconut water, delish.
There was such a vast selection of food trucks serving a multitude of foods: burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, curry, smoothies, ice-cream, fish and chips, paella, duck, lobster rolls, tacos, you name it you probably could have found it. For lunch I opted for a freedom Gyoza box from Rainbo which included a chicken and miso Gyoza with fresh slaw and edamame beans…..delicious, healthy and colourful. We also tried the wood-fired pizzas from Pizza Tabun which were so delicious we ended up back there again the next day. The food at Moro looked delicious too.
Drinks-wise there were a few bars onsite serving the standard spirit and mixer, priced around £5, we sampled a glass or two of the wine also but soon gave up as it was revolting AND warm. We were also a little disappointed by HIX as it looked fantastic and I’d heard great things, they had a cute outdoor chill-out section under a canopy with vintage furniture that looked so inviting, so we thought we’d enjoy a bottle of champagne and watch the afternoon unfold in front of us from the comfort of their lounge. Unfortunately though they didn’t offer ice buckets or any facility to chill it for us once purchased so we gave up and headed back to the Laurent Perrier Champagne Orangery for the second time since we’d arrived. This place was a little slice of refinement in the otherwise madness of the festival. I enjoy getting down and dirty at an event but sometimes you just want a cold drink and a comfortable seat.
Another favourite was the Zubrowka Bison grass vodka pop-up, a welcome respite from the rain on Friday evening with delicious cocktails, plus some pretty cool styling. Moro provided us with delicious white vermouth cocktails, refreshing and zingy.
I could have sat for hours people-watching, everyone made such an effort with their outfits, even the kids with their face paints and funny tails. The festival themed each day with Altered States Friday, Disco Renaissance Saturday and the Cosmos on Sunday. And so ensued an explosion of glitter, sequins, spandex and feathers, with a few masks thrown in for good measure. Personally with little time to prepare it was a case of whatever we could get our hands on so I dug deep into my closet and picked out a few outfits, diy-ing a disco cape from some party decor I had knocking about my studio and buying a glittery cat mask online. Although we could have just turned up and headed to the various vintage and dressing up emporiums (so many) and found some outlandish outfits to wear.
I had a wander round a few and ogled the shiny delights on offer: Secret Emporium was like a party within the party and where I had my face painted by In Your Dreams, Rosa Bloom had some divine feathery and sequinned capes, Violets Box had a fab selection of outfits too.
It was clear this festival was a fashionista’s paradise and we saw so many fashion bloggers and fashion media strutting their stuff with plenty of street-style photographers snapping the action too. My only advice when it comes to dressing is to take lots of layers and flat shoes only, I ended up wearing mainly cut-off denim shorts with bodies and a variety of cover-ups, my anorak quite a lot as the rain was so sporadic and my hunter wellies.
As a wedding and event planner I am always looking at how brands style and market themselves at events so for me it was like an being in an aladdin’s cave of inspiration. Colourful bunting as far as the eye could see and cute little styled spaces to interact with.
Some of my favourites included the Mulberry craft tent (annoyingly booked up all weekend so I didn’t actually get inside) and the Accessorize tent which had a cool wishing tree with colour-dipped feathers. I also saw lots of fashionable ladies walking around the site with their gold Mulberry balloons and branded picnic hampers, only to find out later that Cara Delevingne had been there to host a private picnic – my invite had clearly got lost in the post.
And as mentioned above the Zubrowka space with its forest-inspired teepee and 3-D paper art installation hanging from the ceiling was definitely one of my favourites and the most thought through design-wise, it looked like a mystical magical space that had literally grown amongst the woodland.
The Laurent-Perrier tent also looked beautiful with a gorgeous string installation over the bar – but I had already spied this on pictures from a previous year so was surprised they’d not done something fresh.
Oh how I’d love to design one of these spaces one day….brands take note.
The music side of things, I felt, was quite average, and this comes from someone with hardly a passing interest in current music. It did seem that this element really took a back seat to everything else going on and I rarely saw the stages fill up with the kind of crowds we’ve all seen at the likes of Glastonbury et al. We watched a couple of sets on the main stage but couldn’t even tell you who.
For us the highlights were the late night revelry acts in Pandemonium, an amphitheatre in the valley which came alive at night. We had such a blast dancing our masked faces off to Horse Meat Disco, Greg Wilson and Futureboogie, the sound and lighting was immense topped off by a theatrical acrobatic performance by The Box. The Styx stage was another cool highlight, held on a carousel, as was the burning of the effigy which we watched from Pandemonium. Finally the hidden gem we found was the Artful Badger tent, a tiny space with fabulous music.
And now for the more practical elements which is where I feel Wilderness fell a little short of the mark and I guess this is the events organiser in me that has little tolerance for poor organisation.
With your ticket you also get access to general camping which allows you to pitch a tent in the main campsite. It has a few different sections including a Quiet Camp for those who actually want to sleep, a Family camp for those with kiddies and the free-for-all general area. There are food trucks close-by this area, plenty of toilets, showers etc and also the big green lockers should you wish to keep things secure (which are actually tiny and just fit your phone and wallet in them ), but definitely worth paying £25 for a weekend pass as you can also charge your phone in them.
This is where my experience was marred slightly with an unfortunate incident occurring on the Friday morning when we were abruptly awoken by a team of security guards telling us to move our tent as we’d pitched in a fire lane, along with about 100 other tents. Annoyingly when we’d arrived Thursday evening, after our 5-hour drive it was pretty dark, there were no maps and limited signage to direct you where to go. The campsites seemed pretty full and and were spilling out into the area we ended up camping in. We checked with the stewards and security manning these areas and we’re told it was fine to camp there so felt pretty irate when told we had to move the next day, particularly as the campsites were full to bursting by this point. Several hours later we’d managed to pack up, repitch the tent and unpack again but it left a pretty sour taste in the mouth. We actually ended up in the Quiet Camp which was anything but, the stewards tried to keep noise levels to a minimum but failed miserably resulting in quite a few sleepless nights.
Overall the camping facilities seemed to be badly organised and we heard many people complaining about it over the weekend, it seemed they had not anticipated the capacity with some reporting 30,000 people this year compared to 15,000 last year. If I attend again then I’ll definitely be glamping or staying offsite.
TOILETS AND SHOWER FACILITIES
This was the part I was dreading the most but I needn’t have been concerned, there was an abundance of toilet areas both in the main arena and across the campsite and I never once had to use my own loo-roll as they never ran out. The queues were pretty much non-existent apart from key points in the day, mainly mornings and early evening as everyone started to get a little inebriated but even then I never queued for longer than 5 minutes.
The showers were clean and HOT, but annoyingly were only working one out of the four times we tried to use them on both the Friday and Saturday. I imagine we were probably cleaner than most festival goers having showered and washed whilst there, but still, if you promise hot showers at least make sure they are working!!
MAPS AND SIGNAGE
Again another element that needs improving, finding your way around is difficult and no-one knows what’s going on when you ask them. You don’t get any kind of map when you arrive and have to pay £8 for a programme containing one which then doesn’t tell you the various food trucks on offer so for me was a waste of time.
It would have been much better with large maps dotted around the site or at least having something online that you can print yourself and /or work things out before you get there.
Despite all the above it was an incredible first festival experience and even though I was terribly sleep-deprived and had to pack up our tent in the midst of a hurricane I look back now with only fond memories of my experience. Roll on next year, who’s with me?
You can find Michelle at www.pocketfulofdreams.co.uk, an experienced events organiser planning individual and spectacular weddings and parties for clients across the UK and Europe.