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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Wilderness Festival 2011: Saturday Review

This year was the inaugural Wilderness Festival, brought to you by people behind Secret Garden Party and Lovebox. It was held on 12th - 14th August at the beautiful Cornbury Park estate near Oxford.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Wilderness Festival by Rebecca Emery
Wilderness Festival by Rebecca Emery.

The inaugural Wilderness Festival took place last weekend on the Cornbury Park estate just north of Oxford. The new festival promised big things: a taste of the madness of Secret Garden Party presented alongside more mature family centric offerings such as a kids’ area, drugs boutique babysitting, side effects bug walks, side effects wild swimming in the beautiful ornamental lakes, spa treatments, lectures, cricket matches and the denouement – huge banquets by celebrated chefs in a big marquee.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review nature tent photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Set amongst mature grounds, you would be hard pressed to find a prettier location for a festival. We camped beneath a huge old oak which turned out to be a bit of a mistake when we discovered that said oak was a child magnet, making it a beautiful, albeit extremely noisy place to wake up in the morning.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review Dry the River photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review Dry the River photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review Dry the River photo by Amelia Gregory
Dry the River by Lilly Allen
Dry the River by Lilly Allen.

On Saturday we rushed from a wedding on the other side of London in order to catch Dry the River, who played an intimate set for the Climate Camp stage at Glastonbury in 2010. I instantly fell in love with their soft harmonies and exquisite melodies, a combination which worked perfectly in a relaxed acoustic setting. Since then they have been at pains to promote a different image than that of Mumford & Sons, Noah & the Whale and ilk. They may have looked like a troupe of east London hillbillies in a photo that I took at Glasto (which has been nicked and widely replicated across the web, sigh) but a newer press shot features the lead singer with a bloody nose. On stage at Wilderness this rockier image reached its denouement, with Dry the River all tattered t-shirts, tattoos and scuzzy rock posturing. The lilting melodies and beautiful harmonies were still there but somewhat buried, for in pursuit of a harder edge Dry the River have lost a bit of the magic that first appealed to me.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review lake photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review lake photo by Amelia Gregory
Afterwards it was off for a tour of the site, taking in some truly magical scenes down by the lake side where people swam and boated.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review piano photo by Amelia Gregory
In one of the more wonderful echoes of Secret Garden Party festival goers were encouraged to make their own entertainment; we chanced upon a group of people having an impromptu singsong around a carefully placed piano.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review healing area photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review healing area photo by Amelia Gregory
Every festival worth its hippy salt now has the obligatory healing area, but I was most engaged by these scaly cocoons, which created cosy seating areas.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review london folk guild sam lee photo by Amelia Gregory
The London Folk Guild had an eclectic line up of folk acts and in between these we caught the odd short film. Then I discovered The Idler Academy, where I was to spend a large portion of the weekend for I do love a good lecture. Ecologist Hugh Warwick introduced us to the Habits of the Hedgehog, delivering an entertaining talk that encompassed Sonic the Hedgehog and North Face hedgehog branded shoes, all by way of drawing attention to the rapid and worrying decline of this most sweet and English of mammals.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review toots and maytals photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review toots and maytals photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review toots and maytals photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review toots and maytals photo by Amelia Gregory
Toots and the Maytals by Joe Lyward
Toots and the Maytals by Joe Lyward.

Moving into the evening it was time for the legendary Toots and the Maytals, who opened his set with a slot for his daughter. She did a cheesy version of John Waite’s I Ain’t Missing Youand then Toots bounced on stage clad entirely in white, sunglasses firmly in place. He kicked off with his best known classic crowd pleasing tunes before falling back on filler as we wandered off, distracted by some of the more colourful folk in the crowd.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review gogol bordello photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review gogol bordello photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review gogol bordello photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review gogol bordello photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review gogol bordello photo by Amelia Gregory
Gogol Bordello by Kathryn Corlett
Gogol Bordello by Kathryn Corlett.

Gogol Bordello are the ultimate festival party band and their energetic performance was the perfect thing to put the audience in a Saturday night party mood.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review photo by Amelia Gregory
By late evening it was time to head down to The Last Tuesday Society‘s Big Top, us and thousands of other mask wearing revellers, who were forced to queue one in one out. Needless to say some sneaky sorts kept opening up the tent at the back.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review last man standing photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review last man standing photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review last man standing photo by Amelia Gregory
Last Man Standing by Jessica Knight
Last Man Standing by Jessica Knight.

Viktor Wynd‘s Last Man Standing provided manic entertainment, with the man himself sporting a stupendous skull coat and sequinned headdress.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review david piper naked conga photo by Amelia Gregory
Then it was time for the much hyped naked conga, which was announced by an inebriated David Piper, and failed to attract much of a following (can’t think why…) At one point we were literally surrounded on all sides by snogging couples. This may have been billed as a family festival but there was plenty of Secret Garden debauchery to be had and given the many impromptu displays of public affection I saw everywhere over the weekend it really did feel as though Wilderness Festival was heralding in a new season of lurve.

Wilderness Festival 2011 review last tuesday society photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review last tuesday society photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review last tuesday society photo by Amelia Gregory
Wilderness Festival 2011 review last tuesday society photo by Amelia Gregory

Next up: my Sunday review.

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