Wilderness Festival, about half an hour from Oxford, is home to the ‘middle class’ festival goer. Bell tents and mattresses outweigh pop up tents and sleeping bags, lush green meadows contrast with muddy brown bogs. Either way people wear whatever they want. I will give you an example: While I was overheating watching Kamasi Washington one night, I stripped down to my bikini and wrapped my clothes around my head, my warm gin and orange juice still clutched to my chest. 5 minutes later I looked down and realised I was still wearing my white socks and trainers, shiny white legs on full view. What a look. But not a single person had even noticed, and even if they had there was no way in hell they were going to care. At the end of the day, we had all managed to get together in a field in the middle of nowhere, so what could stop people from wearing what they wanted, even if it was socks and trainers with a bikini?
Arriving at the festival was somewhat confusing. Even whilst following signs to the festival we, (me and my sisters) somehow managed to take a wrong turn and end up in an abandoned looking village. None of us were particularly eager to jump out of the car and bound up to an unknown house to ask them for directions. Our saving grace was a group of teenagers waiting at the tiny bus stop by the side of the road, who told us to follow the signs. As if we haven’t tried that already! I thought to myself. I later realized it was actually a good thing I didn’t say that to them- at least they didn’t know how useless we were.
I am not hugely enthusiastic about sleeping bags and tents, however when I found out we were staying in a bell tent, I thought it only fitting to bring a duvet and pillows. I was pretty excited to be able to say I was part of crew camping, considering I had done absolutely nothing to deserve such a wristband and even going to the festival was a spontaneous decision. It was all just a bit lucky if I’m honest, and I am very grateful for that.
Getting to hang out with the film crew (don’t mean to sound bratty) made our time at the festival that bit more bourgeois. They had ice cold beers in the fridge, phone chargers and free meal tokens for lunch and dinner. I have never had such a cushy time at a festival and I don’t think sleeping like a normal person in a normal tent, or buying my own food will ever suffice again!
Despite these luxuries, I didn’t think about how irritating a duvet would be to carry into the festival. I ended up having to wrap it around my head (sunglasses balanced precariously on my nose) in thousands of degrees of heat, the bottom of it dragging along the floor. I looked so hot and flustered that someone actually came up to me and said “you look a bit hot mate!”, to which I couldn’t even utter a word. My sisters were in front of me barely able to contain themselves.
The centre of the festival was bursting with people of all ages, from newborn babies to elderly couples floating from place to place. There was an array of food and clothes shops, and glamorous, expensive bars. £10 for a gin and tonic seemed the norm. It was actually worth it though. To enjoy an ice cold beverage in the boiling heat was a bit of a treat on day 3 after we had accustomed ourselves to drinking warm gin which had been left in the sun a little too long.
The highlight came on night number 2, when my sister Ali decided she was going to sneak two of her friends in, Li and Luca. I was told to cover for her on her shift, (one reason for my lucky entry) which involved standing in the doorway to a secret bar and asking people “what’s the password?” before they were allowed to enter. There was actually a dress code for those working there; “wear free flowing dresses and natural colours”. Pretty much the opposite to what I happened to be wearing. The only clothes I had on me were a leopard print skirt and a green Puma jumper, both very unnatural. I wasn’t really in character at all. For some reason I ended up with a branch in my hand which I hid behind most of the time, scared to talk to anyone in case they caught me out at my own game because I had no idea what I was doing. Finally my sister returned and took over from me, but not before she told me she had asked her friend to buggy her to the edge of the festival ( A Negroni balanced in one hand), had somehow persuaded the security guards to give the wristbands to her two friends, and then buggied back with them in tow (still with a Negroni). I swiftly walked inside and straight up to the bar, in need of a strong drink after a stressful night of being clueless.
One of the unanimous favourites of the festival was the enormous lake. There were swathes of people flopping into the lake to relieve themselves from the baking sun, and one of these days we saw three men sprinting down the hill completely naked and diving into it. I heard a thud as they dove and hit the bottom. Excuse the pun but I thought it was pretty ballsy of them. Another nude incident happened on Sunday night whilst watching Bastille. It was towards the end of their set and Li and Luca and me (of the buggy conspiracy) decided it was far too hot, so threw off our shirts, “because it was dark and no one would notice anyway!”. Pretty much instantly, a woman bounded over and asked for a photograph of us because she had been walking around topless all day and was delighted to have found others who had done the same. Perhaps it wasn’t so dark after all. It was a hilarious moment though, especially as our breasts are now logged somewhere on a random woman’s phone.
Wilderness in a nutshell, was an eye opening experience to the more civilized side of festivals. It is a world which becomes your reality. That managing to sneak two people into your new ‘home’ was possible, getting naked in crowds of people was acceptable and asking people the password to a secret room with a branch in hand was not for the faint- hearted.