Tuesday 9 August 2016

Wilderness Festival, 4th-7th August 2016

Sunset over the campsite on the first night
Over a long weekend in August Cornbury Park's ancient woodlands were transformed into a playground for adults and children alike. Thousands descended on this peaceful Cotswold estate for Wilderness Festival 2016. Revellers enjoyed the refreshing cold of the lake or stayed safely in the boats gliding along the surface if they did not wish to brave a bracing swim. Wandering the main festival site snippets of debates and talks escaped from marquees, latecomers lounged in the sun nearby, raucous laughter erupted, the strains of music could be heard, and the smells of a wide array of street food constantly tempted the tastebuds.

The Atrium
With talks ranging from Artificial Super Intelligence  to Brexit, the  Brontëto dinosaurs, it proved a hard job choosing where to spend the days. The Atrium became a hub for the arts - dancers from top companies gracing the stage that moments before had been inhabited by excited toddlers. It also played host to a Disney singalong, a pop-up cinema, and a Bowie tribute concert. Variety and quality are the hallmarks of this festival that celebrates all things culture.

Making good use of the natural beauty of the surroundings, the Oxford Shakespeare Company performed an excellent, concise version of Love's Labour's Lost. There’s something quite magical about being led into the woods for an afternoon in the sun watching talented actors perform without all the modern theatre technology we are accustomed to, bringing us closer to the way original audiences would have experienced the play.

The annual Wilderness cricket match
Sunday morning saw the annual Wilderness cricket match, an event in which almost anything goes. Amusing commentary, players casually drinking on the field, and twenty-two streakers (which was eight off the current Wilderness record), this was not your average cricket match. Play itself was not without its appeals however, the Remainers plucking victory from the Brexiteers’ grasp in a nail-biting conclusion.

The Valley
As the sun set there was plenty to distract from the evening chill. Nouvelle Vague, stepping in for Daft Punk on the Atrium stage were a definite highlight. Their high-energy performance had the whole crowd dancing. Sadly, the headliners on Sunday did not quite achieve similar. The staging of the Flaming Lips’ set was visually impressive – colourful and unusual (a curtain of lights obscuring the band for the most part). Wayne Coyne’s performance lacked the energy needed however, and he struggled to hit the high notes. There was plenty for night owls to enjoy beyond the main stage; from the Folk Barn to the Valley – an intense experience of pounding music, lasers, and a huge crowd partying deep within the trees. No piece about Wilderness would be complete without mention of the Saturday Night Spectacle which this year featured tightrope walkers performing feats that made my stomach churn just watching them, illuminated performers providing a soundtrack on the field below.

As the forest and lights fade the memories will not. Wilderness provides the opportunity for all to enjoy losing themselves in nature – to think, to dance, to be free, if only for a weekend. 
The boating lake

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