Live Report: Wilderness Festival 2019
It’s far too easy to make fun of Wilderness, it being the ‘posh’ festival, the one with a famous cricket match, the one David Cameron goes to. So let’s just get the mockery out the way, shall we?
I heard a bloke griping he’d “nearly bloody choked on a cornichon.” There’s both a Veuve Clicquot tent, and a ‘Nyetimber hideaway’ – Nyetimber, since you ask, is a British brand of champagne. I watched a toothsome hockey-type slinging Sunday morning bacon rolls, hoarsely yelling punters’ names – ‘Imogen! Hugo! Aldous!’ – in a couture bucket hat.
One girl I randomly met, Izzy, lives in (actual) Blenheim Palace; another, lets call her Soph, lives in (actual) Hampton Court.
Food-wise it’s mad as a box of frogs too. Artisan crumble. Craft buddha bowls. Gender-neutral paella. Alright, I made one of those up. Can you tell which? Not to mention ‘Kombucha cocktails’, or the fact I got turned away from Pizza Pilgrims on Thursday afternoon because I didn’t have ‘a reservation’, or the geezer I overhead bragging he’d smuggled a carafe into the arena. An actual fucking carafe.
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Anyway, quite enough of that. Wilderness is a superb festival. Music-wise they play it safe, to be sure, but Bombay Bicycle Club – back from their self-imposed hiatus – were more than up to snuff on Friday night with a colourful pogo-worthy hour. Modish chanteuse Robyn all but hypnotised the woozy Home Counties throng on Saturday. When she played Ally Pally earlier this year it was the hottest ticket in town, remember.
There’s cooler stuff kicking around if you know where to dig – special shout out to groovy transgender Chicago DJ Honey Dijon, who electrified the buzzy Valley area on Friday night with a saucy enfilade of upbeat bops.
Wilderness is very, very family friendly – great for me, I brought along two kids – with a massive play area supervised by Flying Seagulls, who entertain refugees when they’re not cajoling middle class kids into playing British Bulldog.
The outstanding Woodland Tribe project gives little nippers actual hammers and nails to make a real, usable adventure playground. It's great. If you fancy it (read – can afford it) you can bribe ‘Mortimer Nannies’ into looking after your little imps, while you neck rosé and gorge on brisket like a regular person.
The Atrium stage sums the whole endeavour up, and it’s genuinely moreso the heart of the festival than the main stage. ‘Strictly Come Wilderness’ (yeah) was a multi-day dance off that was hilariously executed and showed off just how confident, up-for-it and (yes) accomplished the crowd is.
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On the final day a massive ‘Wilderness Choir’ delivered an authentically tear-jerky ‘You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman).’ Lily Cole did a talk, as did Olivia Colman.
Extinction Rebellion had their own bit, and were often to be seen slow-marching through the crowd, dressed all in red brandishing flags emblazoned with skull motifs. Looking for all the world like a frowny Hare Krishna parade, some moaned they're kind of a buzzkill, but then to be fair we are all about to die in a terrifying fireball so, y’know, shrug emoji.
I don't think David Cameron showed his face this year, considering he's ruined each and every human interaction anybody has had since Leicester won the Premiership, but in truth he's largely among friends here. I certainly didn't catch the 'OH, JEREMY CORBYN!' chant, not once.
The cricket match is funny, if you buy into it. It has streakers! Like, lots and lots of streakers. You’ll never guess how many. The 77th was in a wheelchair. The festival record is 89, apparently, and I'm sure they broke it this year.
Fans of posh arses rejoice.
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Words: Andy Hill
Photography: Giles Smith, Danny North, Andrew Whitton
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