There are not many festivals quite like Wilderness. Like Neverland for grown-ups, the Cornbury Park-based ‘hedonistic retreat’ is a British festival at its best. Think whimsical, free-spirited, wild and just a little bit kitsch.
Miles away from the mud-coated memories you may have experienced when being 16 at Reading or Leeds, Wilderness prides itself on its relaxing, yet fun atmosphere. It is as welcoming to young families as it hung-over adults with a beautiful lake to flop next to, a sanctuary area dedicated to wellness and healing, novelty cricket matches, ten-pin bowling, flower crown making and every kind of delicious food you can imagine.
Which makes it the perfect partner for Veuve Clicquot – who this year held its own festival within a festival. Open all weekend, the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Garden aimed to transport guests into another world. Inspired by surrealists such as Magritte, Dali and Escher, the Champagne house treated guests to “miniature worlds telling different stories” with differently themed tents that aimed to capture the brand’s creativity. Invited into a bubble of eccentricity, the event featured pop-art inspired fruit and savoury delicacies such as roasted quail and summer pudding, all served by waiters with plant pots for hats. For those wanting something a little heartier, guests could dine at the Long Table Banquet, which featured dishes from the chefs at Chiltern Firehouse. The unique menu was made to complement and was inspired by the brand’s signature Yellow Label and RICH range – acting as the star of the show, the signature champagne was designed to be drunk over ice.
The flowing champagne and cool surrounding made the perfect setting for hedonistic festival-goers. The place to be, guests included bloggers Lizzy Hadfield, Rosie Fortescue, model, Arizona Muse and DJ Whinnie Williams – who all took to the lounge as the place cool down from the blazing Oxfordshire sun.
Aside from the hanging foliage and otherworldly settings, the Champagne bar also hosted several performances – such as a visual dance piece from Kimatica. The dance studio is known for its body movements, blended with interactive technology and kaleidoscopic lighting to create a surreal show – blurring the line between fantasy and reality.
And later on in the evenings as dusk drew in and the music amps went up (the highlighting set goes to Hugo Heathcote), Veuve’s Champagne garden played everything from folk to African and funk beats, enticing the mass of festival goers to migrate down into the infamous Valley to dance like no-one’s watching.
As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun and we’re already counting down the days to Wilderness’ own surrealist Neverland next year.