“Are you sure you need that much fancy dress?” my boyfriend asked as I reeled off the 10 or more items from face paint to a tigers tail I had crammed into my bag.
“You just don’t understand,” I moaned, trying to work out a way to fit an Indian headdress into already over-packed rucksack without crushing the multi-coloured feathers.
“This is Wilderness festival!” I added with a sense of smugness. “Everyone will be doing it!”
And you know what? I was right.
From the moment we walked into the festival on Friday afternoon, to the day we left, you could hardly go five minutes without seeing someone dressed as a fox (the most popular costume of the festival by far), in a headdress, wearing facepaint or just casually wandering about in a tail.
Families, teenagers, twenty somethings and everyone else joined together in a festival of fun, frivolity and fancy dress.
Welcome to the wild. Welcome to Wilderness.
Wilderness Festival caught my eye many months before; it seemed like a dream come true. I had already point blank refused to go to another festival containing loud awful reggae mixed with no sleep and unbearable heat (my experience of Exit Festival last year in Serbia borders on the traumatic).
I wanted plenty of fun, with clean (ish) toilets, melodic indie music and a cool relaxing lake to wash away my hangovers.
I can say that it truly delivered: a magical, often hilarious, sometimes tiring, but mostly brilliant three days in the wild.
As the lovechild of the Secret Garden Party and Lovebox, Wilderness focuses on the festival beyond the music. While many music festivals include a disproportionate amount of time missing things, due to drunkenness, bar queues, weather etc, Wilderness is quite the opposite.
Every corner was filled with art, theatre or music. Hundreds of people performing the Birdie Song at the Village Hall tent and a group of flight attendants encouraging people to join the ‘Mile Pie Club’ by getting stuck into a mass cream pie fight, were just two of the highlights.
And though it may not have all been about the music, there was plenty to listen to. The main stage was tiny in comparison to most festivals; the crowd could barely fill a Northern Quarter bar on a Saturday night.
The crowds danced and cheered accordingly, or lay in the grass sipping various alcoholic beverages.
Slowly as the evenings began to close in, people appeared in that nights’ fancy dress attire; on Friday girls in flapper dresses were surrounded by boys in fedoras, Saturday saw masks of varying degrees of quality for the masked ball and on Sunday it was tribal paint and headdresses.
Around 10 o’clock people would wander towards the woods where they were treated to a film, a club or a roller disco.
From midnight people would move further into the forest and explore the late night parties. Lights hung in the trees, mystical circus performers danced as people moved from tent to tent dancing to electro swing and Balkan beats.
It’s difficult to review Wilderness; there were so many things we missed from an attempt at a record breaking skinny dip, to making all number of craft items, from rings to wooden chairs. There was a freezing cold lake that only I, out of my friends, managed to successfully swim in.
The food could be a review in itself and ranged between Thali curries to mac and cheese. Those with money could treat themselves to one of the exquisite banquets by Michelin star chefs but, alas, our wallets could not quite stretch that far.
The only disappointment was Moro, a Morrocan restaurant, hyped up heavily by the organisers. Nearly 40 mins in a queue left us with a very disappointing lamb wrap each, which could have been eaten in one bite.
Wilderness was a festival that required no effort. There was no grimacing as you waited for a band through endless sound checks, no waiting for 30 minutes for a lukewarm beer and no suspicious burgers or poorly cleaned toilets.
Dancing to a swing band dressed as a flapper girl, falling ungracefully into the lake, seeing people run in slow motion to Chariots of Fire, singing along to Stornaway, discussing drunken facts about Who Framed Roger Rabbit, facepaint, tails and literary slams.
Wilderness was truly magical.
Photography by Sarah Khoo.