Wilderness Festival is known for its eccentricity. Fancy dress is the norm, you can do yoga in a yurt, there are huge dinners around long tables and the line up goes for the quietly cool over outrageous headliners. It’s not just about the music here – there are loads of things to do at Wilderness Festival beyond that main stage, but you’ll need to open your mind to find them.
Wilderness Festival has only been around since 2011 but every year gains more and more of a following thanks to its ’boutique’ approach to the festival life.
Kicking off August, the Wilderness festival dates this year are 1st-4th August. It’s just a short train ride away from London in Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Park, and is one of the most accessible and eco-friendly festivals in England.
Last time I went to Wilderness I was totally unprepared and ended up missing out on some of the coolest activities (which you have to book) so make sure you’re ready for everything Wilderness has to offer.
One of my favourite things about Wilderness, is the fact there’s a river which in the year I went, it was absolutely scorching so I was right in there. Also… the food at Wilderness is something special.
But WAIT, there’s more…
23 Things to Do at Wilderness Festival
– all pics from now on from the Wilderness Facebook page
1. Fall back in love with letters
The idea of putting pen to paper maybe long ousted by the email, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still appreciate a good letter, love or otherwise. Wilderness brings back the appreciation of Dear Johns, penpals and postcards with Letters Live. This is a session where some of the loveliest letters are read aloud by celebrity bigwigs like Olivia Colman, Benedict Cumberbatch and Russell Brand.
Definitely one of the more unique things to do at Wilderness Festival!
2. Learn a little something
Just reading how many workshops and classes there are have my head spinning. There’s everything you could think of from playwriting, clowning, and sketch comedy to a vogueing class — yes, that’s a real thing.
Then there’s maraca painting, luggage tag making, Bollywood dance and iron age forging, life drawing classes, flower-crown making, cushion painting, pottery, perfume or cosmetic making… the list goes on meaning there’s no chance of you leaving without a cool handmade souvenir or some impressive skill.
3. Get up close and personal
Wilderness brings the love to Cornbury Park with the world’s largest attempt at spooning. Mark Saturday at 3pm in your schedule to potentially be a part of a new Guinness world record for the biggest spooning session ever.
Everyone loves a cuddle, right?
What to Pack for Wilderness Festival
4. Enter a pageant
All those hours watching Miss Congeniality on repeat have not been wasted.
Miss Alternative Wilderness 2019 is the festival’s own pageant and is open to anybody. Rather than expecting you to bring your best swimsuit game or plead for world peace though, judges are looking for contestants to score across the board in categories of silly and spectacular.
5. Go undercover
Try a little bit of espionage at the Fire Hazard Games. Bringing out the big kid inside, you’ll compete against fellow agents as you’re asked to complete a critical mission and remain undetected. Think sneaking past guards, working a disguise and locating contacts in a bid to prove you’ve got what it takes to be a spy.
6. Have a dip
Having a swim in Lake Majestic is definitely refreshing. You could make it your Wilderness way to wake up each morning, or enjoy a sunset swim to finish the day. Either way, don’t forget your swimsuits.
There are plenty of showers to recover afterwards too.
7. Listen up at The Forum
Make Wilderness a learning experience and spend some time in the debate area. A big teepee with lots of colour, this is a safe space for top speakers to talk everything from climate change to current affairs. Check the schedule and take a break from listening to the tunes to learn something new.
Guardian readers lurve it in here.
The likes of Rose McGowan, Dermot O’Leary and June Sarpong as well as authors, writers and experts talking health, climate change and social issues make for a stellar Wilderness line up.
8. Relax at the Lakeside Spa
Warming you up after you’ve braved the lake is the Lakeside Spa and its very cool wood-fired hot tubs and saunas. Incredibly Instagrammable with the lake and woodland views in the background, once you’re unwinding in the warm bubbles in amongst the forest, you’ll struggle to leave.
In the middle of a glade, the Wilderness festival location makes The Lakeside Spa the epitome of relaxation. You can simmer in a hot tub, swim in the lake and stew in sauna paradise all with a bottle of champs.
Book in advance after a long day of partying. Lush.
9. Work it out
Yoga, dance, bar, pilates, aerobics, paddleboarding, tai chi, aerial yoga, sexi flexi, ecstatic cocoa dance… I don’t even know what those last two are but there are dozens of exercise classes across the weekend to get stuck into.
Bring your lycra!
10. See some acts
All of this activity can make it all too easy to forget the official Wilderness festival line up and the many musical acts headlining the stages. Make sure to catch some of the best performances around from the likes of Groove Armada, Bombay Bicycle Club, and DJ Yoda.
Also for 2019: ROBYN!
11. Sing your heart out
Don’t leave all the performing to the professionals. Lend your lungs to the Wilderness choir which is hoping to have at least 1,000 voices perform a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s I Say a Little Prayer. Sign up to the two rehearsals and Sunday performance via the website for your shining moment.
12. Bust out the moves
Prefer to drop it low than hit the high notes?
Strictly Come Wilderness is the ultimate dance off requiring you to find a component and battle it out on the dancefloor. Whether it’s breakdancing, salsa or just a little shoulder shimmy, everyone is welcome to shake what they’ve got.
13. Take the Wilderness vibes back home
How can I be an ally for the migrants who are underrepresented and oppressed by the current hostile environment in the UK? That’s a big question but Queer Migrant Takeover and Lesbians & Gays Support The Migrants have got the answers at this Q&A session. Meaning you can head home better equipped to contribute to one of society’s biggest issues.
Pin me for later
14. Visit The Sanctuary
Health spa or festival?
It’s hard to tell at Wilderness, but that’s what it’s loved for. Occasionally a packed musical agenda can all get a bit too much, so The Sanctuary is an area slightly set back from the loud stages and is a great space for recharging. Therapists, healers, yogis and meditators are on hand to assist with all things holistic and healthy.
We’re talking facials and massages, yoga and meditation — basically everything you need to continue on your Wilderness journey.
15. Dine at the Long Table Banquet
Forget the burger van and donut stand, at Wilderness festivalgoers go gourmet, at least at the Long Table Banquets anyways.
You can opt to do lunch or dinner here, go alone or with friends because basically the idea behind this meal is that people mix with one another and bond over amazing food ( and wine) brought to you by great chefs in a really cool banqueting hall. Tickets range from £55 to £80 depending on which one you want to attend – you’ll need to book in advance.
16. Learn a new skill
Instead of going home with a hangover and a rucksack full of smelly clothes, return with an impressive skill you can casually show off. Workshops on things like fly fishing, cuttlefish catching, foraging, jewellery making, and crafting mean are all on offer giving you plenty to try.
17. Catch a cricket game
Even if you’re not usually one for watching a cricket game, you’ll be wanting to catch the weekend’s all important matches. Run by a team known as The Bearded Kittens, Wilderness cricket follows a whole load of unconventional rules and includes a very dubious array of outfits.
Not happy on the sidelines? Rock up before 10.30am and pitch your case for making the team.
18. Go all Fifty Shades
Two dominatrices and are on hand to answer every kinky, quirky, and slightly taboo question you’ve ever had about sex. In an open Q&A, they’ll be talking about internet laws, censorship, and sex worker safety in today’s society.
19. (Head) gear up
While you might have been planning on packing the panama, Wilderness has other plans for your headgear. The Great Big Hats Off has festival goers designing hats in workshops on the Friday and Saturday so they can be later modelled at the Sunday hat parade.
A pair of Wilderness tickets 2020 are up for grabs so it might be worth getting the glue gun out.
20. Walk the runway
Forget the extra hot dog you just had and feel fabulous at the The F***Size Catwalk.
This show is all about giving the finger to diets and unrealistic body images and embracing everyone as they come. Run by the Anti Diet Riot Club, they’re delivering a healthy portion of self-love and confidence and everyone is welcome to strut, stride and pose on this runway.
21. Get your game face on
Feel like a kid again with games like mass musical chairs, sock wrestling, and disco dodgeball. For Harry Potter fans, Wilderness tickets also wave you right into Hogwarts with a Muggle Quidditch match.
Wands at the ready.
Volunteer at Wilderness to help in things like directing people to the right stages, serving at the banquets or working in the wellbeing area. There are loads of things you can do and, if you apply and are accepted to volunteer, come the end of the fest you’ll get the cost of your ticket reimbursed.
Winner winner probably a free dinner.
23. Downward dog on a paddle board
Helping you find your inner zen in amongst the green, Wilderness offers sessions of paddle board yoga. Despite being a challenge for those of us with bad balance, it’s a lot of fun and a great work out. Could end up being quite refreshing too…
I hope you enjoy your journey into Wilderness, it’s a great festival for all!
Just click through to find out more on the Wilderness website.