WILDERNESS FESTIVAL, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire – Evening Standard, 5 Aug 2019

Cricket, fine dining and a remarkable amount of public nudity: over nine years Wilderness has carved out a singular niche for itself in festival season.

  This is supposed to be the posh one – Sloane Square in a field. David Cameron was snapped here twice before. Those paying a significant extra sum to eat in marquee restaurants run by Tom Aikens, Angela Hartnett and Petersham Nurseries, or staying in the vast field of pre-erected boutique bell tents, weren’t exactly roughing it.

  A woodland setting with a lake for wild swimming, plus a new fancy dress theme for each day, meant there were endless opportunities for the beautiful people to photograph themselves. A late night clubbing space in a steep valley was another dazzling spectacle, as was a surreal Saturday evening performance from the folks who make Glastonbury’s fire-breathing spider.

  With so much temptation for the other senses, strangely the main stage seemed shoved off to one side. The live music didn’t begin until mid-afternoon, and insultingly small crowds for the angelic voice of SOAK and the raw soul power of Durand Jones & The Indications suggested that attentions were elsewhere.

  The real centres of the site were The Atrium, a covered space in the round for gripping dance performances from Sadlers Wells and Rambert, and a sports field next door. There was far more buzz around a Sunday morning cricket match – complete with costumes, comedy commentary and a streaker count that ran into dozens – and two performances of Letters Live, where surprise guests including Olivia Colman, Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson read correspondence from history.

  The crowds eventually drifted over to the big stage for the return of Bombay Bicycle Club, who were more fun and eclectic than you might remember, Tom Odell, who pounded his piano so hard that he broke off a key, and Freya Ridings, the big new female voice of the moment. Groove Armada provided a reliable closing party, but it was Robyn and her pop music with soul and sadness who will stick in the mind, until the time comes to strip off again for next year’s 10th birthday.

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