May 10, 2018 | By Jane Boddy
Big data meets consumer insights. Experience WGSN.
Boyfriend: “Oh my God, that woman looks in a bad way.”
Me: “She’s an actor.”
Boyfriend: “Why would they be paying someone to pretend to be drunk?”
It’s a valid question, but at Wilderness, things are never quite as they seem.
The woman in question, dressed to the nines in Twenties gold lamé and pearls, finally sat down and stopped swaying when it was clear the crowd in the champagne bar needed zero encouragement to drink. The blazing sunshine was doing that trick nicely.
We mused the sun to happiness ratio on the drive home on Sunday. Maybe ratio’s the wrong word. Percentage contributed to overall happiness, instead. Either way, we settled on around 50%.
But I was at Wilderness last year, and the year before, and it rained both times and I still came back with a smug little grin on my face. That’s the problem with festival bores, isn’t it? No one comes back and tells you they had a bad time. (Even the friend when I was in sixth form at school who returned from Glastonbury with medical grade trench foot insisted she’d return.)
Anyway, back to my weekend…
It was pretty perfect, thanks very much. In a festival season where every event has to have its own USP, Wilderness has a few. The food (Angela Hartnett and Nuno Mendes were both on site this year), the lakeside spa (wooden hot tubs perched around Oxford’s most Instagrammable lake, which in turn is full of people in various stages of undress), a hidden valley (scene of late-night raves and big name DJs, followed by morning dances for the kids and anyone who never made their way to their tent) and notable catwalk acrobatics (this year, a giant puppet controlled a net strung with 52 acrobats who were in turn strung from a 40m crane and then walked through the main-stage crowd). And there’s music, of course.
Wilderness got itself a bit of a reputation when Samantha Cameron and Mark Carney turned up one year, and suddenly it became ‘that middle-class festival’. It is pretty middle-class. There’s the aforementioned champagne bar, for starters. And more than a healthy dose of Guardian types speaking. There’s also a cricket match. But a cricket match where streaking is actively encouraged and the commentating is, well, you wouldn’t hear it on the BBC.
So maybe not so middle-class. Although there was an orchestra playing Radiohead numbers…
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