Wilderness Festival to offer more forest revelry

Top chef Russell Norman

Top chef Russell Norman

First published in Headlines Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Music Editor. Call me on 01865 425494. Follow me on twitter: @OxMailTimHughes

ORGANISERS of Oxfordshire’s Wilderness festival have unveiled a programme of feasting and revelling for their expanded event, which they say will recapture the spirit of the raucous Wychwood Forest Fairs originally held on the site.

The team behind Wilderness, which takes place for the fourth year running on the Cornbury Estate, near Charlbury in August, have raised capacity from 15,000 last year, to 23,000. And they have promised even more attractions taking place across the wooded site.

These include torch-lit processions, late night masked balls, acrobatic displays and tented banquets hosted by such renowned chefs as Russell Norman, of Soho restaurant Polpo; Simon Rogan owner of the Michelin-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria; and Angela Hartnett, who trained under Gordon Ramsay and is chef patron of Murano, in Mayfair, and the York & Albany pub, in Camden.

There will also be an expanded range of workshops and a chance for revellers to try their hand at country pursuits, such as horse riding, fly fishing and foraging.

There will also be a spa, and art, theatre and talks hosted by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe, Oxford Shakespeare Company, and Greenwich Royal Observatory. The activities follow the announcement of the musical bill, headlined by London Grammar, Metronomy and easy listening legend Burt Bacharach. Tessa Clarfelt is the festival’s arts and cultural programming manager. She said: “This year will be larger, but we are going to use different areas so it is going to feel comfortable and spacious.

“It’s all about building on the atmosphere and reaching out to new groups of people. We don’t want to rely on sponsorship from big brands like other festivals.

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“This will allow us to remain as independent as possible.”

She revealed there would be a series of spectacular processions and fire shows, hosted by Ireland’s Macnas theatrical company, and inspired by the infamous Wychwood Forest Fayres.

The fayres, which began life as Methodist church picnics in the late 1700s, were held near the site until the 1830s, until banned for being too lawless and bawdy.

Ms Clarfelt said: “We will be creating the most beautiful processions with fire artists, huge puppets, costumes and performers inspired by the forest fayres. It will feel very magical.”

Chef, Mr Norman said: “We were delighted to be asked to put on another banquet this year and the line-up looks even better. It is a perfect escape, expertly curated and orchestrated, and in such beautiful countryside to boot.”

Wilderness runs from August 7-10. Go to wildernessfestival.com

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