THE gates have opened at a West Oxfordshire stately home for one of the country’s most creative and eclectic festivals.

Wilderness Festival, which has begun at Cornbury Park, near Charlbury, runs from now to Sunday and prides itself not just on its strong musical line-up, but its emphasis on all the arts, with drama and spoken word performances as well as good food.

The bill boasts well-known chefs Skye Gyngell, Adam Handling, Niklas Ekstedt, Robin Gill, Will Devlin and Helen Graham – who will be hosting long table banquets for discerning revellers.

Witney Gazette: Wilderness Festival 2021
Picture by Ed Nix

Picture by Ed Nix

The event – held among the woods and lakes of the estate – has previously attracted up to 20,000 guests.

Electronic dance music act Underworld, actor and musician Olly Alexander’s chart-topping act Years & Years and Mercury-nominated dance duo Jungle headline the festival.

Underworld, led by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, are famed for songs Born Slippy, Cowgirl and King of Snake. The appearance in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds will be their only UK festival slot this summer.

Electro-pop star Olly Alexander had hits with King and Shine, and is also famed for his acting roles – appearing in the Russell T Davies drama It’s a Sin, The Riot Club, Skins, and as Peter Pan in the West End play Peter and Alice alongside Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench.

Witney Gazette: Years and Years main stage.

The Years and Years

Also playing are Carterton singer-songwriter Willie J Healey, former Moloko star Roisin Murphy, kitchen disco queen Sophie Ellis Bextor, Grammy-award winning record producer and DJ David Morales, South Korean DJ and dance music producer Peggy Gou, and actor, comedian and soul and funk aficionado Craig Charles.

Hotly anticipated is a set by former Maccabees star Orlando Weeks.

He said: “More festival joy! I’ll be opening the main stage at Wilderness on the Saturday.
"It’s a big responsibility, kicking things off on a stage – some would say the biggest – but what a pleasure. I am very excited that this will be my first time at Wilderness.”

Witney Gazette: Underworld


The bill also includes multi-instrumentalist and singer Jordan Rakei, soul trio Gabriels, sax and drums duo Binker and Moses, indie-pop act Azure Ryder, Áine Deane, acoustic singer-songwriter Billie Marten, electronic Afro-funk band Ibibio Sound Machine, Thrill Collins, Elles Bailey, and the House Gospel Choir.

Talks and debates features appearances by comic Russell Kane, Michelle De Swarte – star of Netflix series The Duchess – and Deborah Frances-White of award-winning podcast and live show The Guilty Feminist.

Witney Gazette: Willie J Healey.

Willie J Healey

The organisers said: “Curated for a generation who understand meaningful pleasure, enlightening participation and luxurious experiences, Wilderness spans music and the arts, exquisite feasting and dining, insightful talks and debates, a wellbeing sanctuary, outdoor pursuits, a family field and beautiful lakes to while away the hours.

“For those looking to get immersed and put their unique mark on a festival, Wilderness is the perfect weekend escape.”

A highlight of the festival is its late night DJ sets, staged in a secluded, illuminated wooded valley. The rave-style events continue this year with DJs David Morales, Irish-born producer Krystal Klear and underground house veteran Derrick Carter.

The festival spokesman said: “As the sun sets, our forest dancefloor comes to life. Under a starlit canopy, late-night revellers can dance until the early hours in The Valley.

"Those seeking alternative amusement, meanwhile, can lose themselves among Balkan bands and raucous revellers, ceilidh the night away or go all out brass, bass and big beats.”

They added: “Wilderness is as much about the experiences you stumble across as the stellar line-up of acts you plan to see. It’s home to world-class arts and performance and this year’s line-up focuses on the body and movement and storytelling through physical theatre.”

*Tickets from