More than 20,000 celebrate fun and freedom at ‘fabulous’ Wilderness Festival

MORE than 20,000 music lovers have enjoyed a weekend of music, dancing and ‘freedom’ at Oxfordshire’s first major festival for almost two years. Wilderness Festival has returned to its home at Cornbury Park, near Charlbury, with a Covid-safe event which has been hailed as a ‘fabulous’ success – and a sign that life is returning to normal after more that a year of lockdowns and restrictions. Even sporadic torrential showers and blustery winds failed to dampen the spirits of revellers who descended on the West Oxfordshire site in a suitably sparkly array of colourful costumes.

The event comes to an end tonight, with most revellers planing to leave the extensive site – part of the ancient Wycwhood Forest – tomorrow. Though some have already packed up, put off by the unsettled weather. Fun seekers were joined by a smattering of celebrities, including White Lines and Guardians of the Galaxy star Laura Haddock; Doctor Who and The Serpent actress Jenna Coleman; and Humans, Crazy Rich Asians and Captain Marvel star Gemma Chan.

Headline sets by rapper Loyle Carner and electronic artist Jamie XX pulled in large crowds on the main stage, and late night DJ sets in a spectacularly-illuminated wooded valley kept dance fans on their feet into the night. ‘Beautiful people’ come out to party: Pictures by Ed Nix

Tonight’s line-up will be headlined by live drum and bass act Rudimental. More cerebral pursuits came in the form of talks and discussions, and ‘Letters Live’ spoken word performances featuring guest artists. But despite the crowds, festival-goers say they feel safe, and have faith in stringent Covid restrictions which involved people testing before entry.

Photographer Ed Nix from Chipping Norton said: “Everyone seems so happy to finally be at a festival. Even the rain hasn’t affected the vibe – nobody cares about the weather that much – they are just happy to be back at a festival.” Sarah Wilson from Witney said: “It has been fabulous – just as good as I hoped and exactly what I have been waiting for all this time.

Shame the weather hasn’t been better, but it isn’t too bad and hasn’t taken away from the fun and smiles.” Tom Edwards from Summertown, Oxford, left the site this morning after spending an uncomfortable night in a soggy tent – but admitted that didn’t matter a bit. He said: “There was a real sense of freedom – especially on Friday when the sun shone and the site filled up with beautiful people.

“Many of us wondered if this time would ever come after such a bleak year, so it was a very special moment when the gates opened.” More than 20,000 celebrate fun and freedom at 'fabulous' Wilderness Festival Josh Speight, from East Oxford, said: “It has been an awful year for everyone so we really needed something to look forward to.

Well done Wilderness for going ahead and proving it can be done safely without taking away from the chilled party vibe. “It felt so good to be back with these beautiful people in this beautiful place, with lakes, lawns and trees, listening to some amazing music – even if the sun ducked out of the party for a lot of the time!” Wilderness was one of the only major festivals to proceed this year, with most cancelling for a second time, including Truck Festival, in Steventon, Cornbury Festival in Great Tew, Riverside in Charlbury, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention near Banbury, and Oxford’s Cowley Road Carnival.

Higher profile casualties included Glastonbury and WOMAD festivals. More than 20,000 celebrate fun and freedom at 'fabulous' Wilderness Festival The success of Wilderness will be welcomed by the music and events industries which have suffered more than most through the pandemic.

It will also have been received with relief by Blur bassist Alex James, who is holding his own three-day festival, The Big Feastival on his farm in Kingham, near Chipping Norton on the August Bank Holiday weekend. : Wilderness boss says we deserve to party Speaking ahead of Wilderness, Rory Bett, chief of organiser Mama Festivals, said: “We have been thrilled to throw wide the gates to the stunning Cornbury Park Estate once more to a sold out show.

The response has been humbling.”