For ten years of my life, every year, I have spent this weekend in the grounds of an estate in Oxfordshire, doing something delightful but strange. Wilderness Festival. I guess I’m part of the furniture there now. The first year, about twelve of the performers and crew for this tiny festival stayed by the lake for a crew “no beats” celebration. Since then I’ve met one of the strangers I danced with that night. We have become friends. “You were the glowstick man!” No surprises we were brought together. Those trees, those lakes and that land – perfect on this weekend where the weather is always somehow glorious. Despite a performer armband I would always camp in public camping, eschewing the less crowded showers and free moisturiser in the morning in favour of community and being able to wake up and jump into a cold lake in less than 5 minutes.
It’s been a powerful and beautiful place to work and play, even though the moments of glory blend into one another now when I try to break them down in time. I remember standing with an old couple from South Africa, deep in the crowd for Rodriguez as he played hits from Cold Fact. They had bonded to his music decades before. They never thought they’d see him play. Watch “Searching Sugarman” for context. They had flown over from Cape Town and stayed in a tent just to hear him come out and play such a rare rare almost impossible gig in the grounds of a working stately home in Oxfordshire.
The orchestra on the Sunday night, so many musicians, and one year there’s DJ Boo up there rocking Top Gun on his electric guitar. Zoe talking about sex drugs and rock and roll highly medicated having just broken her ankle. Me sight-reading an unexpectedly injured neuroscientist’s lecture about performance enhancing drugs at the absolute last minute, and being cut into the legal cocktail of home made madness that had been prepared by himself and his neuroscientist friends – all older than me and with families. Becoming “The Cosmic Cow” that night. A year when I made a friend accidentally after being horrid to them for being late for work and they didn’t tell me they were the employer filling in. Another year, where Mel and I spontaneously became a late night Tarot factory on the last night and afterwards discovered that Helen had been taking donations as people left. So much dancing. So many little moments of joy. Hot sun. Late nights. Happy memories and so many friendships.
Tonight being Friday was always my least favourite night there, as the Oxfordshire lads with their one free night would all pile on heavy from the office and full of beer, looking for the PARTAY! But even so I miss being with the trees looking at the pockets of hippies and the pockets of people unwinding, and just getting stuck in and dancing like a total maniac for as long as possible even if they kept on refusing to drop the beat late – because of local legislation no doubt.
Next year perhaps, if things get back to normal I can be there. We have more bad news for my industry today and I’m constantly upset and blindsided by the news and the concern that it’s not going to get any easier for folk like me.
I helped a friend move office today though – to Knightsbridge. He’s turning over nicely and buying properties for himself. Not everybody is stuck, it seems. There’s always a way.