For most of the year, the rolling acres of Cornbury Park are a haven of peace and quiet – home to deer, pheasant and sheep, who enjoy a charmed existence among the remnants of the ancient Wychwood Forest.

For one weekend, however, the bucolic charm is disturbed by 30,000 revellers at what is, without doubt, the country’s most beautiful music festival – Wilderness.

Unlike other events, Wilderness is designed with Cornbury Park’s landscape of woodland, lakes, lawns and steep valleys in mind. Rather than imposing itself on the land, it nestles among its unique topography – with stages among the trees, wild parties in secluded ravines and Champagne bars, pop-up restaurants and even a wood-fired spa overlooking lily pad-studded pools.

The genius behind this feat of organisation – to marry nature and hedonism into a glorious ever-changing spectacle – is event manager Charlotte DC, who is busy putting a year’s worth of planning into reality for next week’s festival – its eighth.

“It’s my job to pull all of the different departments together and make sure we are putting on the best show we possibly can,” she says. “And this year we have a lot of new things planned.

“Unlike other festivals we celebrate each art with equal significance – be it an amazing main stage performance, world-class dance, theatre in the woods, Michelin-star food or fishing in the lakes. And we are incredibly lucky to call Cornbury Park our home.

Wilderness is both inspired by and woven through its unbelievable landscape.”

In terms of music, this year promises to be a classic, boasting disco legend Nile Rodgers, famous for such dancefloor classics as Le Freak, GoodTimes and Everybody Dance, pop-rock act Bastille, and French electro-funk-dance act Justice.

Also playing are producer and artist Jon Hopkins, American jazz saxophonist, Kamasi Washington, famed for his improvisational style fusing jazz with hip hop, classical and R&B; and Baxter Dury, son of Rhythm Stick singer Ian Dury, who will perform songs from his album Price Of Tears.

Dance act Groove Armada will headline The Valley – a wooded ravine reserved for late night parties and revelry, alongside South Korean DJ Peggy Gou.

Cultured souls can also lap up performances by Sadler’s Wells and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in a venue called the Atrium, alongside, in a pair of festival firsts, The Pee Wee Ellis Funk Assembly and five-piece African band Afriquoi, who blend Gambian kora, Congolese guitar and Mandinka percussion with electronic music.

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Food and banqueting remain an important aspect of the festival, with this year seeing a wood-fired banquet on the opening night and long-table feasts presided over by chefs Yotam Ottolenghi; Joel Åhlin and Filip Fastén, founders of Agrikultur; and an all-star banquet with courses prepared by Robin Gill, Merlin Labron-Johnson, Tomos Parry, Terri Mercieca and Lee Tiernan.

There will also be cabaret, comedy and variety and open air theatre and workshops demonstrating skills, such as life drawing, weaving, welding and carpentry. Revellers can even try stone-carving or crayfish trapping.

“We have a creative team who work tirelessly to make sure we are inspiring, challenging and enriching the audience’s lives,” says Charlotte. “Providing people with unique and spectacular experiences is something we take very seriously.

“We have two major new shiny venues that we are very excited about too: The Be All and End Hall, that champions outlandish performance art and theatrical splendour, and The Hereafter, for rock & roll blended with whisky and wild nights. Alongside that we have several new secret venues... but I’ve already said too much!”

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Following the success of last year’s Letters Live events, which saw the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Russell Brand and Tom Hollander addressing the crowd, a further top-secret line-up has been promised, which Charlotte insists is “guaranteed not to disappoint”.

So what is Charlotte particularly looking forward to? “We have so much great stuff happening this year which makes it hard to choose. But aside from all of the obvious, this year is all about inviting you to lift the veiled curtain, look behind the spy glass and seek out the extraordinary.

“Search that little harder and the chances are you will come across something wonderful.”

She goes on: “At Wilderness we don’t think in terms of demographics but rather that we attract a type of person – and that type of person is what makes it so special.

“We never ask people just to come and spectate, but instead to join in. The audience are as important to the festival as the artists who create it and without them we couldn’t do it.”

  • Wilderness Festival takes place at Cornbury Park, Charlbury, from August 2-5.
  • See for tickets and details

WIN! We have a pair of tickets to give away for next weekend’s Wilderness Festival.

For a chance to win, simply tell us the name of Justice’s debut album. Answers, with full name, address and contact telephone number, by email to by midday on Tuesday, July 31.

Usual rules apply and the Editor’s decision is final.

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