Cutting edge bands, risqué burlesque shows, Michelin-starred chefs, wild swimming, extravagant fancy dress and late night dance sessions in a hidden valley. There are no other festivals quite like Wilderness.

The event, which takes place this weekend at Cornbury Park, Charlbury, is a carefully-curated carnival of creativity – less about big headline acts than intimate experiences designed into a stunning natural setting.

“This is not like any other festival,” says event manager Charlotte DC – the creative genius behind the weekend.

“It’s a celebration of the arts in all of their forms and a creative expression open to everyone’s individual journey.

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“It’s not just about main stage artists, we put on a hugely eclectic range of things. We are not that festival that dictates your journey; people find their own way.

That said, the line-up is impressive.

The event features sets by Swedish dance icon Robyn, indie-pop act Bombay Bicycle Club, and dance and chill-out duo Groove Armada.

There are also sets by Tom Odell, Tom Grennan, Freya Ridings, Olafur Arnalds, George FitzGerald and Caravan Palace, among well over 500 music, comedy, spoken word and theatre performances.

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The weekend sees the return of the hugely popular Valley – a steep-sided, illuminated, wooded ravine with DJ sets by the likes of Richy Ahmed, Honey Dijon, Erol Alkan and Jodie Harsh.

Also back is The Forum, with more weighty talks and discussions on the environment, culture and economics hosted by such intellectual heavyweights as the Royal Geographical Society and RSA.

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New areas include a sound-proofed spoken word area called Audible Live, a new dance music area called The High Ground, a world music venue called The Level, and an area called The Jump Yard, designed by the team behind Glastonbury Festival’s post-apocalyptic Shangri La area – complete with wrecked cars and fire – and featuring music from the likes of Dutty Moonshine Big Band, Smoove & Turrell and Backbeat Soundsystem.

Then there is the House of Sublime – a wooden church designed as a ‘celebration of the weird and wonderful’.

There are banquets catered by top chefs James Knappett, Yossi ‘Papi’ Elad and Tom Aikens and a return of the Letters Live performances which see special guests reading interesting letters. Previous participants have included Russell Brand and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Valley will remain a big draw for dance music aficionados.

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Little Gay Brother

“There’s nowhere like it at any other festival,” says Charlotte. “The beautiful thing about it is you can’t see it for most of the day, so it comes as a surprise.

“I remember the first time I went to Wilderness, about eight years ago. I went down the steps into The Valley with no idea what to expect – and I was completely mesmerized.

“I knew then that one day I wanted to have something to do with this festival – and now I’m the event manager!”

But she said The High Ground would present a fun-loving alternative to those who did not want something too ‘hard and heavy’.

She said: “It’s a new dance music stage with fun, funky, disco vibes.

“It will be on an open site at the top of the valley and extremely welcoming and we have designed a whole new tent system with high open sides so you don’t need to be in the tent to hear it.”

Also returning for this year is the spectacle – the Saturday night showpiece performance which remains a closely guarded secret, but which has in the past involved trapeze artists, pyrotechnics and giant walking creations.

She said: “We are working with a world-renowned big spectacle company. I’ve seen the rehearsals and think it’s going to be amazing.”

It all takes place among the lakes, woods, valleys and parkland of glorious Cornbury Park – a remnant of the Forest of Wychwood.

Charlotte said: “Our main headline act is the site. Everything has its place in the landscape and we plan it down to the last fern bush when thinking of new venues.

“It’s a homage to the landscape.”

That respect for the site can present a challenge though. Charlotte says work on setting up was halted for the rain this week and vehicles have been forbidden from driving on the grass to prevent it being churned up.

“This is our second home and we are here to look after it,” she says. “Now we can’t wait for the fun to begin.”

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