Arts & Culture / Toast in the Wilderness

Last week we packed our bags and moved to the Wilderness. We arrived on Tuesday, with two vans full of our favourite outdoor things – deckchairs, firebowls, storm lanterns, blankets… – to install ourselves near the lakes of the Cornbury Park Estate, and in the tents of the very first Wilderness Festival. We hefted boxes and carried piles of blankets, attached lanterns to bamboo poles and hung them from trees, arranged deckchairs, put up bunting and washing lines, decorated stages and projection screens, and late at night allowed ourselves a swim in the lake (four girls in matching polka dot swimwear) then warmed ourselves around our very own firebowl.

By the time the weekend arrived we were more than ready to make use of the best part (in our opinion) of the festival – the spa. Many festival goers seemed to agree as they sat and drank champagne in cedar hot tubs before transferring themselves to the cool of the lake.

As tempting as it was to stay in the water for the whole weekend, there was plenty more elsewhere to keep us occupied. Our first ever Toast Travels live event took place in The Forum on Sunday afternoon, with the fantastically articulate and intelligent Alexandra Harris, Sally Bayley and Frances Spalding talking about the meaning of home in art, literature and culture. They ranged far and wide in their discussion – from Le Corbusier to Bob Dylan to John Piper – and provoked much thought and comment. Also in The Forum we watched the highly entertaining, infuriating and fascinating Intelligence Squared debates on technology and eco-warriors and listened to a ten minute opera from Go Opera. We learnt to make notebooks with John-Paul Flintoff and The Idler, did some hula-hooping, made masks for a ball, watched cricket, feasted on Moro food in the banqueting tent and danced in a wooded valley late into the night.

On Sunday evening we watched and wondered at Antony & The Johnsons – Antony’s voice like that of no-one else around. A sober-looking man stood next to us with tears running down his cheeks, a full moon appeared and disappeared in the clouds behind the stage and sky lanterns drifted off into the night. It could not have been a more perfect end to a very brilliant festival.

Were you there too? Did you enjoy yourselves as much as we did? Do you think we should take Toast to more festivals?

Photographs by Richard Heald and Benjamin Eagle.

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  • I’d be interested to know why eco-warriors have any contribution to make to a wilderness festival — the only ones they’ve made so far are their monstrous, bird-chopping, habitat and landscape-ruining, subsidy-gobbling wind turbines.

    And also I’m getting a little tired of Toast’s pose as the homely British enterprise promoting Britishness. Look at the labels! They all say ‘MADE IN CHINA’. Nothing wrong with that (ish) but stop pretending, Mrs Seaton.

    • Hello Susanna,

      The debate at the Wilderness Festival actually partly addressed your concern – it asked whether eco-warriors should spoil our fun or not. In fact James Delingpole, of the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator, raised your very point about wind turbines, whilst denying (as he does) that climate change has been proven. Whichever side of the debate you (or we) fall on, we definitely believe that debate is worthwhile. Don’t you?

      With regard to your point about where our clothes are made. We do try to use British manufacturers and production where and when we can. And when we do, we point it out, as we believe in supporting British industry. However, we have certainly never claimed or pretended that all of our products are made in Britain. Indeed, we aim to run a viable business – one that employs over 150 people – and in order to do that we need to be realistic as to where we can make our products cost-effectively.

  • Enjoyed reading this snapshot of what sounds like a truly great weekend. No mention of age,race or creed just a whole lot of people enjoying themselves outdoors. We have long been fans of this type of expedition and our now grown children,who have children of their own have nothing but praise for these holidays,that cost us very little at the time but are packed full of good memories. Combined with a festival,what could be better? Yes, do take toast to more festivals and keep letting us know. If this inspires more people to get out of town,especially taking their kids friend or two,who perhaps wouldn’t normally get to do this sort of thing,then even better.