Brush down your flares, fetch your caftan from the attic, search out that half empty bottle of patchouli oil, and make love not war in gorgeous rural Sussex. Into the Wild is a super-chilled super-groovy old school festival, the summer of love reborn… well, sort of, minus the alcohol and drugs. Otherwise with the minimum of imagination you really could be back in 1967, a healthier and more wholesome 1967, and this is: no bad thing.
I’ve been to Into the Wild a few times now and every year it’s growing. I’m not surprised; its heartfelt mix of multifarious healing activities, world music, relaxed and friendly vibes, great and varied food (essentially vegetarian and vegan), and all round far out barmy-ness is addictive. After a long weekend of chilling out at this festival – this year I spent a lot of time just sitting around chatting to glitter-swamped friends over steaming mugs of masala chai – it’s easy to believe that all is fine and dandy with the world, that the times they are a changin’, that all you need is love (hmm, you could create a couple of half decent songs with those last two phrases). And, again, this is: no bad thing.
Into the Wild is not a place to bring your inhibitions and cynicism, or rather it’s a place to lose them very quickly. After all everyone else is doing exactly the same. It’s an egalitarian sort of event, everyone is welcome, all sorts, all ages (there are loads and loads of children incidentally – it’s great for them), albeit it’s mainly full of alternative types dressed, well, however they bloody well want…as long as, that is, it’s hippy. The festival isn’t though exclusively for alternative types; in fact I’d not be surprised, albeit I’d be horrified, to chance upon my portly Taylor Swift-loving postwoman prancing around naked in the perennially popular sauna. It’s just that sort of festival. (Note: it’s very much de rigueur to wear only a beatific smile in the sauna, nothing more).
As soon as I walked into the beautiful main festival site – all Indian subcontinent and Native American-esque tents and decorations, acres of lush grass, dressed up trees, and magical fairyland forest walks – I was immediately lured by, er, some strange cosmic call into the heart of a movement medicine session in an over-hot marquee. For those of you who don’t know, movement medicine is basically dancing (in any way that you fancy) for alternative types. And it’s lovely, all swirly and moody and wild and sensual, and embarrassing. From time to time you’re urged to find a partner to move with, to gaze into their eyes, or to move around the tent on your own, to explore your relationship with the space, and other such loved up interruptions to your flow. After many years of 5 rhythms I’m pretty relaxed with all this stuff, other than the rictus smile I can’t shake off my lips when staring oh so meaningfully into a stranger’s eyes while waving my arms slowly around all over the place. Really, I’m just very glad there aren’t cameras.
After all this movement medicine activity I felt the need for a gong bath, obviously. Ah, to lie there next to fifty or so strangers in deep relaxation with a vibrating gong bonging away inches from my head, cleansing my chakras and unblocking my ch’i pathways – what more could anyone possibly want in this world? I fear I may have fallen asleep at one point and snored sonorously for a minute or two, it’s an occupational hazard of all this super deep relaxation… hopefully the gong drowned me out as I dare say my accompaniment wasn’t conducive to everyone else’s deepening state.
There’s just too much to do at Into the Wild. The range of workshops is more than impressive, and sometimes more than barking, and it’s just impossible to go to all you want to (they really should hold one on being in two or three places at once, hey they probably do!). This year’s notable workshops included: authentic relating games, living from the heart (of course), ancestral cleansing, hypnobirthing and positive birth, working with runes, shamanic trance dance and meditation, moon cycle reflexology for women, nocturnal midnight gong bath, heart song harmonies, flowering womb ceremony, hula hoop jam, playing with earth energy, the magic of fasting, celebrating moon blood, dreaming the self, and ‘am I enough?’ (The hell I am! – a successful workshop that one). There’s plenty of storytelling, poetry and spoken word too. I could go on, and on, and on.
There’s a whole lot of music as well, the festival offers a world music pot pourri (there’s a hint of Womad about the line up, a fair bit of it, ironically enough, delivered by local bands), and some of it is really pretty good. It helps quite a bit if you’re, er, ‘spiritual’ as a lot of it bangs on about us all being one and being present and so on and so forth. The Devil may have all the best tunes but he’s not playing here; the gods do well enough without him though it has to be said. Unfortunately by the time I got around to listening to the music I was so chilled out I forgot to write down the names of my favourite artists. Hey, it’s that sort of festival man. Having said that I’m pretty sure I much enjoyed Alison David’s soulful set, Susie Ro’s too, as well as River Roots, King Ayisoba, Mobius Loop, and the Central Asian Ensemble with Tashilunpo Monks of Tibet amongst others. Wacky names, wacky sets, Into the Wild really isn’t for muggles.
Onto more prosaic stuff: the compost toilets are suitably challenging for those who make the mistake of looking downwards when in them, but they are clean enough otherwise; the large camping areas are cramped but friendly; parking is well organised; there is a good selection of shop tents selling mainly clothes, jewellery, and food (amazingly the organic shop was selling at more or less normal prices); and there is loads of green lovely space to just amble about or sit around in and simply enjoy the weekend passing by – and enough covered space, incidentally, to enjoy the event even if it completely pours down with rain all bloody day long (as it did on the Sunday). I should make a special mention here of the marvellous Zutopia and Alternative Lewes tents – many a happy hour was spent in both during the relentless storm, the former listening to music, chilling out and eating and drinking, the latter enjoying a full, varied and consistently high standard of workshops.
Into the Wild has a magical summer of love quality about it that is hard to adequately define or capture. It offers an other-world escape from the hum drum everyday, from the relentless reality of Brexit and Trump, and an opportunity to dive headlong into a better world for a long languid weekend, a more loving world, and, hey, this is very much: a good thing.
Published on 01 October 2018 by Neil del Strother