Into the Wild is a warm-hearted festival of the old skool: no corporates, plenty of tie-dye and diaphanous robes on display, friendly security, more Indian knick-knacks on sale than you can shake a stick at, and no booze or drugs. Thinking about it I’m not so sure no drugs is, er, exactly old skool, but rest assured peace and love is very much alive and well in this gorgeous Sussex meadowland.
Things kicked off on the Friday afternoon with a deeply moving opening ceremony, a heartfelt plea to nurture our beautiful planet, a reminder that it is up to each of us to step up, and a tribute to the remarkable Mark Golding, a mainstay of this festival and an outstanding artist who died that morning. For me the depth of this ceremony created a benign embrace for the whole weekend.
The beating heart of Into the Wild is to be found in its workshops. There are literally hundreds of them. Some are better than others of course, but when they’re good – and many are – they’re often extraordinary. This year I particularly enjoyed the men’s group stuff with Merlin Matthews, Singing Ourselves Home with Sophia Efthimiou, Forest Bathing with Lucy Wolf, the deeply emotional Belonging with Jewel Wingfield, and the even more deeply emotional Family Constellations with Mark Reeves. Pass the tissues, lots of them. This festival can be genuinely transformative. I know, I know, I’ve clearly taken the purple pill!
There’s plenty of music on offer too. There are two main stages, both set in magical woodland settings, and the vibe varies from faerie-ethereal (have I invented a new genre?), to vigorous folk, to drumming, to something more trance-psychedelic-ish (whatever it’s called it’s good to dance to). There are plenty of other opportunities to dance too, with a fair few dance workshops, at least three ecstatic dance sessions, and late night silent discos. I should add that there are also two or three more bijou music stages, including an excellent open mic slot in the Zu tent.
A very notable plus of Into the Wild is the amount of effort it puts into children’s activities. This makes the festival feel like a proper community where all ages – from babes in arms to elder elders – are made to feel totally welcome. There’s loads for young children and younger teens to do and, on the evidence of my occasional passing of the children’s areas - one dedicated exclusively to them and another excellent woodcraft area where all ages are welcome – they were having the time of their lives.
What else? Hmm, getting down to basics: the compost loos were fine, with occasional irritating queues; I can’t say the showers were fantastic, but they were adequate and in my experience that’s about as good as they ever get at festivals; and if you really wanted a deep clean experience there was always the – largely naturalist – sauna. I didn’t go to it once this year, but hey the weather was hot and I was too busy working on my chi.
Which brings me somewhat clumsily onto chai, my habitual bugbear every year at this festival. My past experience has been grim, with the chai seemingly made solely from cloves. Disgusting. But miracle of miracles, I had three chais from three separate stalls this year and all of them were tasty. What’s going on?! I felt temporarily discombobulated with the shock of it. Talking of stalls, the food options were pretty good as usual, the prices were just a little high also as usual (or maybe I’m being overly skinflint?), and the gift stalls were pretty varied – although many were Indian themed – and, I thought, largely tasteful.
That’s more or less it. I very much hope I’ve not given the impression that this festival is exclusively for bohemians and hippies. There were plenty of 4x4s in the carpark alongside more modest motors. Having said that, I’d say it’s helpful to have a little bit of hippie flowing through your veins to fully open into this weekend wonderland, but who amongst us hasn’t got at least a smidgeon of patchouli oil pumping around their body? I urge you to come along next year, you’ll love it man.
Neil del Strother www.neildelstrother.co.uk
Published on 06 September 2022 by Neil del Strother