Mystical Immersion in Maelstrom of Cultures

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There is something gorgeously addictive about Into the Wild. It has the eccentric charm of a barmy great aunt who took far too much dodgy acid in her wayward youth. You may not understand a word she’s on about when you visit her, and she may dress like Miss Havisham on shrooms, but my god she’s a whole lot of fun, delightfully friendly too…even if – hmm, a personal bugbear – she still insists on making you chai out of what seems to be about a hundred thousand cloves with just the slightest addition of a sprinkle of cinnamon. A word to the wise, ask for a sample sip of chai before buying. 

I’d love to give you a blow-by-blow account of my experience of this languid sundrenched bank holiday weekend, but it’s a tricky one as, er, if you remember Into the Wild you really weren’t there. And as it’s alcohol and drug free this is quite an achievement. Perhaps it was while I was sitting under the totem pole, or was it while I was in Great Kahn’s Hall, or in the Tiger’s Nest Yurt, or the Lynx Lair Marquee, or the Green Man’s Glade, or the Yoga Shalla Marquee, or even while I was wandering through the Tipi Village, that the feeling crept up on me that I’d not the slightest idea where I was. I was lost in a maelstrom of benign cultural appropriations…and you know what, I didn’t care a jot, sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun to be lost. (Oh for a chamomile lawn and vicarage tea party area though).

The huge selection of free workshops drew just as liberally from global sources as the venues, of course they did. A brief random selection includes Thai Yoga Massage, Chinese Medicine Face Analysis, Indian Head Massage, Didgeridoo, Kirtan, Shakti Dancing the Heart Open, Medicine Wheel, Qigong, Overtone Singing, wall to wall yoga…the list goes on. And on. Inevitably the quality of the workshops varied, it’s hit and miss, but there are some real gems in there, moments of deep transformation even. In this instance not particularly for me, I was being lazy in the sunshine, but a good friend of mine had a hugely beneficial shift during a Constellations workshop for example.

Summer Into the Wild is Jesus to Beltane Into the Wild’s John the Baptist. It’s big and groovy and powerful and full of light (that more or less sums up Jesus no?). Surprisingly big in fact: Summer Into the Wild is now officially, if it wasn’t already, a popular success. The stunning Sussex setting – which incidentally was really well laid out this year – was chockfull of 4x4 hippies down from London as well as the familiar long-timer crew of dreads, bare feet and patchouli. The just-back-from-India shops and food stalls, many excellent, also seemed to have proliferated.

Especially notable was the amount of children and young people on site this year, from age year-dot to older teenagers. The place was teeming with them and they all, from where I was sitting at least (and I was sitting in the sun a lot), having a great time. There’s loads and loads for them to do, not least just running around in the beautiful woodland area, and their energy and enthusiasm was contagious and lovely to see. At Beltane Into the Wild this isn’t quite the same, it’s a much more intimate vibe (although children are welcome of course), but the Summer festival is nothing short of kidtastic.

From what I do remember of the weekend I didn’t do all that much, other than wander around chatting to old and new friends in the many cafes scattered across the site. I thought about a sauna but it was too hot a day, I also thought about a bit of Free Spirit Ecstatic Dance but I couldn’t quite be bothered, I thought too about indulging myself in the excellent healing area but I felt too brassic, I longed to take the Rocket ship to Awakening but I managed to miss it, and I wondered about going to late night improvised story telling in the woods (adults only… hmm, did I miss something a bit racy?!) but I was washing my hair, metaphorically. I did though attend a reasonably broad selection of workshops, including a mystical sound immersion, an old favourite, which essentially involves lying down and smelling all the unwashed people around you to the bonging of a gong. It was lovely.

Oh yes, I also saw/listened to a fair few bands. There was music in pretty much every café pretty much all day every day, as well as the main tent, so it was unavoidable really. And in the main the standard was pretty fine. I particularly enjoyed good old festival favourites Matha Tilston and Carrie Tree on the very laid back and beautiful Sunday night.

So what’s not so good? Well the 30-40 minute queue to get my ticket at the start of the festival was a sweaty and somewhat dull irritation, the rather overfull compost loos weren’t a joy in the heat either, and the track out of the site was far too rutted for my car, but that’s about it really. Oh yes, the site doesn’t feel like it’d be all that great for disabled punters, although I saw one or two people gamely trucking about in their wheelchairs, and I suppose if you don’t like a laid back hippy-esque beside-the-beach-at-Goa kind of a vibe you’re unlikely to have a good time. I’d also have liked to have seen more NGOs and charities present on site. Extinction Rebellion were there which was great (where aren’t they these days?), but there was room for many more. Times are urgent and I feel festivals should be doing all they can to support positive change.

Mostly though Summer Into the Wild is a relaxed, magical mystery tour in the heart of the ancient Sussex countryside. It’s essentially a meeting of a community of people who care deeply about the world and who like nothing better than expressing this deep caring through the medium of wearing strange clothing combos. Come along next year and wear what you like, including nothing at all, and lose yourself for a weekend. I’m planning to be there...


Published on 09 September 2019 by Neil del Strother

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