Why festival-goers are wild about Wilderness
02 August, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
Festival programmer Charlotte DC: ‘Each year we read through all of the audience feedback and use that, combined with what we think is a step ahead of the rest of the market, to shape the foundations of the festival content’
THE Wilderness Festival has become a by-word in the summer season for being one notch above your average event: its programming tends to ignore those acts that are doing the circuit and can be caught in various fields across the UK, and instead it puts together a show that is based on the organisers’ wishlist, as opposed to who agents and promoters are punting out.
They also veer very firmly in the direction of quality comfort and – whisper it – a little bit of luxury when it comes to the add-ons that make for a weekend of true pleasure.
The site is laid out in gorgeous Oxfordshire countryside complete with a lake to cool off in, and provides the backdrop for a weekend of memories to be made. Personal highlights for your correspondent include the chance to make requests for a full orchestra to play tunes you like, the myriad of attention-grabbing sideshows, theatre acts, top bands and, of course, the Michelin-starred restaurants that pop up and serve hundreds of genuinely gourmet dining experiences. It is no wonder Wilderness has become the benchmark for those looking for a quality summer weekend experience.
And overseeing the team that put together the bill for the main stage is festival programmer Charlotte DC, a woman who has worked at some of the UK’s major events and now is one of the minds behind Wilderness.
We caught up with her to get the lowdown for this weekend’s party…
How long have you done this role? What was your previous role and what experience have you in curating such events?
This will be my third year managing Wilderness. I have worked within the festivals and events industry for the past 10 years on festivals from Larmer Tree to Glastonbury.
What are the challenges of curating different stages?
The biggest challenge we face as a team is to make sure we continue to inspire, challenge and enrich our audience’s lives. The creative team are constantly looking to provide people with unique and spectacular experiences. It is something we take very seriously.
Wilderness doesn’t have a particular focussed genre – so how do you go about booking the acts? What are you looking for – a mixture of genres, new acts, classic acts?
Each year we read through all of the audience feedback and use that, combined with what we think is a step ahead of the rest of the market, to shape the foundations of the festival content. We are always looking for an eclectic range. Instead of searching for specific genres, we think more about how an act is going to make you feel – that deep-rooted rumble in your belly when you know you’ve just caught something very special.
In a very crowded field of festivals to choose from each summer, what makes Wilderness stand out?
At Wilderness we don’t think in terms of demographics but rather that we attract a type of person – and that type of person is what makes it so special. We never ask people just to come and spectate, but instead to join in. The audience are as important to the festival as the artists who create it, and without you we couldn’t do it.
What are the the key challenges of co-ordinating such a big event over such a short period of time?
Organising a festival is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle of every different personality type there is. Combine that with a time pressure and the outcome can sometimes be … interesting. But at the end of the day it is this collection of extroverts and introverts, eccentrics and visionaries that make the festival what it is.
What three tips would you have for festival-goers to make the most out of the weekend?
Plan a couple of things that you absolutely do not want to miss and let the festival guide you through the rest. Try something new. Talk to strangers. Join in.
What’s the oddest rider request you have had?
We had a request for a perfectly cooked steak straight before a headliner went on stage once. At most festivals, this wouldn’t be possible, however not only did we manage to deliver a steak, we managed to deliver a Michelin star-cooked steak in under 15 minutes.