The morning kicks off with disc jockey Willy Watkins booming over the analogue radio like an incredibly camp post-war radio host, making his welcomes, announcements, and ‘funny uncle’ type banter. During the days to come you’ll take on challenges from axe-throwing and paddle boarding, to nipple tassel making and rabbit skinning. You’ll play games, win competitions, be silly, and get dirty; reawakening the big kid inside of you with activities that are both interesting and genuinely fun-not something you can always say about a festival, particularly sober. If you’re lucky you’ll spot several nude enthusiasts loitering around the camp and occasionally joining for a session of yoga. After a long day of adventuring, night falls, the atmosphere picks up, and the music festival begins.
Most of the nightlight centres inside the larger of two tents; which incidentally also happens to be where the bar is located. Here you’ll find live music and a dance floor, with bands and DJs you’ve never heard of but wish you had. Rather than inciting a fandom that accompanies recognizable names, the relative anonymity of the bands allows you not only to enjoy the music, but also the environment and atmosphere of which the music is there to compliment. The cold English summer outside is hardly noticeable amongst the heat from the dancing, sweaty mass of bodies within. With personal space left at the door, you don’t think twice about something big and hair being pressed into your lower back-it’s probably a giant squirrel tail. Assigned to rivalling animal factions at the start of the camp, fox onesies and owl headpieces aren’t out of place on the dance floor and the enthusiasm of these hardcore campers is infectious.
Danced out and on your way back to the camping grounds, you’ll happen upon the second, smaller tent a little way off through the trees. Out in the open with a fire pit at the foot of the stage, the atmosphere completely changes. People sit on small logs under the stars and huddle around the fire, roasting marshmallows and popcorn over the open flame. Usually with not much more than a guitar and some serious talent, the little stage lights up and feels like a private show in the woods; a surreal and unforgettable experience.
Entertainment for the following nights is once again music and dancing, only people have made fast friends and everyone seems to be wearing their felt animal masks and nipple tassels made in earlier activities throughout the day. Music carries on late into the night as people stumble back to their tents and wallow in the regret of choosing the early morning obstacle course the following day. Fall asleep to the pitter-patter of raindrops striking your poorly assembled tent, the laughter and chatter from campsite after parties, and the earthy scent of the woods mingling with that of a joint being passed around in the distance.
One of the best things Camp Wildfire has going for it is how it engages campers in a new way-which, funnily enough, happens to be quite an old way; phones and electronics aren’t used throughout the festival. Instead of sitting alone, scrolling through newsfeeds, and tweeting about the day you’ve had, you tell it to the strangers sitting across from you at dinner. Conversations are made over meals and shared experiences, and the strangers you sat with are the familiar faces you wave to around camp the following day. The nostalgic vibe to the festival encourages bringing people together and enhancing the experience in the moment by changing how we engage with it. Separating itself from the repetitiveness of many music festivals today, the activities and entertainment on offer, and the engaging way that they’re delivered, ensure that Camp Wildfire is a truly unmissable experience for anyone with a festival bucket list, with the likelihood that you’ll be returning year after year.