We visit the Vintage Festival at Wilderness

What follows are some photographs and musings on our slightly ramshackle but very enjoyable visit to the Vintage Festival at Wilderness in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire - its temporary home for the summer of 2012.After a washout early summer season of torrential downpours and hence disappointing ticket sales for Vintage Festival, all credit to the Vintage and Wilderness teams for managing to join the two festivals together without either losing any individual charm or appeal. Thankfully, the date change also meant that the festivals were bathed in three days of glorious sunshine - what a bonus!


As Vintage did not start until the Saturday, we spent the first day of the festival mooching around Wilderness - a really magical experience with secret parties, candlelit masked balls, fairylit walkways and all sorts of whimsical goings on. I found myself slightly lost from our group by midnight, and ended up at some sort of medieval inspired fayre drinking strong mead (they only had the strong stuff, honest!). Despite this, I managed to get up at 8am for a very refreshing swim in the stunning lake, which woke me up pretty quickly...


We started off our Vintage Festival experience with a visit to the Vintage Marketplace, stuffed full of a tempting array of retro goodies, from clothing and accessories to vintage homewares, movie posters, furniture and general nick-nacks. I could have spent hours browsing, and almost came home with another sixties glitter lamp (which I regret not snapping up now). I did get a nice psychedelic sixties frock though!

Moving on into the main vintage arena, we paid a visit to the Bad Art Salon, which is a hilarious and sometimes rather disturbing art competition celebrating the very worst the world of art has to offer. I chose my favourite picture, which featured a witch and an alien - somehow the artist had managed to incorporate two actual bagels into this work of art - interesting! Given that the overall winner is judged by Vic Reeves, you can imagine the sort of craziness on display here. My friend Lula and I had our portrait painted - badly of course (although we both agree that it's a fairly good likeness). You can see this happening in the picture to the right. The Art School of '77 offered the chance to make punk and protest themed fanzine art, print your own t-shirt or tote bag and create some alternative Jubilee memorabilia, all to a punk rock soundtrack.


Another tantalizing attraction was the Dream Shoe Closet, which showcased some of the swoon-inducing footwear collection of the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery. All housed within a very kitsch 1970's inspired lounge and bedroom set, we walked through the closet doors and came face to face with numerous cabinets of original twenties flapper shoes, disco stilettos, towering seventies platform boots, elegant fifties kitten heels and sixties go-go mod shoes a-plenty. You could even try some of the footwear on and have your photo taken as you posed in your chosen pair!


An eclectic mix of events and entertainments were laid on - from Andrews Sisters style harmony and swing singers outside the vintage photobooth (black and white photos, of course), to a retro roller-skating rink, kids workshops, and even an insect circus museum!

On the Friday night, Secret Cinema showcased Bugsy Malone on their big screen, with actors playing along, a stunning twenties speakeasy bar and the inevitable splurge-gun fight. It was amazing how many people got into the spirit of the event in their fancy dress and flapper girl outfits - an amazing effort from organisers and punters alike!


The ever popular hair and beauty salon was a welcome sight after a night in a tent. Offering vintage make-overs, hair and make-up from various eras, you could try forties victory rolls, a sixties bouffant beehive or perhaps some seventies Charlie's Angels style flicks, whilst getting your make-up done to match. Much easier than trying to do your face in the mirror of a portaloo, and far more pleasant!


Nightlife was centred around the breathtakingly beautiful Torch Club for intoxicating 1930s and 1940s sounds (curated by Snowboy), and the heaving Soul Casino (curated by Eddie Piller) for rip-roaring classics from the 1970s Soul club scene. A visit to either of these venues, particularly at night, would make you forget what era you were living in, let alone that you were in the middle of a field in Oxfordshire!


The Soul Casino featured sets from some of the UK's top ska, northern soul, RnB and funk DJs such as Craig Charles, Snowboy, Eddie Piller and Norman Jay - even the curator, Wayne Hemingway had a set - rude not to, eh! Some of the dance moves going on here over the weekend were pretty awesome to watch - if anyone has any footage, post it up on our Facebook page please!

In the Torch Club, the delights of Ondrej Havelka and his Melody Makers were a real treat to behold - oozing charm and finesse, this fantastic swing orchestra went down so well at the last Vintage event, they were welcomed back with open arms to perform various sets over this weekend and we can see why!


Hosted by the smooth Viv the Spiv, yet more nostalgic sounds were provided by trad jazz band the Shirt Tail Stompers, the New Squadronaires evoking the wartime spirit of the original RAF dance band, and the Parisian latin/swing of Benoit Viellefon and his Orchestra.


The Torch Club also played host to dance lessons where you could join in and learn the finer points of lindy, foxtrot or waltz - or as the picture below shows, try out some classic East End dances like the Lambeth Walk, which was most amusing to watch - you can spot Wayne Hemingway and his wife Geraldine checking out the moves in the bottom left of the photo too!


The Torch Club by day - an art deco place of fun!

So despite the initial difficulties, our favourite festival managed to pull out all the stops and put on another fantastic and memorable event. Feel free to share your experiences, photos and videos of Vintage 2012 on our our Facebook page - we hope those who visited had as much fun as we did, and we truly hope that Vintage is back as a festival in its own right next year as it deserves!

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