“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Wonder Fields is a little slice of paradise tucked into the folds of the Exeter countryside. The brainchild of siblings Alice and Nick De Haan, Wonder Fields promises an refuge from the ‘shackles of the outside world’ and delivers it’s own very special brand of (Alice in) wonderland magic with its whimsical approach and friendly atmosphere.
Now in its third year and attracting a crowd of around 2,500, Wonder Fields is stitched together with a rich tapestry of music from drum and bass, to electro swing, to ska, folk, and back again with a cornucopia of curiosities to keep festival goers of all ages titillated over the course of the weekend. Fire shows, mystical creatures (including a rogue faun) and workshops a plenty, you’ll never be stuck for something to see or do at this little festival.
We arrived at around 6pm on Friday evening, picked up our wristbands and wound our way down the dusty path leading to the site. Comprising four stages, three camping areas (including Glamping and Family) and multiple pockets of intrigue (including archery, craft workshops and what seemed like an endless stream of activities taking place in the Kids’ Field), the site is small yet expertly laid out to avoid sound clashes, the main stage set against the backdrop of a lake with Fulton Manor on the hillside behind.
Exploring the site, upon arrival we walked through a pink/purple tunnel of fabric, creating a rabbit hole-esque portal leading into the woods to the Enchanted Forest Stage where Shosh and WamJam were playing. Later in the weekend, we noticed that somehow, whilst going through the tunnel, the music from the main stage faded dramatically, extenuating an ‘other – worldly’ feeling as we emerged into the forest, bass pulsing through the trees, greeted by a huge, friendly leafy faced sculpture which framed the stage.
After having a dance we headed back through the rabbit hole and were spat out of the woods into the main field. Stumbling down to the Shire Tavern, we made a beeline for the bar to have a look at the drinks on offer. There were a number of bars scattered around the festival, serving various lagers, ciders and an array of delicious cocktails including Mojitos, Bloody Mary’s and the festival’s very own ‘Wonder Fizz’ to tantalize the taste buds.
The Rin Tins took to the stage just to the left of the bar and immediately captivated the audience with their fast-paced gypsy come rockabilly style and friendly chat from their enigmatic front-man, Jim Davies, keeping the audience on its toes. I have to say this was probably one of my favourite acts seen over the course of the weekend. High energy and lots of fun, the six-piece outfit from Bristol delivered tune after tune of knees up, elbows out brilliantness with songs such as ‘Thick as Thieves’, a cover of ‘Fishes’ by the Cat Empire and a raucous rendition of the Alton Towers theme tune which went down particularly well and had everyone dancing round like loons.
Saturday brought glorious sunshine and even more amazing music as the main stage opened from 12 noon, featuring bands such as Midnight Zu, Town of Cats and Black Water County. Submotion Orchestra played a hauntingly atmospheric set to close the main stage, with varying arrangements of deep bass, soaring brass and dainty keys framing Ruby Wood’s ethereal vocals. The end of Submotion’s set saw A-Skillz take to the stage in the Enchanted Forest blending together a mish mash of genres from hip hop to soul/funk and drum and bass in front of an enthused audience stacked to the back of the forest stage area.
If we had been so inclined, Sunday would have been the perfect opportunity to relax and take advantage of the hot tubs available overlooking the lake at the bottom of the field provided by Kernow Springs. The Soul Garden area offered yoga sessions and all manner of alternative therapy tasters, which contribute to the laid back, relaxing ethos of the festival. None of which were appealing to us at this stage of the game, however definitely a winner for those looking to chill out of a Sunday!
Electric Swing Circus played a toe-tapping, stonker of a set, including classics such as ‘Bella Belle’ as well as a new dubstep track, unlike their usual style, which went down a storm. They more than warmed the crowd up for Sunday’s headliners, Gentleman’s Dub Club who rocked the Wonder Fields stage, with all the crowd singing along to ‘Fire’, ‘Emergancy’ and ‘High Grade’.
Never Never Land, or the Kids Area, also really deserves a mention, with all sorts of activities for children to get involved in while their parents enjoy the rest of the festival. On Sunday, we saw a gaggle of excited children pass by, led by a knight in armor, apparently leading a quest for ‘The Wonder Dragon’. This and other activities, such as Patchwork Junkie’s stall making masks and exploring the use of waste materials in art and design, had the younger demographic of Wonder Fields entertained all weekend.
The love that goes into this festival is plain to see from the incredible attention to detail, to the vast range of activities and eclectic and diverse scope of music. A festival for all tastes and leanings, Wonder Fields has grown from strength to strength in its short three years. Can’t wait for next year!
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