Reading Between The Line-Up: Wilderness 

Tom Bownes, Main Stage programmer at Wilderness festival, talks us through his picks for the August weekend

Wilderness is a mood. Returning to Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire this August 4-7 with another strong line-up of music, food, arts, spoken word and wellness, Wilderness is a festival that lives in the air – a weekend of experiences that are best left unplanned. 

“You really want that mood, that thread, running through everything,” says Tom Bownes, Main Stage programmer for this year’s Wilderness – one of the team working hard to make sure the festival keeps its spontaneous spirit. “I always think about acts in pairs, where one act blends seamlessly into something else. It has to cascade before it changes direction. Wilderness is a very broad church for people to come to though, so it’s not easy. I’m feeling good about this year though!”

We asked Tom to pick his own highlights from the Wilderness music line-up and tell us who he’s most looking forward to seeing this August.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Murder On The Dancefloor (as featured in Saltburn)

This is the first year we’ve had big artists open the main stage. We’ve created a slot there that we’ve never had previously, so I’m personally very excited about Sophie Ellis-Bextor opening the festival with a bit of a bang. It should just be really joyous and fun, and she’s just brilliant. I think it’s really going to set the tone for the rest of the weekend. 

Ibibio Sound Machine

Ibibio Sound Machine - Protection From Evil (Official Video)

How would you describe Ibibio Sound Machine? Sort of Afro funk dance? There’s obviously a lot of electronic sounds in there as well… But that’s such an amazing live show and I’m really looking forward to that on the Friday afternoon. They’re an absolute force live, and I think if people just wander over to the main stage and start watching them they’ll instantly love it. I just know it. So that’s really exciting.

Peggy Gou

Peggy Gou - Starry Night (Official Music Video)

This is the top pairing on Friday – Gou Peggy going into Jungle as a double header. Obviously Peggy is probably one of the biggest DJs around at the moment and she can play so many different styles. In the club, she’s probably a bit heavier, but I think in this setting she’ll be really interesting. She’s got some huge tracks on her own and there’s been a lot of love for her online when we when we posted the line-up, so I think it’s going to be great. And then it’s Jungle, who really speak for themselves. They’ve just finished touring South America to some huge crowds and they’re really at the top of their game.

Binker And Moses

Binker and Moses - After The Machine Settles (Official Visualiser)

We’ve always had jazz on the mainstage. Binker and Moses are brilliant, and it’s also great to kind of kind of mess it up a little bit. I kind of like that we’re able to go a lot of different ways on the Wilderness main stage and the audience are receptive to it. 

Years & Years

Olly Alexander - If You're Over Me (Official Video)

Saturday is the fun day. Big pop has always gone down incredibly well at Wilderness. We have Robin play once here a few years ago, and that was really well received. But 2022 is all about Years & Years. I think it’ll be everyone’s favourite. Olly [Alexander] has some huge songs in that set and it’s going to be absolutely amazing. 

Orlando Weeks

Orlando Weeks - Bigger (Official Video)

Saturday also has Craig Charles going into Roisin Murphy, and there’s gonna be so much great dancing going on! But opening the mainstage on Saturday is Orlando Weeks, from The Maccabees. That last album was just so beautiful, and so interesting. He played The Barbican a few months ago and it was just sensational. 


Gabriels - Love and Hate in a Different Time (Short Film)

And then it’s Sunday. Gabriels is another standout for me – his voice is sensational, and it’s just that kind of driving soul music that’s so hard hitting as well. But we’re opening with The House Gospel Choir. We’ll be doing like a kind of funky Sunday service, so I’m sure that’ll shake off any hangovers that may be knocking about. I just think everybody will really enjoy watching them, no matter your age or what you’re into. 


Underworld - Born Slippy (Nuxx)

I’ve wanted to book Underworld for years, and we’ve managed to do it this year. I mean, they’re so influential and so important in the world of so many other acts. It’s just gonna be amazing live. It’s again, it’s just a hell of a show, so I think it’s a really strong, vibrant way to end the weekend. I think people go to festivals just to have a good time and escape, and I think, hopefully, we’re going to be able to deliver it!

Weekend and day tickets are available for Wilderness Festival here, including boutique, meadow, quiet and family camping options.