MUSIC lovers flocked to two of Oxfordshire’s biggest festivals at the weekend, with 20,000 people at Cropredy and 15,000 at Wilderness. 

So popular was Wilderness, at Cornbury Park, near Charlbury – which ended yesterday after four days – it sold out well in advance. Cropredy, which took place in a field in the north of the county, also saw a near-capacity crowd on its three days, from Thursday to Saturday.

ELLA REEVES reports on Oxfordshire's big festival weekend...

  • Wilderness...

At Wilderness, now in its third year, a record crowd of 15,000 people joined a feast of music, art, theatre and food.

The four-day event was headlined by Australian electro-pop band Empire of the Sun, US singer-songwriter Rodriguez and, last night, folk-pop band Noah and The Whale.

The programme also included high-wire acrobatic displays, debates, fancy dress balls, banquets hosted by top chefs and even an umpired cricket match – though with the players sporting glittery leggings and tiger tails alongside their traditional whites.

High-profile guests included the Prime Minister's wife Samantha Cameron and new Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, who is the brother in law of festival host Lady Rotherwick.

Johnny May, from Souldern, near Bicester, was enjoying his first Wilderness. “It has been awesome – a spectacular weekend of all kind of delights and surprises.”

Among the most popular artists playing over the weekend was hip-hop star Ghostpoet. He said: “This is an amazing little festival on a lovely site. I really enjoyed playing my set and the crowd were great.”

Reid Morrison played a main stage set at the festival yesterday with his country-rock band Treetop Flyers. He said: “Wilderness is always good to us. A lovely festival with a lively crowd, it was great fun playing again. I can’t wait to come back.”

Lady Rotherwick told the Oxford Mail “We love Wilderness weekend. It’s the best possible way to meet people – and we wish it could go on all week.”

The event provides a useful source of fundraising and publicity for local good causes.

Parents and volunteers from Charlbury Pre-School manned a hog roast and reported brisk trade. Ed Bradbury, 50, has had four children go through the pre-school. He said: “I love it. It’s eclectic and bonkers. It’s great to see people get int the spirit by dressing up.”

He added: “This is the third year we’ve been – and over the years has made a considerable few thousand pounds – enough to contribute to a new playground. It’s a team exercise – with mums, dads and volunteers all joining in.”

Marianna Piskovszky was running a stall for mental health charity Oxfordshire Mind. The charity set up a colourful ‘wishing tree’ allowing festival-goers to pin personal messages. She said: “The festival is good for us and lots of people have come to find out who we are and to make their own wishes,”

Parminder Chahal, from Botley Road, Oxford, said: “The festival felt much bigger this year and was more spread out, but is as much fun as ever. Wilderness is the highlight of our year. It’s a long wait until next year, but we’ll be back.”

Festival organiser Tim Harvey said: “It has been another wondrous weekend at Wilderness. We developed the programming this year and brought over revered French circus campaniles as a festival exclusive. Both Transe Express and Les Pepones wowed the crowd with aerial spectaculars.

“It was a great coup for us to get as exclusive UK festival headliner Empire of the Sun. Once again Cornbury Park was filled with thousands of festival-goers with huge smiles on their faces. We were delighted to sell out in only our third year and are releasing tickets for 2014 next week.”

  • Fairport's Cropredy Convention....

Cropredy, which began in 1979 as a farewell concert by the band Fairport Convention, has become a huge draw for music lovers – though this year’s diverse bill showed the festival has come a long way from its folk-rock roots.

While still opened and closed by Fairport Convention, the highlight, officially known as Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, was Thursday night's set by shock-rocker Alice Cooper.

The veteran American hard-rock star delighted and bemused the crowd with a show enlivened by the use of a guillotine, electric generator and lavish fireworks.

At one stage he emerged with a boa constrictor draped around his neck.

Festival spokesman Andy Farquarson said: “This year’s Cropredy was one of the most successful ever. The near-capacity crowd on all three days enjoyed ideal weather – dry but not too hot – and a great mix of bands.”

Speaking before Cooper’s set, Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg said: “It’s great to be back here again.

“The festival is looking great and it has been amazing to get Alice Cooper. I’ve been trying to get him here for years.”

Other highlights came from reggae band Edward II, anarcho-folk band The Levellers, art-pop band 10CC, ’80s star Nik Kershaw and, of course, Fairport’s traditional three-hour finale on Saturday night. Festival-goers were also treated to a surprise set by Brummie comedian Jasper Carrot.

Lucy Silver, from East Oxford, said she liked the festival’s more diverse musical offering. She said: “Everyone here loves folk and folk-rock, but it’s great it encompasses things like hard rock and even 80s pop. Fairport were wonderful, but Alice Cooper was strange, huge fun and very memorable.”

Jan Stanley, from Swansea, South Wales, was there with her husband Roger. She said: “We had a marvellous time. Everyone played, who was supposed to play and we saw lots of new bands that have inspired us to hear more of their music. Fairport Convention were great, as usual – and Alice Cooper was quite wonderful.”