Out & Wild Festival is the UK’s first wellness festival for LGBTQ women and non-binary people so, naturally, I went along to find out what happens. I couldn’t help wondering whether I would I miss the party life that characterises most of the festivals I’ve previously been to, or would I return refreshed and renewed?
On arrival, I realised there was so much to do that I needed to make a timetable! Like many others, I went alone. However, HER ran a nightly meet up for solos, and these were jam-packed with women looking to make new friends and possibly more, so it was pretty easy to connect with my fellow festival-goers both here and in the various queues for signing up to the wide range of events.
Unlike many festivals, dry robes and wellies were among the main fashion items. Clearly, I was ahead of the game in my well-worn, slightly dirty dry robe, compared with the many shiny new ones sported by the more fashion conscious that they probably bought for the festival.
Polly Shute, co-founder of Out & Wild, explained how Out & Wild was created to be an inclusive, safe and supportive space for women to explore new activities, while enjoying the beautiful Welsh countryside, overlooking the River Cleddau. The organised set out to ensure all women, including people who identify as trans and non-binary, were made welcome and this was reflected in the diversity of the performers.
The Festival’s Wellness Zone, was curated by Issy and Rachael, who run LGBT FIT. The Wellness Zone had everything from circuits to dance classes, meditation and yoga and even a daily gong bath. One of my biggest surprises was the many women who had signed up for the 5am sunrise swim to the blue lagoon. Who knew that getting up for 5am at a festival could produce so many happy faces!
I decided to opt for paddle boarding a little later on. Little did I know it would be extreme paddle boarding, with the wind carrying us down the river at speed. Some of us braved it, getting a free mud mask in the process, but the water was moving so quickly that paddle boarding had to be called off after that for the rest of day.
Back at camp, the spoken word tent was comfortably busy with women not just able to hear from their favourite writers but also able to get their books signed.
Andrea Leanne read some poetry from her book and talked about how writing has helped her mental health, while author and stand-up Rosie Wilby talked to two long-term friends, Annie Garthwaite and Pamela Petro, about the joys of female friendship. Thinking about it, we do talk a lot about lesbian love, lust and relationships but this was the first time I’ve ever been to a workshop devoted to female friendships, something some LGBTQ people seem to forget about as soon as they meet a new partner.
There was a wide variety of music which covered most of the bases, and I particularly enjoyed the acoustics sets from Zora, Celine Ellis and Bobbi Prichard. It was impossible to see every performer but I enjoyed dipping in and out of the music marquee, making friends over marshmallows and then sometimes joining the mass exodus, as people flocked to a workshop. Friday and Saturday night DJ 2traxx had everyone up dancing to the silent disco.
So on Monday morning, as I packed, I asked myself whether I felt refreshed. I still had sore muscles from the paddle boarding but I’d had a great weekend and it was lovely to watch people bid fond farewells to their new friends.
If you’re interested in going next year, Out & Wild have released 2023 early bird tickets here. I enjoyed my campervan but I heard so many good things about the VIP tipis that next year I might just push the boat (as well as the paddle board) out or simply opt for the standard camping package. Either way, I’ll be back!