Inside Lost Village ’23: The UK’s strangest woodland festival

One of the UK’s most vibrant festivals returned once again, this time with the likes of Honey Dijon and Four Tet taking to the stage.

At the end of yet another marathon run of the UK festival circuit, we closed out the season with a four-day sprint through the magical woodlands of Lincolnshire at Lost Village. A truly singular festival experience, it puts the emphasis more so on the daytime than the late, late night (music wraps around 2am most nights and 1am on the last night), but that’s not to say there isn’t ample opportunity to indulge your hedonistic side.

The festival boasted an impressive line-up of the crème de la crème of 2023 house, techno, and alternative dance music from world-class acts such as Honey Dijon, Four Tet, Jamz Supernova, Bonobo, Barry Can’t Swim, Jake Shears and Shanti Celeste who all delivered spine-tingling sets across the four day blow out. The weekend was rounded out by a mesmerising live show from Róisín Murphy, performing only 48 hours before she issued her poorly-received apology for her recent comments about puberty blockers (which only served to further turn up the heat on the controversy). Murphy, one of pop music’s most beguiling forces, performed to a packed and rapturous audience which did notably include a number of fans waving signs of the trans Pride flag from the front of the crowd.

Image Credit: Andrew Whitton

Lost Village is set apart from many of its counterparts thanks to its sublime offering of entertainment alternative to music. The festival’s Institute of Curious Minds tent hosted an array of curious debates and live panel discussions over the weekend on a wide range of topics. Curated by journalist Kate Hutchinson, highlights included author Ed Gillett’s talk on the long-trodden history of UK dance music and a panel on the reality of running an independent fashion business in 2023 featuring Hat & Spicy founder Chloe Messer and Elsie & Fred cofounder Ryan Haynes. Elsewhere, Drag Race UK alum Crystal hosted a conversation with fellow queen Mahatma Khandi on The Secret Lives of Drag Queens, schooling the audience on drag’s subversive roots, which, of course, stretch far beyond RuPaul and bottomless brunch.

Image Credit: Andy Hughes

Festival life isn’t for everyone; however, Lost Village includes enough moments of luxury and splendour to appease even the most precious of sessioners. Feeling a little tightly wound from the night before? Why not unwind with a mid-afternoon sound bath or yoga class? Or better yet, book yourself in for a slot at the festival’s stunning spa, which includes a sauna and hot tubs overlooking the breathtaking lake views, complete with bottle service to the tubs of course. 

Image Credit: Jenna Foxton

Need a break from the grab-and-go nature of festival eating? Fear not because the festival also includes a number of genuine fine dining experiences. We’re talking 28 seater tables, wine pairings and six-course tasting menus courtesy of some of the UK’s finest chefs. These included Ottolenghi protege Ixta Belfrage, Nottingham-based Michelin-awarded chef Alex Bon, and Toby Williams of Sabel food, who delivered a mouthwatering and quintessentially British feast with tastes of chalk stream trout, smoked beetroot, grilled picanha of beef, and perhaps the most elevated version of jelly and ice scream known to man – a far cry from the plate of chunky chips and curry sauce your mind conjures when you think of festival cuisine (though there’s a place for that too of course).

Image Credit: Giles Smith

The most peculiar and singular aspect of the festival, however, is its strange theatricality. Sprinkled across the weekend are multiple stories which are unravelling through ad-hoc performances that take festival-goers by surprise. These range from small tree worshipping-type ceremonies performed by cloaked performers to dramatic displays such as the burning of an effigy of a stag which sat in the middle of the lake on the Friday night. 

Image Credit: Giles Smith

There’s no discernible narrative communicated to those who witness these displays, the viewer is instead left to join the dots themselves. The story culminates on the final night of the festival when a large-scale mechanical-like stag (presumably a reincarnation of Friday night’s offering) strides through the crowds, making its way towards a grand piano, where a pianist played, and a poem was read, followed by a majestic fireworks display. Whilst the story of what exactly was taking place left most attendees scratching their heads, it was a visual feast and a magnificent ending to one of the UK’s most unique festivals.

WriterGary Grimes