Last April Polly Shute was introduced to The Little Retreat, a glamping site in Pembrokeshire, Wales. She travelled from London to see the founder, Amber Lort-Phillips, initially to plan a small weekend retreat that September. After two days she returned determined to deliver the UK’s first wellness festival for queer, questioning and curious women and those who are non-binary. Soon after, Out & Wild Festival was born.
This year marks 50 years of having Pride in the UK, and as a former Board member of Pride in London, Polly loves these events, and the fact there are now over 140 in the UK. Sadly for some, most Prides take place in crowded city centres, and have a big focus on drinking and hedonism. After 2 years of dreary lockdowns, Polly felt there was a need for something different, something more wholesome.
As two queer women, Polly, along with co-founder, Becky, felt frustrated at the lack of quality events and spaces for LGBTQIA+women and non-binary folk in the UK. Most Prides and other LGBTQIA+ events often feel very gay male focused.
“We ran a small pilot event at Little Retreats in September 2021, and it was a real hit, with many who attended now involved as curators for this year’s Festival or coming as attendees. What was lovely is to see how many people took part in new activities (wild swimming and yoga were big hits) and how friendships were formed,” Polly explained.
“When we researched what queer women wanted, we heard they were frustrated by the lack of spaces for LGBTQIA women (2 bars in the UK) and wanted more than just dating and friendship apps as ways to meet others. Research showed that 79% wanted to connect via shared experiences and unsurprisingly, after the impact of COVID, many were interested in wellness.”
Out & Wild Festival is a Wellness Festival, focused on connecting those who attend by shared experiences. The days will be filled with dozens of activities, from wellness, sport, spoken word and interactive workshops. In the evening there will be music, comedy, and fireside chats. We will also have a silent DJ set on the Friday and Saturday night.
Highlights include free daily guided swims, paddle boarding, breathwork sessions from Luisa Bradshaw White, accessible exercise classes from This Girl Can, 5 aside football, book readings from queer authors and a great mix of local and national music artists.
All of this takes place on a site rated by media titles including Forbes, The Guardian, and National Geographic, with stunning views over the River Cleddau.
“We are also keen to offer a fun, safe and supportive festival to all queer women and those who are non-binary. This obviously includes trans women. The location, next to a very small village, provides just this. And whilst we are designed by and for LGBTQIA women, we welcome all allies that come with an inclusive attitude” said Polly.
“We know many women and those who are non-binary may travel solo, so we will have daily meet ups and of course we recommend getting involved with all the experiences, as they will be great ways to meet new people.”
Festival goers can camp, glamp or bring their own campervan. Weekend tickets include accommodations options, or it’s possible to stay off site. Day tickets are on offer to those who live more locally, or just want to check the festival out whilst holidaying in scenic Pembrokeshire.
In line with the wellness theme, the festival will feature a trailer bar and a pop up alcoholic free bar run by Drop Bear Beer, who are launching Wales’s first AF brewery (and happen to be a queer female couple). There will also be meat, vegetarian and vegan pop up dining options.
For 2022 Polly and Becky will create a boutique Out & Wild Festival for around 400 attendees, but they love the fact that the space allows growth for up to 3,000 attendees. The festival has received three years’ worth of funding from The Welsh Government, aligning with their focus to be the most LGBTQIA+ friendly nation in Europe. They are also supported by one of the world’s biggest dating apps for queer women and non binary people – HER, as well as support from Swim Wales and a media partnership with heavyweight queer media publication – Pink News.
Polly’s enthusiasm for Out & Wild is inspiring. “The reaction to Out & Wild has been amazing, from partners, acts who are attending, and of course the women and non-binary people who we are targeting. We cannot wait for all that attend to see how special this amazing site is and take part in the dozens of experiences across 3 days.”
In a country where the majority of events for queer women and non binary folk are fuelled by frivolity and alcohol, Out & Wild festival is a refreshing and well-needed haven of queer joy for those seeking a more wholesome, nature-heavy experience within the community.
Out & Wild Festival 10th-13th June 2022 | Pembrokeshire
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