Alex James, bassist with indie-rockers Blur, has been staging one of Britain's best-loved annual open-house parties for almost a decade. But there can be no resting on laurels, he tells me during the preparations at his West Oxfordshire farm for the 2019 Big Feastival which is running from 23rd to 25th August in the village of Kingham, near Chipping Norton.

“It does come round fast!” Alex laughs, as he inspects work on his mixed arable and dairy farm amidst the glorious Cotswolds countryside. “It doesn't get easier, either - but that's because each year the event gets bigger and more sophisticated. The first year I did this I had everything scribbled down on a sheet of paper. Now I've a telephone directory-sized set of notes! I keep looking for things nobody else is doing. We have ballet dancers, cocktail mixologists, many exotic cuisines, pop-up clubs plus of course amazing music! It is about me filling my farm with all the things I love - great food, great music, great fun and great people!”

This year's line-up is impressive – thanks partly to Alex's many A-list contacts not just in music but in the worlds of cookery, business, media and finance too. Singer Jess Glynn, drum and bass act Rudimental and indie-rockers Elbow will feature at this year's event. Amongst others are chart star Lewis Capaldi, hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash, Nina Nesbitt, Craig Charles, the Zutons, Jade Bird, the Cuban Brothers, DJ Luck & McNeat plus Barns Courtney.Culinary stars giving demonstrations include Prue Leith, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Daniel Clifford and Martin Morales. 25,000 festival goers have bought tickets and many of the local Chipping Norton area celebrities like Jeremy Clarkson or ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and family are likely to attend.

Alex talks enthusiastically about the way the event has blossomed from something more like a village fete a decade ago.

“I am a farmer and cheese-maker and my base at the festival is what we call the Cheese Hub. This year we are bringing in other brilliant food to complement the array of fine cheeses in the Cheese Hub! There will be creations by Michelin-starred chef Pascal Aussignac of London's Club Gascon plus a new treat called Apple Boom Boom – which is baked blue cheese-stuffed apples steeped in apple spirit- Delicious! We also ensure there is a lot for children to enjoy. My own kids, Galileo, Geronimo, Artemis, Beatrix and Sable have grown up with the event and lately Geronimo has become a bit of a star DJ in his own right...keeping the dancers moving into the night with a mix of disco classics, club anthems and appropriately 'cheesy' pop."

“It is so important to keep the children happy,” Alex continues. “It can be simple things – like tree-climbing or scrambling over our hay bales....anything to give a break from those ubiquitous smart phones!”.

There's also a family-orientated line-up of entertainers like TV favourites Dick and Dom and Justin Fletcher alongside Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol's Chase and Marshall.

“These are big, headlining names for our younger festival-goers,” Alex smiles. “But you also need well-known bands to tempt people to come along. Though what people usually enjoy most isn't the big attractions on the stage! They get the most fun from entering into a different world here where magic happens for three whole days! Blur never ever filled my life in the way that my farm and the Big Feastival have. Blur had its moments, of course. Like playing Buenos Aires live to a huge crowd who were crazily enthusiastic. And I can recall after that show wondering how I could ever top that – what would I do. Yet this life now turns out to be far more fun, more exciting and way more satisfying. When I watch people here at the festival I often reflect that nothing beats the sense of achievement of putting on an event in a beautiful setting where so many people are ecstatically happy, jumping up and down at the sheer joy of it all. It's like a massive happy party – with the finest food, great music and a place to keep the kids involved and happy. We have more Michelin stars than London plus everything from Elbow to Peppa Pig. And not many people can say that, can they?”










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