Tim Hughes feels the heat as festival marks its first decade
MORE than 16,000 people, including the Prime Minister and a clutch of A-list celebrities, gathered in glorious sunshine to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Cornbury Festival – which the organiser described as “the best ever.”
Tempersures at the three-day festival, which came to a close on Sunday night, topped 28 degrees Celsius, and featured sets by Van Morrison, Amy Macdonald, Squeeze, The Proclaimers, Keane and Echo & The Bunnymen, Many of the acts had played the festival in previous years and were selected for the ‘birthday’ bill after a poll of festival regulars.
Also gracing the site, at Great Tew Park, near Chipping Norton, were X Factor winner James Arthur, singer Jack Savoretti and pop band Lawson. The biggest cheers, however, were reserved for veteran rocker Wilko Johnson. The Dr Feelgood legend is terminally ill with cancer and has recently finished his own farewell tour, but asked to join the anniversary line-up as he was feeling better.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here,” he told a tearful audience before wishing them an emotional goodbye. It has been suggested that the show may have been the star’s last.
Off stage, the VIPs included David and Samantha Cameron, in whose constituency the festival lies; Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson and James May, and comedian Dom Joly.
Festival director Hugh Phillimore thanked the crowd for their support and for helping to make this year’s event such a resounding success.
“It has been an incredible weekend,” he said later. “After all those years of rain we have had fantastic weather for our anniversary.
“I had been calling it the ‘Glorious 10th’, which I thought was tempting fate, but it has been amazing. We’ve had good weather, and great performances. We have come a long way since our early days but have carried on doing what we set out to be – a village fete with a rock & roll twist; a farmers market with a dance floor.”
Among those to praise the festival was Keane’s singer Tom Chaplin, who said: “This is a lovely festival. It started at about the same time as we did and it’s been great to see it go from strength to strength.”
A popular feature of the festival was its Festival of Words, hosted by the team behind TV’s QI show. The show’s originator John Mitchinson lives in Great Tew and came up with the idea after a discussion with Blackadder producer John Lloyd in the village pub, The Falkland Arms.
Mr Mitchinson found time to enjoy the bands as well as hosting his own line-up of comedians and speakers – including the show's star Alan Davies. Comedians Phil Jupitas and Katy Brand also graced the comedy bill. “It’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s like having a festival in my garden. We’ve had lots of great stuff – and even Echo & The Bunnymen!”
There were no reports of arrests or incidents, with sunburn being the single biggest issue for revellers.
Stephanie Walker from Divinity Road, Oxford, was enjoying her first Cornbury. She said: "The sun has shone, the clouds were fluffy and the music was lovely; what a great festival! It's all a bit posh for a festival, but there's nothing really wrong with that.
"Wilko was amazing, and I have to admit shedding a tear when he told us how happy he was to be here."
Mr Phillimore also admitted "welling up" at the end of Wilko Johnson's set. "It was very emotional," he said. "particularly when he said goodbye."
He added: “The audience was lovely. I have had people coming up to me and saying lovely things about the festival all weekend. The responsibility of having 16,000 people on one’s hands is quite daunting. Now I just want to make sure everyone gets home safely – and then get on to planning the glorious 11th! “