THE stars of this weekend’s Cornbury Festival say they are excited to be heading to West Oxfordshire for the event’s final fling.

For the past 17 years, Cornbury has been a highpoint of the festival calendar, attracting some of the world’s biggest artists – such as Paul Simon, Amy Winehouse, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and The Beach Boys. But this year will be the festival’s last instalment – a result of financial pressures and the loss of its site at Great Tew Park – which is being sold off following the divorce of owners Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall.

Headliners, Ronan Keating, James Blunt and Bryan Adams, however, have determined to make it a weekend to remember.

“It’s just great to be back on stage with my band again,” says the former Boyzone star Ronan, during preparations for his return to Great Tew.

“After the last couple of years, I think everyone feels a huge sigh of relief that we can all get back together again to do something we truly love. And now I’m finally heading to Oxfordshire for Cornbury Festival. I was due to perform there in 2020 but understandably everything had to be moved. It’s a great line up with Bryan Adams, James Blunt and then me on the Sunday.”

Witney Gazette: Ronan Keating performing Thursday night at Pub in the Park Marlow

Ronan Keating

And he promised fans a stack of new songs. “I was lucky to be able to release two albums during the pandemic – ‘Twenty Twenty’ and ‘Songs From Home’,” he says.

“It will be great to get back on the road and playing some of the new tracks along with all the hits from my solo years as well as a few of the great Boyzone hits that everyone loves.”

James Blunt also welcomed the return of festival season. He said: “Get-togethers in the Cotswolds never stopped, I’m told, but the return of festivals is very exciting. I’ve missed the energy of lots of people coming together.”

Asked which artists deserved the spotlight this year, the ‘You’re Beautiful’ star laughs: “I personally think I’m quite underrated!”

Witney Gazette:

James Blunt brings his hit... and wit

He adds: “I’m looking forward to seeing The Darkness. I toured with them round Australia and Japan in about 2006, and they are great fun!”

He also used the downtime during the pandemic wisely, saying: “I was very lucky to be able to go home and spend time with my family. I also learnt how to use a chainsaw and defend my house from a gang of thieves who tried to rob me three times!”

And what is his favourite festival moment? “I’ve played at Glastonbury three times, and on the Pyramid Stage twice,” he recalls. “The second time, I crowd surfed on the audience, and when I returned to the stage, discovered it was too high for me to climb on to. There was a man I didn’t recognise standing on the stage, so I started shouting at him to help me, and then realised that he was holding a camera and was filming for the BBC, so I was basically shouting, “Help me!” to the nation. It was at this moment that I realised I was the least cool person in the music business.”

While Cornbury has some of the best camping of any British festival, James admits he won’t be staying under canvas.

“I usually stay with friends when I’m in the Cotswolds, but at Cornbury, I’ll be on the tour bus on site.”

“But there are loads of wonderful places to stay and visit in the area. I’m told The Stag Hotel in Stow on The Wold is a popular choice to stay with great food, all gluten free. Or the legendary Crown and Cushion in Chipping Norton for some rock & roll history.

“You can find many of the acts performing at Cornbury partying after the fest at Soho Farmhouse across the road or taking some time out for a Sunday roast at The Falkland Arms in Great Tew around the corner.

“Personally, I’ve heard there’s usually a Waitrose there so I think we’ll be fine for provisions on the tour bus!”

And he hopes to pop into a local for a pint. And his recipe for the perfect hostelry? “A fire burning in the corner, ‘You’re Beautiful’ playing on the jukebox, and me pulling pints behind the bar!” he jokes.

Fans of Bryan Adams can also expect some new tunes alongside hits ‘Summer of ‘69’, ‘I Do it for You’ and ‘All for Love’.

Witney Gazette: Bryan Adams plays the Cornbury Festival in 2017 Picture: Ric Mellis

Bryan Adams also played Cornbury in 2017. Picture: Ric Mellis

He says: “I have some new tunes and some classics. It’ll be a good night. I’ve got John Cleese doing the narration on my song ‘Kick Ass’ – which will open our show. He was fantastic to work with, a true original.”

With a career spanning more than a quarter of a century, what does he feel are the benefits of age? “I know a few more guitar chords than I did a few decades ago,” he laughs. “But generally things are pretty much the same, except I tend to power snooze more than I used to.”

He adds: “Actually, I made a point to tour as many places as we could in the 90s. It was incredible, but the consequence was that I don’t remember that decade, because of the amount of touring. I know we played places no one used to tour, and some places I think no one has ever toured since!”

Cornbury Festival runs from tomorrow to Sunday. Tickets from