WHILE always cheerful, upbeat rockstar-turned-farmer Alex James seems even more happy than usual.

As the dashingly handsome bass player with Britpop legends Blur, Alex has enjoyed all the trappings of fame and success, living it up in style in the world’s most glamorous cities. But it is not the prospect of touring or lapping up the excesses of the rock & roll lifestyle which excites him now – rather it is staying at home.

Next Bank Holiday weekend the Country House artist throws open the gates to his own rural bolthole at Kingham, near Chipping Norton, for a festival dedicated to his three loves: music, food and family.

The Big Feastival, which runs from this Friday to Sunday (August 26-28), is one of the last festivals of the summer and, for many, the best. And with a genuine indie legend at the helm, it has no problem attracting some of the biggest and most exciting names around.

“It’s all ramping up!” Alex says with genuine delight, as we chat during a break in his work setting up the festival – headlined by The Human League, Anne-Marie and Stereophonics.

“It is all looking brilliant – and we’ve even had a bit of rain which is very welcome. It is going to be bigger and better than ever before.”

Witney Gazette: Stereophonics


And, he says, it is his favourite part of the year – eclipsing even band duties.

“I was in a band when I was at school, and I still am,” he says. “But this festival absolutely combines everything I love: where I live, food, music and family stuff. And all my kids are flat out working on it.”

The line-up is a beauty, also boasting Sugababes, Jake Bugg, Basement Jaxx, Gabrielle, Eurovision star Sam Ryder, Lola Young, Gracey, Alfie Templeman, The Futureheads, The Sherlocks, The Lottery Winners, Duke, and annual favourites The Cuban Brothers.

Witney Gazette: The Human League

Friday night headliners The Human League, who formed in 1977, have sold more than 20 million records worldwide including classics Don’t You Want Me and Human.

Saturday’s bill-topper is Anne-Marie, who is perhaps best known for her vocals on Clean Bandit’s Rockabye alongside Jamaican star Sean Paul.

The singer made headlines, and won admiration, after her appearance at the Brit Awards this year, when she dramatically fell down stairs on stage – but continued with her performance.

Witney Gazette: Anne-Marie


The festival will be topped off by Welsh Brit award-winning stadium rockers Stereophonics, who have scored five consecutive UK No. 1 albums and 11 Top 10 singles.

Taking almost equal billing to the musical stars, is the culinary talent, which includes the likes of Clare Smyth, the first British woman to be awarded three Michelin stars; pastry chef, author and Junior Bake Off judge Ravneet Gill; the mastermind behind Wahaca, Thomasina Miers; the BBC’s Great British Menu winner James Cochran; TV favourite Romy Gill; Tom Barnes; Robin Gill; Ching He Huang and more.

Keeping the younger revellers entertained will be children’s TV megastar Justin Fletcher and Andy & the Odd Socks. They will be joined by Emmy-award winning puppy siblings Bluey and Bingo and Julia Donaldson’s accident-prone dragon Zog.

For Alex, it’s a dream line-up. “We spend all year round making it as gorgeous and brilliant as it can be,” he says.

As we chat he is finalising the details of what, for many, is the highlight of the festival – Alex’s Cheese Hub.

Witney Gazette: Alex James

Alex gets down on the farm

“I have got a team of mathematicians designing incredible mirror balls for the Cheese Hub,” he laughs.

“And we have got Blur’s lighting designer involved too. It’s like decorating a Christmas tree.”

As well as seeing Alex, and son Geronimo, taking to the decks, it also features DJs Jeremy Healy, Jaguar Skills, Plump DJs and Freestylers, as well as guest sets from Dick & Dom, DJ BBQ.

Alex will be keeping revellers fed with his own lavish new concoction – chips topped with smoked salmon, truffle caviar, which he has dubbed “well-loaded fries”.

“It’s really great to be doing unique stuff like this,” he smiles. “It’s the best thing I ever did.”

And he teased some very special live sets by big name guests. “It won’t be Blur though” he laughs. “Though Dave [drummer Dave Rowntree] might be coming along.”

With tickets rapidly selling out, he urged revellers not to leave it too late, and encouraged families to come and try Friday’s fun - saying the site is only 20 minutes from Oxford by train, with the station practically adjoining the site.

“I love this festival,” he says with feeling. “I love wondering around when the sun is shining and seeing everyone enjoying themselves. There’s nothing like it.

"When we started this, there were 750 festivals up and down the country and I thought that was too many. Now there are more than 1,000. But we are very different. We have a great menu – and are totally gung-ho for it!”

The Big Feastival is at Alex James’s farm at Kingham, near Chipping Norton from August 26-28. Tickets from thebigfeastival.com