Cornbury Festival: July 2010

Chances are if you’ve heard of Cornbury, you’ll know they call it “Poshstock”, an upper and middle class weekend jaunt in the bucolic Oxfordshire countryside which boasts Waitrose as a sponsor, Jamie Oliver as the chef de jour and a guest list that habitually includes Princes Charles, William and Harry, Jeremy Clarkson, Kate Moss and PM David Cameron, who showed up again this year, family in tow, bemoaning the fact that he’d missed the Blockheads.

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Chances are if you’ve heard of Cornbury, you’ll know they call it “Poshstock”, an upper and middle class weekend jaunt in the bucolic Oxfordshire countryside which boasts Waitrose as a sponsor, Jamie Oliver as the chef de jour and a guest list that habitually includes Princes Charles, William and Harry, Jeremy Clarkson, Kate Moss and PM David Cameron, who showed up again this year, family in tow, bemoaning the fact that he’d missed the Blockheads.



But what also makes Cornbury stand out – apart from the upper crust clientele and the culinary aspirations – are the eccentric line-ups booked by Festival guvnor Hugh Phillimore; line-ups which look suspiciously more like the maverick whims of a man inclined to put on a party soundtracked by all his favourite bands than a promoter determined to nail the sort of attractions that entice in the masses.

And at a time when the homogeneity of festival talent makes it well nigh impossible to tell yer Readings from yer IOW’s, yer Glastos from yer Hyde Parks, yer Downloads from yer T In The Parks (Kings Of Leon? Tick. Muse? Tick. Dizzee? Tick. Florence? Tick) this peculiarly English eccentricity is surely to be applauded.
Cornbury has served up Robert Plant, Joe Cocker and Paul Simon in the past few years, but even by its own standards, this year was extraordinary.

The weekend offered three bona fide legends. ’70s disco diva Candi Staton dished out a spirited and soulful version of her “You Got the Love” with which Flo, of course, has been recently wowing ‘em at the bigger outdoor dos. Then there was some proper voodoo in the shape of Dr John, the 70 year old Mac Rebennack leading the tightest band of the weekend augmented by Brit trombonist Chris Barber, ten years Mac’s senior, on some rousing N’Orleans gumbo like “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You”.

And best of all and – unless there’s some kind of miracle – surely the best act anyone will witness all summer, Mr Buddy Guy, 74 years young, who took a walk through the crowd effortlessly playing blistering Hendrix, booming Lee Hooker, magnificent Muddy – all with such brain-boggling dexterity and a beaming smile that most of us were left in no doubt we were in the presence of the greatest guitarist we will ever see in our lifetime.

Other highlights were Sunday’s cool Cali headliner Jackson Browne, the refurbished and well rockin’ Reef, Squeeze and The Blockheads, who both provided a jukebox set of crowd-pleasing faves, and the ten-strong Fisherman’s Friends from Port Isaac Cornwall whose a capella sea shanties felt right at home – as we all did – among the golden rolling fields of hay.

STEVE SUTHERLAND

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