Entertainment & Arts

Big Feastival: Three days of cheese, love and music

Big Feastival Image copyright Sam Newman
Image caption More than 55,000 Feastival-goers gathered on Alex James's farm to enjoy the festivities

When I asked Blur-bassist-turned-gentleman-cheesemaker Alex James why he had decided to turn his 200-acre Cotswold dairy farm into a three-day festival celebrating "food, music and family", his answer was typically direct: "I've got five kids, I've made six cheeses and seven albums."

Slouched in a corner of the bar of the Groucho club - transported lock, stock and smoking barrels from Soho to Kingham for the occasion and perched like Cheddar on a cracker on top of the festival's fat beating heart, the "Alex James Presents" Cheese Hub - he said: "Claire and I bought the farm on our honeymoon, 12 years ago, and it was a ruin - a derelict, silent ghost town, so seeing it transformed into this - full of amazing food, brilliant music and smiling faces - is the realisation of a fantasy.

Image copyright Sam Newman
Image caption Alex James shares the main stage with BBC Radio 2 presenter Jo Whiley

"We have already started organising next year, and there is something to do every day, but because it is all the things I love the most, it never really feels like work.

"The whole thing is completely exhilarating, like a mad village fete."

Image copyright Sam Newman
Image caption Jamie Oliver applauded the growing number of vegetarians and vegans, saying the "rest of us" should now be eating less, but better-quality and responsibly sourced, meat

Celebrating its fifth birthday this year, the annual Big Feastival is the brainchild of James and Jamie Oliver, another famous foodie father of five, whose charity, the Fifteen Foundation, is part-funded by the festival, after the pair met playing, with Oliver on drums, in a Comic Relief pop band.

And since its inception, the list of star attractions from the worlds of food and music has grown from "something you could fit on a sheet of A4 paper to the size of a telephone directory", according to James.

Image copyright Sam Newman
Image caption Front man Ricky Wilson acknowledged Kaiser Chiefs' debt to Blur and said it had been their long-held ambition to play at James's dairy-farm "back garden", before adding: "Although, I am lactose intolerant"

This year's bill-toppers included Mark Ronson, Tinie Tempah and the Kaiser Chiefs, supplying the sounds, and Raymond Blanc, Tom Kerridge and Nadiya Hussain, winner of the BBC's The Great British Bake Off, doing the cooking.

The co-hosts, meanwhile, straddled the divide, playing a DJ set together at the Cheese Hub, with Oliver frying up some locally sourced wild venison, and James, of course, supplying the very popular cheese plates.

As the man himself put it: "If I can't sell cheese, at Feastival, in the Cheese Hub, I shouldn't really be doing this, should I?"

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