Cornbury Festival - 'Poshstock' parties on

The hosts of the Cornbury Festival once worried about its upper-class image. But then they realised it was an opportunity. Gillian Orr prepares to glamp

Nice", "civilised", "wholesome": not words you would normally associate with a music festival. Yet organisers and headliners use these exact pleasantries to describe Cornbury festival, which is near Charlbury, Oxfordshire every July. What happened to "noisy" and "revolting"?

Now in its seventh year, Cornbury welcomes 15,000 people a day over the weekend to enjoy its peculiar mix of a traditional music festival partnered with village fête activities, which results in a rather curious English affair. Alongside the bands and camping, there are Morris dancers, tombolas, hot-air balloons and cake stalls.

Held on the 6,500-acre Cornbury estate owned by Lord and Lady Rotherwick, the festival has been dubbed "Poshstock", as a way of poking fun at the location as well as the clientele, which in the past has included David Cameron, the area's local MP. The likes of Jeremy Clarkson, Rowan Atkinson and Jemima Khan have also attended. However, in reality, despite the festival's high-end reputation, the clientele actually includes a cross section of people, including farmers, locals, as well as the beloved toffs.

As for the music, it's solid yet family-friendly fare. Former headliners include Paul Simon, Will Young, the Pretenders and Elvis Costello. Amy Winehouse played once but that was way back in 2005, before the drugs, of course. There's no place for such controversies here, thank you very much.

Cornbury is the creation of 50-year-old Hugh Phillimore, an affable, chirpy old Etonian and music aficionado. He has 30 years' experience of the music and entertainment industry, having worked as a talent scout, song plugger and entertainment booker for private parties including the weddings of Paul McCartney, Sting and Elton John, and Prince William's 21st and Prince Charles's 50th. In 2003, Phillimore went to Lord and Lady Rotherwick to propose the festival on their land. The fun-loving Rotherwicks said yes.

Phillimore was inspired by the old "fayre" he read about that took place in the neighbouring Wychwood forest from 1796. During its peak in the early 19th century, the festival would attract crowds of 50,000 but was finally cancelled in 1856 due to overcrowding and safety worries.

No such problems exist at Cornbury. That means a camping space that is ten times the size you're likely to get at Glastonbury, plenty of lifeguards for the lake that campers like to swim in every morning, and more toilets than they need. In fact, having enough loos is key to Phillimore's philosophy.

"I heard that the Isle of Wight festival ended up with 75,000 people but they only booked toilets for 50,000. Why screw the punters over?"

Acts playing during the weekend include The Feeling, Noisettes, Newton Faulkner, Seth Lakeman, and Candi Staton. Headlining the festival this year are two of the least offensive artists one could think of: Jackson Browne and David Gray, who previously headlined in 2005. So what is it about Cornbury that enticed Gray back?

"It's just such beautiful, rolling English countryside," he says, "it's got a very unspoilt feel to it, you can feel the quietude of the surrounding fields and woods and it is a lot less trampled. It's a bit more village-y and it's not just relentless noise and people. I like the idea of feeling like you are out of the city."

But it's the extras that really make Cornbury a unique experience. The food on offer, for example, is of a much higher standard than you'd find elsewhere. This year Cornbury sees Jamie Oliver's first foray into the UK festival market: Fabulous Feasts is Oliver's new specialist events-catering company.

Don't the organisers ever feel like they might be alienating potential guests with their preference for all things, well, posh?

Lady Rotherwick explains: "When it was first dubbed Poshstock we thought, 'oh this is so awful'. Then we thought that, if this is the identity the festival is going to have, then at least we might as well make the most of it.

While campers are invited to pitch up with their humble tents, Cornbury offers an exclusive "glamping" area where you can be met with a ready pitched and fully equipped tent. If you fancy something more eccentric, you can stay in a traditional gypsy caravan, or in a pod-pad, which is described as a little bit of quirky luxury but looks more like a Wendy house. There are also tipis, bellepads, yurts and squrts.

While Phillimore describes putting on the festival as a "labour of love", it was also supposed to be a business investment. "It was meant to be my pension," he sighs. "I've lost one and a half million quid, I mean literally everything I ever had is gone". Like most festivals in their early years, Cornbury hasn't exactly been making a huge profit. "The idea was to build something really beautiful and we knew it would take a while. I always understood that Glastonbury took seven years before it broke even. This is our seventh year, so we were like, "yes!". Then, I was at a live music conference back in March and Michael Eavis stood up and told everyone that the festival didn't make any money for the first 11 years. I'll be dead! My wife is now telling me to stop".

Fingers crossed Cornbury makes it to its eleventh year.

Cornbury Festival takes place tomorrow and Sunday near Charlbury, Oxfordshire, media partner The Independent. Weekend tickets £95, day tickets £55. Under-13s and over-70s go free. Tickets: 0871 472 0420;

Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
Arts and Entertainment
Leading light: Sharma in London

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world