They fell off a truck, mate...

Glastonbury it ain't, but the festival that uses flat-bed lorries for a stage is great fun

Back in 1970, the story goes, Michael and Jean Eavis decided to throw a bit of a shindig on their Somerset dairy farm. They pulled a few strings and ended up with 1,500 people grooving to the sounds of Marc Bolan.

Back in 1970, the story goes, Michael and Jean Eavis decided to throw a bit of a shindig on their Somerset dairy farm. They pulled a few strings and ended up with 1,500 people grooving to the sounds of Marc Bolan.

Fast-forward to 2004, and summer music festivals everywhere are chasing the Eavises' success. Yet none has a reputation anything like that of Glastonbury. Why not? In some ways, it's hardly surprising, as the likes of the VFestival and T in the Park have gone from non-existence to hosting the top acts of the day in no time at all, rather than grown organically.

It's refreshing, then, that the Truck festival in Steventon, Oxfordshire, is the brainchild of a bunch of mates who loved music and knew an obliging farmer. Robin Bennett started Truck (the stage is made up of flat-bed lorries) in 1998, along with various members of his family and the Steventon community at large.

"My inspiration was partly the Woodstock movie - I wanted to go back to a festival in the sense of a celebratory event rather than just a big concert in a field," he says.

Truck 1 wasn't quite Woodstock - 600 came and were entertained by local bands - but it was so magical that Bennett dropped out of Cambridge to concentrate on music, founding Truck Records and developing his band Goldrush (whose new EP is out on 26 July). This year's festival, the seventh, is still small by most standards: there's a kids area (although it's not a crèche) and family camping, but there are only 3,500 tickets and camping is Saturday night only. "You can't add too much at once. You overstretch your limits," Bennett says.

Naturally, you don't get megastars. Truck is a place to discover new talent, often hotly tipped: this year's headliners are The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. The main stage is broadly indie, in keeping with Goldrush's sound, but there are drum'n'bass and electronica stages, and a "genuinely acoustic" acoustic stage.

Truck's uniqueness, Bennett explains, lies in the way it is run. Famously, the local Rotary Club does the catering. "It's basically the farmer, Alan, and his friends. It's a real culture clash, and it's amusing for that. I don't know what they get up to behind their Rotary Club doors, but they're definitely on the straighter edge of society, so it's good for them to see the young at play.

"The stewards are all friends or friends of friends, and that gives it the atmosphere of a big party, like everyone's a friend, even though they're not."

The same mentality applies to the programme. "There are only about three people on there whom we booked through their agents," Bennett says. "You just bump into people at gigs and say, 'Come and play at our festival!'. And they do, and they say, 'This is fun, we'll come again next year and bring five of our friends'."

As do the public, it would appear. So, will Truck just keep on expanding? "I'd be shot if I said yes - but yes!"

Truck is at Hill Farm, Steventon, Oxon, 24-25 July ( www.truckrecords.com)

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