Fancy a blue cheese martini? If you're middle class enough, you'll love Jamie Oliver and Alex James's feastival
Sunday 01 September 2013
Take one rock star and his very big house in the country; add a celebrity chef with the common touch; sprinkle liberally with yurts; then charge £150 a ticket, and you have the recipe for possibly the most middle-class festival in Britain. Welcome to the Big Feastival, a celebration of food, music and pushchairs.
This weekend, more than 14,000 people, mostly young families, descended on the Oxfordshire farm of Blur's bassist Alex James, who, for the second year running, teamed up with Jamie Oliver to host the most civilised of rock festivals. With only one main music stage, this was no Glastonbury. But James pulled in acts including Rizzle Kicks and Basement Jaxx, who headlined last night. KT Tunstall, the Feeling and Mark Owen will play today.
Not everyone came for the music. Lining the perimeter fence was every imaginable fashionable foodstuff: from the Cho gazpacho caravan to Greedy Goat ice cream, Ganache Macaron, gluten-free salted caramel brownies and Daylesford Organics, the Cotswold delicatessen to the stars. James had his cheese hub in a tent plastered with pictures of himself, selling his books, cheese and cocktails, including the blue cheese martini – thankfully served with only a tiny bit of cheese in the garnish.
At the other end of the field, the cookery demonstration tent was drawing crowds almost as big as the music stage, with TV chefs including Valentine Warner, Rachel Khoo and Oliver himself manning the hobs.
"That these demonstrations are so popular shows just how much this country is into learning about good food and cooking now," said Jenny Silverthorne-Wright, who makes fudge in a unit on James's farm.
Retailers, who paid about £500 per pitch, were pleased with the turnout. Iain Mackenzie and Kate Thornhill had travelled 377 miles from their home in Perthshire to sell their jams and chutneys. Was it worth it? "We hope so," said Ms Thornhill. "We'll be a bit cheesed off if it's not."
They make 15 varieties of marmalade and 20 varieties of jam. Why do they think people want to buy jam at a music festival? "I think the sorts of people who have the kind of money to be able to come to a music festival also have a reasonable disposable income," Ms Thornhill said. "And they want something nice to eat. I think festival-goers are more discerning now. When I was younger, the food was awful."
James said he was delighted to see his farm, bought with his wife Claire on their honeymoon 10 years ago, full of what he described as "smiling faces, wonderful music and amazing food". The farm is just outside Kingham, at the heart of the "Chipping Norton set". Locals, who include Jeremy Clarkson and David Cameron, were entitled to discounted tickets.
Many festival-goers had travelled far. Lliwen Roberts and her sister, Manon Jones, drove from North Wales. What did they make of it? "I think it's a kind of posh thing," said Ms Roberts, 26. "It's posher than the kind of festival I would normally go to. I was expecting to pay a lot, what with having Jamie Oliver's name on it. I think it's more of a family thing than for a young person who just wants to get smashed."
Ms Jones was surprised not to find any normal food stands. "So far, we haven't eaten anything. We just wanted a bacon butty or something, but we can't see one," she said. "Actually, we had a kangaroo burger last night. It was lovely, but it was like £7. But you expect to pay that much at something like this."
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