Simon Kelner: Bubbles are the new rock'n'roll, and I'm blown away

Kelner's view
  • @Simon_Kelner

I don't know whether food is the new rock'n'roll or it's the other way round, but when you see Jamie Oliver playing drums with Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Alex James of Blur packing them in for a cooking demonstration, you quickly realise that, in an age of cultural cross-dressing, you don't have to wield an axe to become a rock star.

In one corner of a field in Oxfordshire at the weekend, Razorlight were pounding through a high energy set, while, in the other, the celebrated chef Bruno Loubet left his crowd yelling for more after finishing one of his greatest hits, ploughman's lunch with vegetables baked in hay.

The Big Feastival, jointly presented by Oliver and James and which takes place – literally – in James' back yard, is a curious phenomenon. It's much more than a music festival with a bit of posh food thrown in: in fact, judging by the predominantly middle-class profile of the audience – I guarantee that no crowd at a similar event would sport fewer tattoos – and the queues for a chocolatier which advertised itself as "creative, sustainable, and ethical", I would suggest that most people had come for tea rather than Texas.

They were happy to pay a fiver for a cup of coconut water – does wonders for your immune system – and queued round the block for Alex James' cheese. Mark Hix, i's very own chef, was there too, selling fishdogs from a vintage van.

They were so popular that he had to post a "sold out" sign midway through the afternoon, enabling Mark to continue his exhaustive research into organic wine producers. It was a very particular Cotswold scene: children rolled around in hay bales – who says that they need PS3s for entertainment? – while parents wondered where they could get the Japanese breadcrumbs recommended by Monsieur Loubet. And everywhere, people were blowing bubbles.

This led me to my most startling discovery: bubbles are big business these days. Samsam Bubbleman (not his real name) is the country's foremost expert on bubbles. He has nine Guinness World Records (including having 50 people inside a bubble), and was responsible for the bubble extravaganza at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

His stall ( was one of the busiest at Feastival, and his trade in every form of contraption to create bubbles spoke of a man who saw a gap in the market and has, so to speak, blown the competition away. "People love bubbles," he told me, "because they are 98 per cent water, just like us."

It seemed odd to me that he could talk about having a career in bubbles, but who am I to burst his...well, you get the idea.

And this is how seriously he takes it: his father's dying wish was that his ashes should be mixed into a bubble solution and then floated off over the cliffs at Cornwall. Beat that, you rock'n'rollers!