First Night: Cornbury Festival, Oxfordshire

The rock festival of Pimms and picnics marks a seventh year

Elisa Bray
Monday 05 July 2010 00:00

Cornbury bridges the gap between traditional rock festival and an English garden fete. It is a festival for which middle to upper-class families load their pushchairs to spend a civilised weekend sipping Pimms while watching a line-up of soul, blues and soft rock and pop. It's the family-friendly, relaxed atmosphere that had the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who is the area's local MP, return for a fourth year with his family yesterday.

The festival has been dubbed "Poshstock" for its location on the 6,500-acre Cornbury estate, near Charlbury, Oxfordshire, owned by Lord and Lady Rotherwick, and for its clientele, who this year also included local Jeremy Clarkson. But it's really the civilised facilities that earn it the nickname. On offer to the 20,000 people attending throughout the weekend were luxurious camping options, a fairground, tombola and plush food and drinks stalls – Waitrose cocktail bars, a Pimms bus, Jamie Oliver's food, and tea and cake. Looking out towards the main stage, the grass was a sea of deck chairs and picnic rugs, with children weaving playfully between.

In its six years, Cornbury, sponsored by media partner The Independent, has seen the likes of Paul Simon, Robert Plant and Elvis Costello play. This seventh instalment's middle of the road line-up included headliners David Gray and Jackson Browne, the soft acoustic pop of Joshua Radin, the Feeling, and folk singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman.

There was lively pop from the Noisettes, who further set themselves out as one of the best young British live acts. Singer Shingai Shoniwa's flamboyant dress, and a stage filled with red and gold balloons, mirrored the energetic performance by the London trio. Their single "Don't Upset The Rhythm" was a hit, as was the stomping blues-rock "Don't Give Up".

Buddy Guy, whose legendary blues guitar playing has influenced Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Beck, lived up to his promise of "I'm gonna play something so funky you can smell it".

Soul singer Candi Staton ended a euphoric set including "Stand By Your Man" with her 1986 double platinum single "You Got the Love" – recently brought back to the charts by Florence and the Machine; Staton's understated soul-disco version remains the best though. Another highlight was Squeeze: it's the hits that festival-goers really want, and Squeeze have them in abundance. Rolling out "Cool for Cats" and the brilliant "Up the Junction", Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford's differences seemed behind them as Tilbrook introduced his co-founder, Difford, as "the man who wrote every word".

As his children went on the helter-skelter, Mr Cameron's comment was: "It's a lovely family day out, with lots of activities for the kids, and particularly good when it's such good weather."

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