It’s not just the Glastonbury Festival that’s taking a break in 2018, Cornbury also bows out this year, and maybe never to return. The family festival which has attracted great reviews for its music line-up and feel good atmosphere over the years said goodbye last weekend to the Oxfordshire countryside.
For such a modest event in size, when compared to other festivals, Cornbury always punches above its weight when delivering knock-out artists. This year saw such luminaries as Bryan Adams, Kaiser Chiefs and Jools Holland & His Orchestra take the headline slots across the three nights. And when you look at the supporting acts like Tom Chaplin, The Pretenders, Imelda May, Ward Thomas and Jack Savoretti, you wonder why this all comes to an end in 2017.
Cornbury is a festival that focuses on music, rather than a communion of trade and alternative entertainment. Yes there are food stalls with offerings from various cultures. There’s a fun fair which keeps the younger kids happy. And there are b-stages where traditional touring artists can entertain a few hundred onlookers in between the headline acts. But it all comes back to the music, and the crowds flock in their thousands to watch, leaving much of the festival site quiet.
I was amazed how calm, organised and friendly the whole environment was. Celebrities were spotted mingling with the locals and the weather delivered three days of glorious sunshine for those who like their festivals modest, accessible and very reasonably priced.
But what about the music. On Friday Kaiser Chiefs kicked the weekend off with their usual rousing chart hit laden catalogue of songs. Frontman Ricky Wilson owning the stage as ever and bringing the audience to an energised finale. There were also fantastic sets by Jack Savoretti and Sophie Ellis Bexter.
Saturday saw the big names roll onto the main stage. After Ward Thomas delivered their understated but pleasing set, the remarkable Tom Chaplin of KEANE thrilled the audience with his incredible set of new material from his The WAVE album, along with other KEANE favourites. The stage was then set for Bryan Adams to wow the crowd with 30 + years of hits. It was a Saturday of diverse music and no one left short-changed.
On the Sunday afternoon Imelda May gave an emotional performance with her set list. With songs from her latest album LIFE,LOVE.FLESH,BLOOD she provided her fans with new material, bursting with heartfelt lyrics and strong personal memoirs. As the evening stepped up a gear Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders belted out hit after hit with a stunning performance. The iconic singer was pitch perfect and every song delivered with gusto and guts. Finishing off the night was original Cornbury festival favourite Jools Holland and his R&B Orchestra. With guest vocals from Chris Difford (Squeeze), the queen of boogie-woogie and R&B Ruby Turner, the night came to a stunning and epic conclusion with a huge firework display.
Will Cornbury ever return? Probably not, but if it ever wanted to be remembered for its values of great music and family entertainment, then this was the weekend to do it.
Words and Photography by Mark Tipping