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Best of British: Cornbury Music Festival

Jill Rayner on an event that has carved itself a niche in the festival calendar as a top-notch, beautifully crafted, extraordinarily civilised and quintessentially English weekend

"The place oozes a charm and class"

Cornbury Music Festival’s charm has never faulted over the 15 years that Hugh Phillimore and his genius of festival programming has mixed soulful floor-fillers with icons from past and present, crooning to an eclectic crowd of city dwellers, country gentlemen, toffs, ladies on an extended weekend lunch and hardcore music buffs drinking champagne, eating Cotswoldmade paella and shopping for Alpaca spun luxurious knitwear.


For me Cornbury, is a sensory overload. Pig roasts, wood-fired pizzas and pots of tartiflette, flags and banners, hats and wraps, children’s laughter and a sea of voices singing to the sounds of three stages bringing together a melting pot of talent, new and old. It is my annual excuse for me to dress to excess, dance until I drop, meet strangers that become festival buddies and sing until I have no voice. There is only a couple of Cornbury weekends that I haven’t attended over the last fifteen years, and for me, 2016 was a triumph.

Soul II Soul and Lemar, Booker T and Stax gave me no excuse to sit down, and Bryan Ferry (himself the country gentleman with a stylish twist) took me back to days of art school cool. On Sunday, Seal performed an intimate gig, just for me. His ability to make it feel that way when thousands of people felt exactly the same was testament to his sheer stage presence and ridiculous sex appeal.

Cornbury is addictive. The place oozes a charm and class that rejuvenates you more effectively than any anti-ageing treatment ever could. Cornbury radiates what we do best: talent, tradition, class and eccentricity. Roll on 2017.

- Jill Rayner


Top Image - © Nigel Brown


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