by Karon and her 2 boys, aged 5 and 10
Friday – Day One
Our much anticipated fun weekend at the fabulous Cornbury Festival began on Friday afternoon as we headed towards the beautiful countryside of Great Tew, Oxfordshire. The sky was full of grey rain clouds but our mood was light as our destination was reached without any traffic problems at all, parking was well organised and lucky us, the sun broke through as we excitedly took the short haul from car to box office to collect our media passes and camping tickets courtesy of Festival Kidz!!
Cornbury Festival is the least daunting set up of any we have ever been to (and we’ve been to more than a few!!)… plenty of mobile toilet units, showers, quiet camping, general camping with a lively beer tent, yummy catering vans, a vast array of colourful clothing stalls and jewellery/gift stands, first aid and info tent, lockers, trolley hire, phone charging… you name it, Cornbury has everything you would wish for in a family festival and not over an extensive area either. It’s all only a stone throw away from the campsite – a huge sigh of relief from anyone with a handful of lively kids and arms full of gear!
We immediately found a great pitch and set up our tent whilst my lovely boys played diablos and devil sticks to the sweet sound of Pixie Lott. After a slight problem with two poles going temporarily missing, our tent looked just about habitable. We dressed for a cool evening and excitedly headed towards the main arena to see what the weekend ahead held for us. Security at Cornbury is pretty easy going. Although there are signs for no picnics and no alcohol in the main arena, we were still allowed children’s snacks, drinks, little camping stools, brollies and the like. The vibe at Cornbury is so relaxed you can’t help feel part of a group of beautiful people as you enter the colourful festival site.
The kid’s area is concentrated just off the main arena and has so much to offer from babies to teens with the ever popular circus skills, African Dance, so many arts and crafts on offer and The Disco Shed being a major attraction with loud music and smoke machines making little ones feel like big ones… and big ones acting like little ones!!
The music at Cornbury is played on 3 stages: The Riverside being the smallest, cosy seating on hay bales with some excellent but generally lesser known bands (not any less popular though), Pleasant Valley is the main stage and The Songbird Stage, which is equally fantastic but again with less high profile acts … Friday night’s main entertainment started for us with Alison Moyet playing a fab set on The Songbird Stage and I have to say she was unrecognisable from how I remembered her many moons ago! She led us nicely onto James Morrison – with the sun setting on the Pleasant Valley stage, he was as beautiful as he was pitch perfect!! Sounding superb live, he wooed us all late into the night with screams and whistles from the front of the crowd!!
It was a wonderful end to our first eve, so we headed back to the tent with the boys, although it was obvious the night was young for those willing and able to party hard into the wee small hours. Unexpectedly, there was a wicked little camp fire going on just by the ‘normal’ campsite, (as opposed to quieter camping!!) where we sat warming ourselves before bed. By this time, the typically English summer weather had turned pretty chilly and my boys loved the fact that a few happy campers had brought their guitars and drums out, so we all listened for a while until I knew it was way past time for them to retire… The music played on until 3am in the beer tent, but fortunately my babes slept soundly from midnight… having sweet dreams no doubt of the fun times ahead!!!
Saturday – Day Two
Waking early on Saturday was a tough one for me after a very late night – I just couldn’t fall to sleep with the music playing so loudly in the beer tent on site until 3am. I think I was probably overtired from the week’s Festy preparation and anticipation. It didn’t help that it rained from 5am-8am almost non-stop and our old tent decided to spring a leak just over my head. Note to parents: we didn’t choose ‘quiet camping’ this year because it was down the hill – which was somewhere we did not want to be in the expected heavy rain. We made a good choice with the ground being not too unbearable in flip flops and shorts, but a definite bad choice for my sleepy head. Fortunately my boys were wide awake and bushy tailed, absolutely desperate to get to the action in the kid’s area and so happily and so obediently munched on chocolate breads and lil’ packets of cereal as we headed on our way for the 10am kick off.
The fantastically organised kid’s area is the main reason that makes Cornbury such a pleasure as a mum of two little Festival loving boys. Circus skills, Kid’s Bee Happy Sand Art, African Dance, Music for Eco kids, Steve Kaos the stilt walker, and Professor Collywobbles puppet show to name but a few of the wonderful people and activities that were to fill our weekend and put the biggest smiles on my boys faces. All of these are there for all to watch or join in with, come rain or shine. My boys loved weaving through the Solstice Maze with colourful ribbons in hand and made a few painted flowers on sticks for the pretty children’s garden!! There are some very nice seated areas around the bars and at midday with a few waffles and chocolate sauce in hand, we joined all the happy chilled music lovers listening to The International Ukulele Club of Sonning Common… unusual, uplifting and fun to watch on the main stage between rain showers!!
To be honest, the late Friday night and inclement weather had gotten the better of me and I decided by early afternoon to head for the cover of the media tent whilst the boys were extremely happy making clay models in the Children’s area… this was also a noted popular and messy choice for my boys last year!! I was truly blessed and fortunate enough to be reviewing the Cornbury Festival for Romany of Festival Kidz this year and to be asked if we wanted to meet up with any of the acts and well, who wouldn’t???!!! I happily requested that any artist who wanted to meet some real live Festival Kidz would be great for us, yes please!!! With an early eve time slot for an interview with the coolest dude in town, Newton Faulkner, (my boys both learning the guitar so he was a popular choice!!) and a photo opportunity front Stage with the night’s headline act – the legendary Elvis Costello.
We raced back to base for some traditional camp food, hot-dogs and pot noodles lol!! Mmm,.. you really can’t beat cooking in the great outdoors – tastes so much nicer than at home. Quick as a flash flood, (haha! the weather was slightly challenging!!), we got changed into our Sat night festie outfits. For me, this was a little something I threw together to try and feel as bright and beautiful as possible given rain showers and mud splattered legs, but for my boys it consisted of tiger outfits and tails… and ultra violet day glow face paints! Bless them, I have to say they looked adorable as we strolled into the main festival site with Saturday’s top acts: Macy Gray, Newton Faulkner and Elvis Costello before us! Excited was not the word!!!
At 7.30pm sharp, (Cornbury never failed to impress me with its impeccable time keeping!)…the beautiful and soulful Macy Gray took to the Pleasant Valley stage and she was even better than I ever imagined..took me back a few years and her sweet voice was much more than music to our ears. The crowd went crazy singing along with ‘I Try’ and we waved and cheered at her like mad folk!!!… she truly sent a few shivers down my spine.
It wasn’t long before we had to to leave for our interview with Newton ‘Battenberg’ Faulkner. I have to say I was so excited, much more excited than my boys. I had 3 cameras at the ready and Newton was an absolute darling. We were told we had a few minutes to take some pics and ask a question but my little boys had other ideas…!!! “Why are you named after my favourite cake?” piped up Finley aged 5!! Newton, I and the whole crew were laughing our heads off as he happily told us it was his mother’s maiden name and posed for our photos… then Felix (aged 10) asked him when he started playing the guitar? The surprising reply was 13, which pleased both my boys who have been playing since they were toddlers – plenty of time to become superstars! With a hug and a kiss, we left the media tent feeling very privileged and exceedingly happy.
The Cornbury main site by Saturday night was as filled as I had ever seen it… lots of festy goers chilling on deckchairs, even more kids running around enjoying the freedom that only a fab festival allows… The benefit of a child friendly festival is that no one is offended by being hit on the head with a devil stick or a diablo… or smacked in the face with an extra large bubble from the masses of kids armed with bubble machines! It’s a kids world out there.
Darkness fell and I raced towards back stage as my golden ticket/media pass allowed me to see the headline act Elvis Costello appear before my very eyes in front of 1000s of screaming fans (lucky me). I managed to get a good few fab shots of the superstar before my ears burst with the sound of the 70s!! I have to say Elvis Costello was not one of my ‘must sees’, but the atmosphere was electric as I took the walk back to find my boys being very well cared for and amused in the media tent… ‘Watching the detectives’ and ‘A good year for the roses’ played on as we walked through the crowds in the Cornbury sunset…
What a night we had had…
Sunday – Day Three
Slightly (ever so slightly!) hungover, there was no such thing as easy like a Sunday morn for me!! My boys awoke about 8am, but fortunately knowing there was going to be another fab day ahead, they happily played for an hour or so with their new found Festival friends until it was time for the children’s area to open. En route, we headed straight to the nearest food stall for welcome breaky of banana and maple syrup pancakes to wake us up. I’m not sure if I imagined it, but I’m sure there were church bells playing in Cornbury!?! Can anyone confirm this?!!!
The weather was a mixture of rain showers and sunshine as we entered the kids area and my boys decided that they wanted to try their hand at Sand Art in the Arts and Craft tent. It was a good decision as within the hour the skies opened and it was torrential rain -if only for an hour. Thank goodness we had our waterproofs and wellies!
Kids Bee-Happy put on a great activity where anyone could pick a plain outlined picture and wander round their various coloured sand bowls bringing it to life!We loved it!! Next on the agenda was some African dance and drumming for noisy boys and at this point, there was the need for some real coffee.
The Cornbury food and drink selection was great. Cafe Nero supplied expressos and Paninis to keep us going until the much anticipated Seasick Steve hit the Pleasant Valley Stage by late afternoon… We watched and listened in wonder to the most amazing sounds as he played with a guitar his friend had created from a Morris Minor hub cap and a broomstick!! This man was truly a (mad) musical genius! The crowd loved him, he even took a lovely lady from the audience to go on stage with him and it was this sense of fun and involvement that made him a truly class festival act.
My personal festival ‘must see’ after James Morrison and Seasick Steve was soon about to come on stage. After a quick bite to eat of our festy favourite (nachos grande) we were ready and awaiting the young, the lovely Pop Idol runaway success: Mr Will Young!!
I know he doesn’t hit the spot for everyone, but we are, were and still definitely are huge fans and he certainly did not disappoint. The fit and lively performer danced through a fantastic hour long set in which he took the time to talk to a lovely little girl in the audience dressed as a bumble bee with a huge ‘I love Will Young’ sign, bless her – such glee. He then came into the crowd taking pics of himself with his fans and said beyond all doubt that Cornbury was his favourite festival. At that point, it was not difficult to see why – we were standing in the sunshine on a lovely summer’s afternoon waving our arms in the air to his songs, ‘Evergreen’, ‘Jealousy’… and almost crying to ‘Think I better leave right now’. Will ended his uplifting performance by thanking us for joining him given that it had been raining so much!!! Right… Enough about Will Young, I think I have embarrassed myself enough as his number one (over 40yrs old) fan!!! lol!! 😉
Sadly, it was almost time for the grand finale of the festival but at the same time this meant that the end of our crazy weekend was nigh as my little boys had school on Monday morning. Superstar headline act, Jools Holland, was getting ready to light up the night with his musical expertise but we still had unfinished business – a little trip to the jewellery stalls to buy the obligatory festival friendship bracelets for all and an even quicker couple of goes on the scariest fun fair rides we could find, (ugh, don’t you just hate the fun fair bit at festivals?)
Cornbury 2012 was sadly almost over…
We reluctantly made our way back to camp to disect our muddy tent, whilst listening to the sounds of the fabulous Jools Holland Big band play on…! The atmosphere was only slightly dampened by the rain showers, but as we dragged our heels to the car, aching arms full of camping gear…. nothing could suppress our smiles and the fab feeling within us all… that we came, we saw and we loved Cornbury 2012! We hope you had as much fun as we had… and for those reading now who have yet to experience the Festival fun, come and join us next time, you can’t beat it!!
Many thanks to the beautiful people at Cornbury Festival and Romany at Festival Kidz for making our dreams come true all over again 🙂
For more information about Cornbury Festival – check out the Festival Kidz Cornbury Festival factsheet.