Jamie Oliver presents The Big Feastival with Alex James, September 1-2 2012
By Clare Lowe
Unlike any other festival I’ve been to, I arrived on Alex James’ farm in Oxfordshire ready to enjoy some food, music and sunshine. After setting up camp, I focused mainly on the line-up of musical acts. First up was the Cuban Brothers, who are ridiculously fun and suited a sunny afternoon with a glass of wine. They well and truly set an upbeat atmosphere for the rest of the evening.
I decided to grab some food before we settled at the front of the stage for Gaz Coombes. I chose The Cinnamon Club, Vivek Singh’s London based Indian restaurant that has revolutionised traditional recipes and created a modern and varied menu. I chose a black leg chicken breast wrap. It was perfectly spiced with coriander and mint flavors and a spicy peanut sauce. The accompanying mango sauce was sweet and savory and positively moreish.
The gin and tonic I had in-between also deserves a mention. The Fever-Tree specialise in mixers made from natural ingredients. I had their Ultimate Gin And Tonic and it was a very tasty and refreshing summer drink.
I got to the front of the stage for Gaz Coombes, whose album, Here Come the Bombs, was greeted with mixed reviews back in May. However, it played very well live. Energetic with a funky rock edge, ‘Simulator’ and ‘Hot Fruit’ were loud, obnoxious rock tunes and the cover of The English Beat’s ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
After a few (very expensive) glasses of prosecco, the Noisettes took to the stage. Shingai Shoniwa looked stunning and two of them (Dan Smith on guitar) make an impressive amount of noise. Their new album is out now and the single ‘That Girl’ is a 60s-esque tune that’s a perfect summer track. The huge ‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go)’ got everyone dancing. I even ended up having a dance-off with Paloma Faith’s backing dancers! The afternoon had a friendly and sociable atmosphere. Celebrity spotting was easy and hard to avoid, and everyone seemed in good spirits.
Paloma Faith ended the evening perfectly, her big voice and great sense of humor kept the atmosphere going. My particular highlight was ‘Cellulite’, a non-album track with a funky disco beat. Paloma moved around the stage jiggling and singing about her cellulite, which made every woman in the crowd love her a little bit more. I finished the night with a disappointingly salty pizza from Pommarola Pizza Gardens.
After filling myself on a beautiful round pastry filled with Welsh cheese, salmon and laverbread for breakfast, I took a stroll around the artisan stalls buying pâté, liquor, muffins and cheese. After all that walking I visited Tea Vintage, a 1940s style pop-up café, where all the waitresses are dressed in vintage. I took a seat outside so I could hear the music on main stage. TG Collective, a gypsy jazz act, accompanied my tea drinking experience perfectly.
Later, I wondered over to the Big Kitchen and among others caught James Graham from the restaurant Allium. He makes a dish called Lamb, Hay and Wool, which is a delicious looking (and smelling) dish of rolled lamb shoulder cooked in hay and rack with a hay liquid gel.
Next, I went on the hunt for dinner. By this time of in the festival, several of the restaurants had run out of dishes, meaning most of what I had my eye on were unavailable. We settled on the Hungry Gecko, created by Masterchef 2011 runner-up Jackie Kearney. It was mainly vegetarian street food and I tried the Jungle Curry, a Thai dish with tofu, nuts and vegetable served with chapatti-style flat bread. It was very tasty and the lime pickle that accompanied it complimented the coconut in the curry.
Texas were the headliner for the evening and I hadn’t realised how many of their songs I could sing along to. Although not exactly my thing, their musicianship is impressive and the cover of Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ was bellowed out by Sharleen Spiteri and was a great ending to their set.
Unfortunately, Sunday’s festivities were concluded at 8:30. Even though the bars stayed open, the music didn’t continue, which was a disappointing end to the experience.
The Big Feastival is still a new festival and quite expensive. However, the camping was stress free and there was easy access to toilet facilities at all times. A nice end of festival season festival, it had a lovely chilled-out atmosphere and had enough food and activities to keep kids and adults entertained.