Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cornbury Festival, Charlbury, Oxfordshire Saturday July10th – Sunday July 12th 2009 (the non-music bit)

Way back in May (well it seems way back to me) we met up with Math (the drummer from Dodgy) at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton. As long time fans of the band (ahhhh who can forget The Hibernian in 1993?) we got chatting and – being officially the nicest bloke in music – he offered to put us on the guestlist for one of Dodgy’s festival dates this year. As good as his word we found ourselves in possession of a pair of weekend camping wristbands for Cornbury plus the Willy Wonka golden ticket of festivals – a backstage ‘Artists’ pass for the first day. I’ve never been backstage at a Festival before. The beauty of VIP tickets and backstage passes for fests is that you get a rare chance to sit down on something other than mud and cigarette butts, which, when you’re getting on a bit, is a hell of a bonus. You also get a chance to mix with the bands. I’m always a little wary of this one. I’m sure most artists don’t really want all kinds of random souls coming up to them when they’re trying to chillax with their crew or caning their rider. I generally limit myself to a ‘hi’, ‘nice to meet you’, ‘great gig’…that sort of thing…enough to show your appreciation without being a pain in the ass. Having an ‘Artists’ pass gives you an even rarer privilege though. You actually get to go on the stage whilst a band’s performing. Obviously you have to be sensible and stand in the wings out of sight but it does give you a pretty unique view on the whole thing. We only did it once (see below) but I can now report that, from an ‘enjoying the show perspective’ it’s actually better out front with the masses. For a start you’re not looking at the arses of the band, the sound’s being projected out to the audience too and there’s something a little bit Wizard of Oz about being backstage – some of the mystery goes when you can see how it’s all done. But, that being said, it was a real treat to experience it all and – on top of mingling with the ever lovely Dodgy we got to natter with punk legends The Damned after their set too.

Anyway, enough of my showbiz life, what was Cornbury actually like? Well it’s in a beautiful spot just outside a little village called Charlbury. Getting there – even by train – was a bit of a doddle and the facilities were head and shoulders above any other festival I’ve been to. The loos were clean, they had a fair supply of showers and plenty of food on offer (including an organic, locally sourced food market thingy). Nicknamed ‘Poshfest’ by some the crowd were a pretty well to do bunch. Some of their tents were bigger than our house and I’m sure I saw one or two butlers preparing tiffin but the friendly festival spirit remained firmly in place. My only gripe – and it’s a pretty major one – is to do with Magners. I’m not a fan of Magners. Ice? In cider? Are you nuts? A few years ago you’d be sectioned for lobbing a chunk of frozen water in your pint but now – no matter what brand of cider you ask for – the bar staff look at you like some kind of freak if you refuse their request to ram your glass with half an iceberg. The iceification of cider is not all I dislike about Magners though. It’s just a pretty sickly artificial imitation of cider sold at a huge premium to people who aren’t given much choice. This market intimidation reached a pretty vile conclusion this weekend. I’d noticed a small stand (Benson’s) selling local apple juice and ‘proper’ cider on the first day of the festival. Very nice it was too. £3.00 a pint and clearly made just from apples. Yum. I had a couple of pints during the Saturday then returned later in the day for another to be told that the Magners people had forced the festival organisers to shut them down. It appears that Magners had signed some kind of exclusivity deal on cider and saw a tiny fraction of their potential profit going to someone else. Now, I’m not a hippy. I (sadly) know all about the commercial realities of the world. But this was a real case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Whilst Bensons were selling cider to a few of us, many people preferred the alchopop taste of Magners. That’s their choice. Good luck to them. At £3.70 for a very small bottle (I’m guessing less than half a pint) they need all the luck in the world. I happen to prefer a more natural taste. Clearly the folk at Magners would like to eliminate personal choice and force their sugary muck down our throats, wiping out independent producers and putting local people out of work in the process. This stinks. I’m sure the festival organisers had their hands tied (I’m guessing the money from the exclusivity deal paid for some of those loos) but I’d rather put up with a bit of other people’s shit than a whole load of the corporate variety. I’m sure it won’t make a jot of difference but I've set up a blog to rid the world of this evil.

If you drink Magners I urge you to try something else…anything else…preferably proper cider from a local producer. On the more mass market front Westons do some really good stuff (Old Rosie is awesome), Scrumpy Jack ain’t bad, I’ll drink Strongbow and Blackthorn in an emergency too...

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