Considering that he is about to open the gates of his Cotswold farm to 25,000 festival-goers, Alex James is surprisingly relaxed.

Tomorrow, the rolling acres around his Kingham home will become a sea of tents, as revellers pitch up for the start of the summer’s tastiest festival – the Big Feastival. And the Blur bassist and celebrity cheesemaker can’t wait for it all to begin.

“We’re going to have a big old party!” he laughs, as he takes a break from last minute preparations for the seventh annual event.

“There’s going to be enough music, food and fun to keep everyone happy. We’ve managed to attract some huge names and we’ve got a stonking line-up!”

He’s right, of course. Tomorrow’s headliners are double platinum selling, Grammy-winning dance act Basement Jaxx, with R&B star Craig David bringing his 15 top-10s on the Saturday and chirpy pop singer Paloma Faith topping the bill on Sunday night.

The weekend will also feature sets by X Factor 2012 winner James Arthur performing hits from his number one album Back from the Edge, electronic-pop act Clean Bandit, rapper Professor Green, Kidlington reggae master David Rodigan, mix-master Jaguar Skills, garage duo Artful Dodger, amusing faux-Hispanic Feastival veterans The Cuban Brothers, former Spice Girl Melanie C, singer Becky Hill, hip-hop group Sugarhill Gang, former New Order star Peter Hook with his band The Light and the Hackney Colliery Band.

Then there’s the culinary bill – which features some of the most respected names in the business.

“We are going to have a chef stampede!” he laughs, as he lists the roll call of culinary talent set to descend on the farm, south west of Chipping Norton. “I can’t stop them!”

They include Marco Pierre White and Oxford’s Raymond Blanc – chef patron of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, which has retained two Michelin stars for 33 years.


They will be joined by Pierre Koffmann, Gennaro Contaldo, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Mark Hix, Andi Oliver, Matt Tebbutt, Saliha Mahmood Ahmed, Gizzi Erskine, Jasmine Hemsley, Tommy Banks, Merlin Labron-Johnson and British/Indian chef Romy Hardeep Gill of Romy’s Kitchen in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire.

He says, the Feastival is a big part of his family’s calendar – particularly for children Galileo, Geronimo, Artemis, Beatrix and Sable, while friends, chefs and musicians base their holidays around it.

“We have been working out what to do with the Cheese Hub,” he grins, referring to the double-decker dairy-produce paradise which transforms into the festival’s hippest party venue.

As well as the traditional DJ sets by Alex, there will be special guests on the decks, and a pop-up by the Groucho Club – along with toasties, fondues, baguettes and cheeseboards.

“Marco will also be doing a Cheese Hub takeover,” he says. “He is amazing – and was the first chef in Britain, and youngest in the world, to get three Michelin stars. He was the original celebrity chef.”

Feastival veterans will also be hoping for a return to the decks by 14-year-old Geronimo – whose eclectic floor-filling sets are a Cheese Hub favourite.

“Geronimo is a really good DJ,” smiles Alex. “It’s useful having an enormous family. This is a big operation and I need as much help as I can get!”

Adding to the family atmosphere will be children’s TV sensation Justin Fletcher, duo Dick and Dom and CBeebies presenter Andy Day, with chances to meet Paddington, The Gruffalo and Peppa Pig and George. Making a welcome return will be The Little Dudes’ Den, tree climbing activities, a circus, village green games and a vintage fun fair.

So what’s the secret to putting on a great festival? “You’ve just got to do what you love,” he says.

“I’ve got five children, six cheeses and seven albums, and love family, food and music. We just care about this stuff; it doesn’t really feel like work, just play.”

“In Blur we worked harder than anyone else. When you look at what we did as a band it’s incredible. We’d be in the studio for 24 hours and then go on tour. Bands do work surprisingly hard but it didn’t feel like work. I also really love cheese, and that never feels like work.

“But while it takes three years to recover from touring with Blur, I do get itchy and scratchy if I’m not playing to screaming people every night, so I compensate by having this huge party here.

“It’s much more convenient than going on tour. I don’t want to spend my life touring – it’s easier to bring people round here to have a good time!”


He admits to being surprised at how the event has grown from its more intimate early years. “There’s more depth and the best line-up yet. It’s very exciting,” he says. “The whole thing has become more sophisticated. It’s all about having different layers. There’s always fun and music, but different levels to that.

“People do copy each other in this game so you have to make sure you stay one step ahead. You have to get up early and work hard.

“And I have five kids to feed so am big on waking up and cooking... though it’s a very different kind of cooking!”

* The Big Feastival takes place at Alex James’s farm in Kingham, near Chipping Norton, from tomorrow to Sunday.

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