Travel review: The Big Feastival, Kingham, Cotswolds
My name is Emily and I have a fear of festivals.
I’m 37 and, unlike my peers, I haven’t ‘done’ Glastonbury, lived it up at Leeds, or made new besties at Bestival.
I’ve managed one paltry day at V Festival and relished returning to my car and driving home before headliners The Killers had even left the stage (sorry, Brandon Flowers).
Festivals combine three of my biggest dislikes: rubbish food, camping and public toilets.
So what, exactly, as my fourth decade approaches with a toddler in tow and another one on the way, pursuaded me to finally give a three-day festival a go?
Madness, probably. But also the promise that The Big Feastival is a bit different.
Foodie, family-orientated and only an hour from the Midlands, it sounded like the perfect introduction for a festival virgin.
It’s hosted annually on the farm owned by Blur bassist Alex James in Kingham, Oxfordshire, and focusses on great music, gourmet food and family-friendly activities.
This year billed Basement Jaxx, Craig David and Paloma Faith alongside appearances from chefs such as Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc and Gennaro Contaldo, 50-plus food trucks, vintage fairground and quality shopping stalls.
Children are well catered for with more activities than is possibly to cram into a weekend – everything from circus skills workshops to junior cookery sessions – plus specialist food trucks and appearances from Cbeebies stars Andy Day and Justin Fletcher.
However, even with this in mind, as we pitched our tent in driving rain, I had serious reservations about whether I was going to to enjoy myself.
Luckily, our tent – a Berghaus Air 4 available from Blacks and Millets – was a dream to put up; just three inflatable points and a few pegs and it was good to go. Comfortably spacious, there were two seperate bedrooms and a living area for all of our gear.
By the time the rain had stopped, a beautiful amber-skied dusk had fallen, and it was time to venture out.
Stepping from campsite into the festival’s main arena via a bunting-strewn woodland was just magical.
We headed for the food trucks and were astounded at the variety. Forget the festival grub of old – insipid burgers or tasteless, lukewarm noodles – this was street food of the highest order. From the gourmet mac and cheese from Anna Mae’s to the free-range kebabs of Le Bab, and the Hawaiian poké of Polú Poké to Mexican snacks from Breddos Tacos Truck, there was no corner of the world in which food was not available. My other half and our toddler decided to support local lad, Andy Stubbs, the Halesowen barbecue expert behind Andy’s Low N Slow, while I opted for one of the luscious cheese and leek toasties from Bristol-based Hobbs House Bakery. And even though we’d had our fill we went on to share a bowl of bun ga – a Vietnamese grilled chicken noodle salad – from Salvation in Noodles, and a wicked portion of churros and chocolate dip courtesy of Los Churros Amigos.
A quick trip to the vintage fairground for our daughter to ride the mini carousel and it was time to catch the Basement Jaxx DJ set – one of our highlights of the weekend. The sight of our little girl dancing on top of her dad’s shoulders while intermittently eating chocolate-dipped churros is one I’ll never forget.
Our second day was blessed with wall-to-wall sunshine (a relief since I’d forgotten to pack my wellies) and after a trip to the impressively hospitable showers we headed to the When Nature Calls tent, offering luxury toilets and hair-styling facilities. Although using this facility comes at an extra charge, for me, it was a non-negotiable and well-worth the £15-a-day per person fee.
Completely by fluke we stumbled upon the Dorset Cereals tent offering complimentary breakfast to everyone so we tucked into tasty granola with yogurt and compote all washed down with plenty of fresh fruit juice. Delish!
The rest of our day was spent enjoying the festival’s many attractions. Highlights included the vast food village showcasing some of the best local producers and chefs; catching Peter Hook and The Light playing the hits of Joy Division and New Order on the main stage; seeing our toddler’s delight at holding a tiny fluffy chick for the first time in Adam Henson’s Cotswolds Farm Park corner, and, of course, eating more delicious food – this time from Breddo’s Taco’s Truck and Shake Shack. And we couldn’t resist trying Alex James’s brie bites from his cheese stall – after all it’d be rude not to since the musician-turned-cheese maker hosts the entire thing. We even managed to catch Alex on the decks of an early evening DJ set.
Later, Craig David was the main stage’s headline act and he didn’t disappoint opening with Rewind and Fill Me In.
Sadly, torrential rain stopped play on day three so we decided to quit while we were ahead and pack up the tent (thankfully a straightforward affair) but not before tucking into tasty breakfast sandwiches from the camp site truck.
Our two nights at a festival was a real adventure – one I’d happily repeat.
If only all festivals could be like this!
The Big Feastival is an annual festival held every August. Weekend camping tickets for the 2018 festival were priced £189.50 for adults; £114.50 for 13-17 year olds and £47.25 for children aged 12 and under. For more details visit www.thebigfeastival.com
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