Cornbury Music Festival director Hugh Phillimore can’t help smiling as he reels off what he expects to be the highlights of this weekend’s event.

The festival’s 16th year is a vintage beast, with a trademark blend of big names, up-and-coming stars, musical legends and crowd-pleasers.

“It’s great and I’m really very excited,” he says, as he gazes out on the site at the rolling, wooded grounds of Great Tew Park, near Chipping Norton.

“We’ve got some amazing names – and, with The Specials and The Beach Boys, two bands that didn’t even play Glastonbury.

“We’ve also got Gaz Coombes, Echo & The Bunnymen and Beverly Knight on Friday, Keane, KT Tunstall, the Trevor Horn Band and Elkie Brooks on Saturday, and Paul Carrack, Hothouse Flowers, Steeleye Span and, interestingly, Alfie Boe on Sunday. And loads more.

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“Right now I’m looking out at this amazing site and can’t wait for it to begin.”

The festival is a highpoint of Oxfordshire’s musical calendar – the first big one of the summer. In the past it has played host to the likes of Paul Simon, Tom Jones, Bryan Adams, Robert Plant, Blondie, Amy Winehouse, Elvis Costello, Bryan Ferry, Hugh Laurie, Martha Reeves and Van Morrison.

And despite calling time on the event two years ago, Hugh changed his mind – bowing to pressure from fans of the festival – and brought it back to great acclaim last year.

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So what’s the appeal? “It’s small,” he says. “It’s a neatly run country fair with great music.

“Jools Holland put it best when he said it’s big enough to get the big bands and small enough to see them.”

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For years Cornbury carried the nickname ‘Poshstock’ in reference to its rarefied clientele. Jeremy Clarkson, assorted Royals and David and Samantha Cameron have been frequent visitors along with other members of what was once called ‘the Chipping Norton set’. However, Hugh said the baton of poshness had been well and truly passed to hip local rival Wilderness – located at Cornbury Festival’s former venue, Cornbury Park, near Charlbury.

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“Our festival regulars are normal people, there’s nothing really posh about them,” he says.

“You might get the likes of Clarkson, but on the whole they are families, working people and those of a certain age.”

His festival comes a week after a hugely successful Glastonbury Festival. Does he think the extensive coverage of that event will help entice more punters to roll up?

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Gaz Coombes plays tomorrow night

“No, I don’t think so,” he says. “The good weather helps, and we might get a bit of walk-up, but there are really too many things going on.”

And he criticised the BBC’s blanket coverage of Glastonbury at the expense of almost every other festival. “I’m so furious with Glastonbury I can’t bring myself to be nice,” he says. “They pay a third of what we pay for acts and they get all the publicity. If, during their extensive coverage, the BBC gave just 30 seconds or a minute to also promote smaller local festivals like us, it would make so much difference. But they don’t.”

In fact Hugh’s festival has only turned a profit twice in its history – one of those occasions being its ‘last ever’ event in 2017.

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The Beach Boys headline on Sunday

So, two years after the grand finale, and with the festival still on a precarious financial footing, why is Hugh still running it?

“Because I have a low boredom threshold,” he laughs. “I called it a day in 2017 but it was so amazing, and so many people asked me to keep it going, that I changed my mind – either out of stupidity or optimism.

“So many great people work on the event and I’d miss them if I stopped. It doesn’t make commercial sense but it does make perfect emotional sense. It’s 16 years down the line, and I can’t let it go.”

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Of all the acts, who is he most excited to be seeing on stage? “I’m really excited to see The Specials, and Gaz Coombes will be good. I’ve never seen him before, so that’s going to be exciting too. The Bunnymen are always amazing, and I’m a great fan of Beverley Knight. We’ve also good Nakho & Medicine for the People, who are a really big act in America.

“I’ve seen footage of Keane at Glastonbury and they looked amazing, so we are really in for a show on Saturday. And I’m longing to see Elkie Brooks and the Trevor Horn band – who may have a big guest star; we’ll have to see.

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“Then on Sunday I’m hoping to see Hothouse Flowers, and The Beach Boys, who I’ve also never seen, plus Paul Carrack – and Alfie Boe who will be showing a bit of his rock & roll side.”

He adds: “It’s all good stuff. Cornbury is also a festival for people who have never been to a festival, and we pride ourselves on that.”

Cornbury Festival runs from tomorrow to Sunday at Great Tew, near Chipping Norton. Tickets from