Louise Birt, Cornerstone’s operations manager, who programmed its seventh annual Beer and Music Festival

It was nearing the end of another long day. I stood, feet aching and the last of several strong coffees wearing off, watching the hundreds of people who were listening to Maia, our Saturday night headliners.

Someone next to me said: “This is amazing. I only came for the beer but this is a real festival isn’t it? I can’t believe this is happening free in the middle of Didcot.” I must admit, my heart did a little skip of joy.

Cornerstone runs a free Beer and Music Festival every year. Free music, not free beer… It has grown enormously since its inception. Initially it was just beer and a couple of bands to showcase our free bar gigs. This year we have Oxford legends Dubwiser headlining on Friday, Glastonbury newcomers Flights of Helios on Saturday and about 20 acts playing over three days outside our arts centre in our own little concrete meadow.

It’s a huge amount of work. I don’t think people realise just how much detailed planning goes into a festival. Running the event is the easy part, it’s getting it all together beforehand that takes the time. I start programming the bands in before Christmas. You have to – there are so many festivals out there now that the artists get booked up really early on.

Programming is also a real juggling act. Even if you have a clear idea of what you want to do artistically, it all hinges on who is available, when and for how much. We are lucky that we can afford to programme great acts because we have wonderful sponsors in Church Robinson. Once that is in place, the rest of the team start working on the logistics soon after.

Why do we do it? We genuinely want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to see, hear and experience the arts. The festival brings so many people to Cornerstone that the team genuinely looks forward to it all year. Our hope is that we can introduce people to new music and give artists a platform to perform to new audiences. If people have a fabulous time then we have done our jobs well.

Cornerstone’s Seventh Annual Beer and Music Festival runs Friday, July 31, to Sunday, August 2.

See cornerstone-arts.org/whats/BMF15