FOR almost two decades Cornbury Festival has brought some of the world’s biggest stars to the Oxfordshire countryside. But last night the lights went down on its stages for the very last time.

Up to 20,000 people enjoyed spectacular weather and a strong line-up of pop, rock, soul and acoustic artists at the final instalment of the three-day feast of music at Great Tew, near Chipping Norton.

The event came to an emotional close, last night with an extended set by Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra followed by fireworks and the playing of The Walker Brothers' melancholic No Regrets.

The closing set began with a speech from the stage by festival director Hugh Phillimore, who thanked Cornbury fans for their support while assuring them it was, sadly, the finale.

Oxford Mail:

Fireworks close Cornbury Festival. All pictures by Tim Hughes

Highlights of the weekend included headline sets by James Blunt and Bryan Adams and last night’s show by Boyzone star Ronan Keating. There were stand-out shows by exuberant rockers The Darkness and folk-rockers The Waterboys.

Oxford Mail: Justin Hawkins of The Darkness gets emotional

Justin Hawkins of The Darkness gets emotional

There was a strong line-up of Oxfordshire bands on the festival’s Riverside Stage – organised by the team behind Charlbury’s free Riverside Festival. Oxford DJ Count Skylarkin’ kept punters dancing at his Disco Shed – a garden shed kitted out with record decks and speakers – and at late night sessions in the Campsite Bar.

Over the past 17 years, Cornbury has been a highpoint of the festival calendar, attracting the likes of Paul Simon, Amy Winehouse, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Tom Jones and The Beach Boys. But the event has reached the end of the road – a result of financial pressures and the loss of its site at Great Tew Park.

Oxford Mail: Cornbury Festival, 2022. Picture by Tim Hughes

James Blunt topped the bill on Friday. Picture by Tim Hughes

Mr Phillimore, who has organised the event since its launch at its former home of Charlbury's Cornbury Park from which it takes its name, said it had been a fun, if emotional, weekend. He said yesterday: “It is a strange feeling to be doing this for the last time, but the sun is shining, and the music has been great so I can’t complain.”

Despite its continually strong line-up, the festival has repeatedly made a loss. Mr Phillimore had previously tried to wind up the festival in 2017 but brought it back a year later following pressure from backers and supporters. However, with the lease up on the site, he insisted this was the right time to quit.

Oxford Mail: The Riverside Stage hosted largely local bands

The Riverside Stage hosted largely local bands. Picture by Tim Hughes

He said: “We have a special team in a special place, but I think it’s time to call it a day. They don’t really want us here any more. It is also a headache to balance the books. While everyone here enjoys it, it’s me who has to go and talk to the bank manager the next day!

“We have had some amazing times but I need to calm down and stop.”

Oxford Mail: Big smile for the Disco Shed, hosted by John Dash and Count Skylarkin’

Big smiles at the Disco Shed - with John Dash and DJ Count Skylarkin

Mr Phillimore signed off by thanking the crowd and paying tribute to his team, while insisting it really was the last Cornbury Festival.

However, band leader Jools Holland cast doubt on the event's demise, saying: "Last time we played here, four years ago, Hugh made the same speech."

He later added: "It's the last festival and there won't be another one ever... until perhaps next year!"

Also hoping for the festival's survival was Garry Christian, frontman of Liverpool soul-pop band The Christians.

He said: "It's the last one? It can't be! I'll even put my own money into it to make sure it's not the last one."

Music lover Luke Hartigan from Kennington praised the organisation of the festival and was particularly impressed by the bands on the Riverside Stage. He said: “It was an absolutely brilliant festival. The weather was amazing and there was some very good music too. There was something there for everyone.

“I can’t believe it has come to an end. We are all going to miss it. Summers just won’t be the same.”



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