A HEADY cocktail of big name chefs, chart-topping pop and rock stars, partying celebrities and up to 20,000 fun-loving revellers congregated at Blur bassist Alex James’s farm for the summer’s tastiest music festival.

The Big Feastival, held on the August Bank Holiday weekend at Kingham near Chipping Norton, was the last large scale music festival of the summer. And the 12th instalment of the celebration of music and food was hailed as one of its best ever – delivering on its promise of culinary delights and family-friendly fun.

It saw headline sets from Sigrid, Tom Grennan and Blossoms with glittering support from The Vaccines, Example and national treasures Rick Astley and Spice Girl Mel C.

The crowd were kept on their feet with DJ sets from dance acts Hot Chip and Faithless, and tunes played by a clutch of celebrities including host Alex James and comedian Simon Pegg.

Other famous faces gracing the site included Actor James Buckley, who plays Jay from hit comedy The Inbetweeners; This Morning’s Josie Gibson; television and radio presenter couple Tess Daly and Vernon Kay; Strictly Come Dancing’s Oti Mabuse; and Love Island and Celebrity Juice presenter Laura Whitmore - who acted as compere.

Oxford Mail: Spice Girl Mel C delights the crowd at The Big Feastival. Picture by Danny Hughes

Mel C on stage. Picture by Danny Hughes

Another familiar face was that of Clarkson’s Farm star Kaleb Cooper from nearby Diddly Squat Farm. The cheerful Chipping Norton agriculturalist delighted fans by posing for photographs, between (possibly) discussing farming techniques with Alex James.

Actor Shaun Williamson – Barry from Eastenders – kept the crowd smiling with a ‘Barrioke’ session in the Big Top on the Friday. Serenading the crowd with his own inimitable versions of songs including ‘Living on a Payer’ and ‘Chelsea Dagger’, the soap star jokingly revealed the true cause of him being written out of the popular BBC1 show… was he pushed or did he fall?

“The writers had planned my character to have a love affair with Pat Butcher, so I jumped!” he quipped to much laughter from the assembled throng.

This same evening was graced by South African singer Fairy Queen who was, according to audience members – including an enthusiastic Paul from Somerset – “absolutely brilliant”.

Oxford Mail: The Big Feastival. Picture by Danny Hughes

Helter Skelter. Picture by Aliya Orlova

Jake Shears’ mix of old Scissor Sisters and new songs was also superb, while Example, never lacking in confidence, mashed up Queen’s We Will Rock You with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. His set was undeniably crowd pleasing.

The Queen classic was also revived on Sunday – that time by Rick Astley’s band.

Rock star farmer, cheesemaker and festival host Alex James provided sounds at his Britpop Bar and Cheese Hub– and appeared to be enjoying the weekend on and off-stage.

Festival goers lapped up his cheese, cider, ‘60 second steak’ and Britpop sparkling wine – giving the celeb farmer every reason to be pleased.

The Feastival followed his 120,000 strong crowd at Blur’s recent Wembley shows.

Oxford Mail: Rick Astley at The Big Feastival at Alex James's farm, Kingham. Picture by Danny Hughes

Rick Astley. Picture by Danny Hughes

Dance ace Oti Mabuse introduced the wonderful Vaccines as darkness descended on a grey Friday.

Their songs ‘Wrecking Bar’ and ‘Handsome’ got the crowd bopping, and as the rain started to fall somewhat ironically, singer Justin began singing the album favourite “…put your Wet Suit on, come on, come on!”

Festival goer Jamie, fresh from Wilderness Festival at nearby Charlbury, concurred that The Big Feastival event was “definitely the one to bring your kids to”.

There was a merry-go-round, ferris wheel, helter skelter and a teenagers’ ‘First Lines’ quiz – in which a nine year-old girl from the audience sang an impromptu ‘Frozen’... before ‘dropping the mic’ at the end with true star attitude.

Oxford Mail: Aliya Orlova at The Big Feastival at Alex James's farm, Kingham. Picture by Danny Hughes

Photographer Aliya Orlova mixes with the celebrities at The Big Feastival at Alex James's farm. Picture by Danny Hughes

The evening wrapped up with an energetic set from Scandinavian songstress Sigrid.

The Saturday’s early risers were catered for in the sun by an M&S stall. Though the true food events could be found at The Firepit, where top chef Simon Stallard demonstrated how to baste a charcoal-fired beef shank by brushing lemon oil using an ad hoc herb ‘brush’ – and the correct way to place coals into the wind.

With the accompaniment of nearby Sundown Saloon’s brass band playing Blur classic ‘Girls and Boys’, everyone was in a happy mood until the weather changed as predicted from sun to hail!

Oxford Mail: Rick Astley at The Big Feastival at Alex James's farm, Kingham. Picture by Danny Hughes

Watching Rick Astley roll. Picture by Danny Hughes

This prompted the man known only as ‘Choppy’ (of DJ Barbecue fame and a perennial star of The Big Feastival ) to start yet another singalong of ‘Frozen’ songs.

As the song goes: “Let the storm rage on... the cold never bothered me anyway.”


Alex’s DJ Q&A at his cheese hub revealed the new found love for his band.

He admitted: “It took us all by surprise and exceeded all expectations”.

A true gentleman of the burgeoning Cotswold party scene, his Britpop culinary venture saw the crowd definitely ‘sorted for cheese and fizz’.

Oxford Mail: The Big Feastival. Picture by Danny Hughes

The Big Feastival at Alex James's farm. Picture by Danny Hughes

Simon Pegg later took over the decks, revealing another string to his bow fresh from his Star Trek and Mission Impossible roles.

As the sun finally came out for Sunday’s climax, Rick Astley enjoyed his new found audience of teenagers and ‘middle-youthers’ alike. He must have been having fun as he scrapped the set list and performed songs at will.

His anthem ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ bookended a polished set.

“If you’ll have us back then we’ll come back,” he crooned in true soul style.

We knew he was off for some blue cheese and a nice Chardonnay…having over-shared the fact with the crowd earlier in his warm and gregarious banter.

Oxford Mail: The Big Feastival at Alex James's farm, Kingham. Picture by Danny Hughes

Cooking lesson. Picture by Danny Hughes

Drink flowed aplenty with the Cotswold Distillery, Sipsmith, M&S and Doombar keeping partakers well served.

Stockport’s finest, Blossoms, took to the stage to close the event. Back from a day out in Oxford – where they tried their hand at punting and visiting local institutions Browns Café and the Randolph Hotel’s Morse Bar – the band were on top form.

They served up all their hits, including ‘Your Girlfriend’, ‘The Keeper’, ‘I Can’t Stand It’, ‘There’s a Reason Why’ and ‘Charlemagne’.

Oxford Mail: The Big Feastival at Alex James's farm, Kingham. Picture by Danny Hughes

Pigs visited from Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park. Picture by Aliya Orlova

Looking sleek in black, singer Tom pulled shapes and had the girls whooping while the band segued effortlessly between songs with some very creative sections and ensured that the crowd left for their cars, tents or trains with smiles on their faces.

A stellar weekend, The Big Feastival 2023 will be remembered for a long time to come.

Words by Drew Atkins