Cornbury Festival

Review: Cornbury Festival The Big Finale brought sunshine, happiness, laughter, tears and of course, Country Music

It was a weekend of mixed emotions for me as I entered through the wonderfully designed archway of Cornbury Festival. I almost wanted to cry right away as I knew that this would be the last time I would ever do this. It’s not as if I am even a regular to Cornbury, I had only been once before but that’s the kind of impact Cornbury Festival has on you. I took my son for the first time and sadly the last, he is only 18 months and I had dreams of bringing him here every year, especially with the kids camping area (families not kids running riot unsupervised) and the kids activities.

Cornbury has always been very kind to country music, it has always supported it strongly, especially the UK acts. Over the years we have seen The Shires, Striking Matches, Ward Thomas, Jess and The Bandits, Raintown amongst others and thankfully, Cornbury ensured we had country for the finale with the return of Ward Thomas and artists such as Laura Oakes, The Wandering Hearts, Callaghan and Twinnie.

As someone who has been to a lot of festivals, I have never felt so comfortable as I did at Cornbury. My heart was breaking but I was going to enjoy this weekend as much as I could and walk away with some of the best memories I will ever have, especially seeing as this was not just my sons first Cornbury, but his first ever music festival.

It was a hot day, really hot, a little too hot for my son which made me worry but when I saw the amount of parents who had kids with them around the same age I felt a bit better.

The day was merry and bright, in so many ways, not just from the sun. Everywhere there were bright colours, some on flags, some on people, hot air balloons, stalls, everywhere.There was so much to look at, street performers, Morris dancers, people in costumes, people dancing, groups of children playing, happy families and friends laughing and so much more, everywhere you looked there was something going on. Cornbury is old fashioned in a way, which I love, it is very traditional and has the best atmosphere of any festival.

It was only 12.30pm on the Friday and the atmosphere was already booming with everyone looking so happy, so relaxed and just so content. The way Cornbury is run is so perfect – it’s clean, safe, friendly and very homely. I was pushing a very large and heavy buggy but it didn’t stop me having fun. We arrived just in time for UK Country star Laura Oakes to hit The Pleasant Valley stage. I had been looking forward to seeing Laura for a while as shamefully had not seen her yet.

Laura appeared on stage out of nowhere and was dressed in a lovely black outfit which is hard to describe but Laura always dresses wonderfully and rather loud but in a great ‘gets your attention and looks stunning’ kind of way. Laura has a stunning voice and it makes me wonder why she isn’t more successful but with Country Music going on the rise in the UK especially with artists such as The Shires and Ward Thomas, I have no doubt in my mind that Laura’s time is yet to come, she certainly has a large following within in the UK country music fan base. Laura played a wonderful and highly entertaining set with many songs new to me as well as her singles Snakes and Ladders and Dreamin’.

I heard a couple behind me say “Wow, she was good” so it’s fair to say that Laura gave a good impression and I also realised that she was my son’s first ever gig.

After having a spot of lunch, a burger in fact from one of the stalls who made a lovely ruby burger? Anyway, it was good quality and hit the spot. We then ventured to the river stage for Callaghan only to discover that the schedules had changed and she went on early so we sadly caught only one song. It was a shame as I keep missing her wherever she plays, perhaps it is not meant to be. I will see her properly one day.

Having another wander, we took a look at the kids area which was full of fun activities such as clay making, face painting, giant Jenga, arts and crafts and story time. If James were a little older he may have participated but it was certainly a god send for parents with older children and kept them entertained for hours. For even older children and teenagers there was a fairground with all the rides you would often see such as The Waltzers and a traditional helter skelter. As well as rides there were games and prize driven games. On the Saturday we also caught a dog show which was so adorable and a must for any dog lovers.

What was also tempting was the giant hammocks that people were snoozing in, they looked very comfortable.

There was a lot of free sampling with drinks scattered around the festival which was very welcome indeed as were very parched.

Saturday was the better day for me.  Arriving early I had a spot of breakfast courtesty of Dorset Cereal. Now if you haven’t ever seen Dorset Cereal, look out for it as their packaging is very eye catching.  Of course, looks can be deceiving but the taste did not disappoint. I am a very fussy breakfast eater but Dorset Cereals mixed with natural youghurt is just yum yum yum. I sampled the luscious berry and cherry muesli mixed with choc cherry granola, well this started a craving and I went to my local supermarket and bought some as soon as I got home. Dorset Cereals were readily available at Cornbury Festival and have and will be at various other family festivals. Campsite festival goers were lucky indeed as Dorset Cereals hosted a campsite takeover and brought them a wonderfully yummy breakfast experience.  There was also a Dorset Cereals marquee which was full of packs of the product, bowls and cutlery for consumers to help themselves to a delicious breakfast.

As it is a family festival, Dorset Cereals didn’t stop there as they also provided family entertainment activities including acoustic music sessions, yoga classes and plenty of other festival fun.

I was fully fed and happy to kickstart the day.

Still hot but giving my son a break at home with his dad, my friend and I started the music part of the day with one of my current favourite artists The Wandering Hearts.

It felt almost criminal that The Wandering Hearts were first on stage, but seeing as they only have one song out at the moment, I guess it makes sense. In a way it was a good thing though, as they got to get the festival crowd off to a good start and in my opinion, challenge any act to top them.

You would think that this vocal group had been together for years but they have only known each other less than two years and are now signed to Decca.

As often is the case, the crowd was quite small before they came on stage, they were the opener so people were still arriving but as the minutes went on, more and more people arrived and by the time they entered the stage, it became more crowded.

Walking on stage looking the picture perfect Country/Folk group, The Wandering Hearts went straight into singing their current and debut single I Wish I Could. This is such a great song, if you haven’t heard it yet, then what are you waiting for? AJ kicked off the song vocally before being joined by the others but it is always Tara’s solo that completely captivates me. Her vocals are delicate and beautiful and she really takes the already brilliant song up a level.

The four band members are instantly likeable. Their personalities shine on stage and their voices blend beautifully together, creating the perfect harmonies that are incredibly infectious. The Wandering Hearts are going places, this group are just insane and every song they sing is wonderfully exciting and so well written. Biting Through The Wires is a favourite of mine as well as soon to be a single Devil. The Wandering Hearts pull in elements of artists such as Fleetwood Mac and Little Big Town but are more suited to the folk genre than country. They really are quite something and my most welcome discovery back in January. I could honestly watch this group all day. Most of the audience seemed to be unaware of them but more than happy with their choice to catch them first before doing anything else or seeing someone else. I can’t wait for an album, it is so far my most eagerly awaited album to purchase so I hope I get it soon.

We managed to catch a bit of Jazz artist Max Jury who played mostly piano driven music which was pretty and he was charming and entertaining and comedic in places especially when he described one of his dates with a lovely girl who wore floral sundresses which ended with him checking out her insta only to discover she was a satanist. I have to give a special mention to his backing singer who had a phenomenal voice and was truly remarkable.Next up was Twinnie, an up and coming UK country singer/songwriter. Now I see a lot of live music so it gets to a point at times when live shows get put to the back of my mind or some shows are just OK. As a fan, I was expecting her to be good but my goodness, I wasn’t expecting her to be THAT good. To say that I was blown away is an understatement. My friend and I were in awe. My friend, completely unfamiliar with Twinnie was amazed and I continued to be blown away as her set went on.

Twinnie performed on the Saturday of Cornbury on the Cafe Nero stage. Set out like a coffee house but in a tent, well Marquee, my friend and I grabbed the front couch. Frappe’s, soft couch, music, we wanted to stay there forever.

Twinnie made the audience laugh before she even began. Twinnie is fairly tall so when the rather short announcer took to the microphone to introduce her, she joked “You want me to lower it?”.

She began her set with her single Home which was released last year. I should quickly mention that half her band were new I believe and had not had a chance to rehearse. You wouldn’t have known though. Home was spectacular live, the song is a great pop country track with easy to sing a long to lyrics which makes it really a joy live. Home has a slight folk edge to it too and was a wise choice to begin the set as it drew more people into the tent and made everyone already there stay put. Everyone quickly realised going to see her was a great decision and for me in particular, it was worth missing Ward Thomas on the main stage for.

Twinnie continued to impress with new songs I had not heard before which were all really well written and melodic and I am hoping they will be released officially. Her performance oozed with confidence and she amused the crowd between songs with her wit, her infectious northern accent and overall charm. One of my favourite tracks of Twinnie’s is Looking Out For You who she wrote for her granddad. I love this song, it is by far one of her best and a track she should be very proud of. The lyrics are very warming and homely and it has a lovely crowd participating part in it. This song live did not disappoint and I was so happy that she played it.

The ‘wow’ song for me though, the one where Twinnie really showcased her vocals and left everyone stunned was her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark. I honestly didn’t know she could sing like that. It was this particular moment that made me think, why is she not more known? How is she not one of the leading UK country artists? Why do so little in the country fan community know her name? Well THIS will undoubtedly change. Twinnie proved she has the ability to truly be a great success and I could not be more excited to watch her career grow.

Twinnie ended her set with her debut single Cool. When she finished her set the crowd were vocal about wanting her to continue so she treated us with her beautiful ballad Lie To Me which is vocally challenging and showed off Twinnie’s range.

Again, what a show, a truly superb performance which left the crowd mesmerised. It was better than I could have imagined. Twinnie is a born performer and I honestly feel like it was a treat, I felt so lucky to have been there and in such an intimate setting too. Out of the entire weekend, Twinnie’s set was the one I went away remembering the most, the one that I can’t stop talking about.

Bryan Adams himself was discreetly in the crowd and was so taken and so impressed that he invited her on stage to join him for a song as part of his Cornbury headling set that evening. Now to perform with the likes of Bryan Adams is the dream of many world stars let alone a new artist. When Bryan announced her, it was almost emotional, I felt very proud of her and she certainly caught the attention of a very large crowd. Twinnie is making her mark for sure and if she is good enough for Bryan, then she should certainly be good enough for a long, successful career. I can’t wait to be part of the journey as a fan and hope you do too.

Another big surprise for me was Tom Chaplin, formerly the lead singer of Keane. Firstly, he looked so different and has certainly cleaned up his act since his drug days. Tom came on stage as if he was home. Not a stranger to Cornbury, Tom expressed his gratitude for the festival and sadness for it ending. Tom sang from his solo material as well as his Keane days. It’s funny how many Keane songs I actually knew but didn’t realise I knew till he performed them. Tom has the voice of perfection. It is so, how can I describe it? Simply stunning, beautiful, chilling in a good way. As someone who never really paid much attention to Keane this performance really blew me away and I am so glad I had the opportunity to see him live. The atmosphere was so nice and felt very family oriented as everyone was respectful of their neighbour and everyone sang along to the big songs such as Somewhere Only We Know and Everybody’s Changing.

Of course, everyone was there for Bryan Adams. I was super excited. Bryan Adams isn’t someone I would necessarily choose to see live and won’t pretend that I am a massive fan but my goodness he was good. I loved every minute of it, he sang all the big hits such as Run To You, which was SO much fun as a crowd sing along and he sang Summer of 69’ and quite early on too. Heaven was one of most beautiful moments of the evening but the passion, the air grabbing, the chanting moment was Everything I Do, I Do It For You. Everyone knows the words to that song and I don’t think I have had that much fun during a show in such a long time.

As I mentioned above Bryan brought out Twinnie which was a wonderful moment. Other hits he performed were songs such as When You’re Gone minus Mel C, Please Forgive Me, Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman and All For One. As someone who only knows his big hits, his set list seemed highly impressive and undoubtedly pleased his hardcore fans to the max. Bryan’s set was electric, atmospheric, exciting, energetic, emotional and just bloody brilliant.

Sunday felt slightly more sad but in a good way, just sad that it was the finale of the finale. Everyone was having such a good time. Midge Ure were one of the highlights especially with playing an acoustic version of Vienna. Imelda May showcased her more emotional side with her new sound, leaving the rockabilly behind and wowed her audience with a side to her we weren’t used to.

Sadly I left early but my heart sank and a lump in my throat developed when I saw the main stage (Pleasant Valley Stage) end its moment with a That’s All Folks! safety curtain and fireworks. I can only imagine how it would have felt to be there and I regret that I wasn’t.

I am so heartbroken, Cornbury is the nicest, most heartfelt, comforting and welcoming festival that I have ever been to and I shall miss it dearly. Where will I go now? At least it went out with one hell of a bang, a darn good line up, an atmosphere that was out of this world and a festival full of heart and peace.

Farewell Cornbury, thank you for the festivities, the love, the joy, the music and thank you for some of the best festival toilets around.

That’s All Folks!

Review by Hannah Compton

Official Cornbury photos by Ben Phillips.

Twinnie photos by Hannah Compton


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