Set among beautiful countryside in a way that feels simultaneously spacious and like a collective experience, Cornbury Festival is a well-curated weekend of, quite simply, great music. Compared to similar festivals, the extra-curricular elements are somewhat pared down to allow the top quality line-ups to shine fully.
I was lucky enough to chat to some of the stars, and both Trevor Horn and K T Tunstall agreed that what attracts them to events like this is the family-friendly nature that elevates the weekend to a real holiday. What struck me about the well-chosen acts is that even those that are very famous gave a sense of being pleased to be there, which came through in their live performances too. Anthropologists have often likened collective listening to music to religious experiences: a large group of people coming together and sharing a connection to the music and each other. Without wanting to sound like too much of a hippie, I certainly found myself enjoying moments of near religious bliss as I swayed along to tunes I know really well, in a sea of thousands of others. It comes as no surprise, then, that Cornbury-goers have a reputation for generosity: you really can't help but feel inspired to kindness after such a positive experience.
I was initially sceptical to learn that Keane were headlining the Saturday as their biggest hits are not the most upbeat, but they are the kind of band where the casual listener will find they know more of their songs than they'd realise, and I soon learned that no matter the pace of the song, hits that everyone knows will always work well for people who are there to tipsily sing along. Another inspired choice was the Trevor Horn Band, the scope of their repertoire ensuring that everyone from the youngest to the eldest would enjoy familiarity. My highlight, though, was K T Tunstall, whose appearance had the feeling of a fully-fledged show in itself, complete with jazzily-adorned backing dancers and held together with a sense of fun, humour and camaraderie.
Undeniably, Cornbury isn't a cheap experience, but the quality of acts makes it great value: you could see an entire year's worth of gigs from huge acts, alongside discovering up-and-coming stars before all your friends, distilled into one memorable weekend.