Last year Cornbury bowed out in style, the family-friendly festival going off with a bang, with Bryan Adams topping the bill – a 20 year mission for organiser and live music producer Hugh Phillimore. Like all good musical legends, a farewell doesn’t necessarily mean the end, and due to popular demand Cornbury is back this year with a line up that doesn’t disappoint. We had a chat with Hugh about what to expect from what’s probably not going to be the last Cornbury…

You’ve got Alanis Morisette headlining this year, and as a UK exclusive!

When you’re booking festivals you’re often up against how many other things the acts are doing – with Alanis she’s just doing 2 dates at Hammersmith and us, which is amazing. There are so many festivals, you have to have a unique selling point in some way. Cornbury’s quite different; it’s very uncool, it’s quite mainstream, and it’s safe and it’s all sorts of things. But I love music, it’s been the centre of my life since I’ve been able to walk really, so for me it’s very important to look at all the different elements and put together that thing that people say you can’t have: Something for everybody.

It might be all of those things but it’s also very popular – last year was supposed to be the last.

We shouldn’t have had this year at all. The fact that it was demanded… It’s a strange business, I was kind of pleased that it was over, I was relieved and everything else and then I was overwhelmed with people going, ‘you can’t stop, it’s extremely important to us’ and this, that and the other. So I put my head on the block again.

Will you be making any statements this year about it being the last one?

I hope not, no! I’d just like to get to the Monday. It’s always a question of getting to Monday – on this occasion Monday 16th July is a big day.

You’ve received a lot of praise from the press for championing female acts, when others aren’t. There are even some line-ups without any women on certain days.

I find it all a bit odd really – there’s just so much out there. One of the reasons I’m pleased to be back is it gives me another chance to book great acts – female or otherwise really. I think the best thing about festivals is seeing something you don’t know. My training ground was doing the Oxford and Cambridge college balls, and I got to know Cambridge City Council quite well, because they were trying to shut us down for making too much noise, and they said ‘come to Cambridge Folk Festival’, and I insulted them by saying, ‘I’m not old enough’, and they went ‘Shove it you jumped up little shit’. I went to the festival 25 years ago, and it was the bands on the 2nd and 3rd stage that I fell in love with. It’s discovery – with festivals there’s got to be discovery. Of course it’ll be amazing to see Alanis – I did a show with her about the time she broke, it was a festival in Belgium I was booking – and she goes into this sort of trance and it was fantastic. And obviously it’s great for people to see her – she hasn’t done a UK festival forever and ever and ever – then also to see something weird and wonderful on the 2nd stage or 3rd stage or 4th stage.

There’s no Glastonbury this year, so why should someone who usually head there go to Cornbury?

It’s the other end of the spectrum. Glasto is this huge, monumental thing and Cornbury is this village fete with a rock ’n’ roll twist. A farmers’ market with a dancefloor. It is sweet and it’s a starter festvial, it’s very calm. The priority is music and great food and some great kids entertainment. It’s small and it’s safe. Maybe it’s a bit twee – but great; I love the fact that at Cornbury cash is handed in at lost property. That makes me laugh.

It’s a farmers’ market with a dancefloor… And it just so happens to have world renowned acts playing as well.

I like that. And at Cornbury, if you say ‘excuse me’ enough times you can walk right to the front of the stage!


To find out more about Cornbury, and to book your tickets, head here.

Make sure you’re following TRASH for an upcoming feature on women at festivals, featuring Hugh as well as Bestival’s Rob Da Bank and the girls from Get In Her Ears.

Cover Photo: Ben Philips 

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