When the line up for Cornbury Festival at Great Tew Park in Oxford was released back in March, tickets were hastily booked in the Maynes household within minutes of the announcement! For anyone that knows us, you will be well aware that me, my Mom and (very bizarrely for a 3 year old you may say!) Finley, has a small obsession with the band Squeeze! I had been previously to Cornbury back in 2012, long before Finley arrived, and had a fantastic time and knew how family friendly the festival was, so I was really excited to experience it with him in tow! And the fact that our all time favourites were there sealed the deal.
We purchased a day ticket for Sunday, (not quite graduated to festival camping yet!) where Squeeze were scheduled as the headline act. Tickets were £80 per adult and £15 per child. As well as Squeeze, Caro Emerald, Deacon Blue, Lissie and many more acts were on the bill. Also included was a comedy tent, a kids zone, retailers and a fair, plus much more.
We decided to book a hotel local to the festival as it would finish well after Finley’s normal bedtime. I didn’t fancy driving the hour back to Dudley and finally getting him and myself to bed well past midnight after such a long day! It also helped as we stopped there on the way to drop our luggage off, get refreshed and get a cold drink on the way to Great Tew. A great assistance on such a hot day! We chose Banbury House Hotel which was about 15 minutes away. A great little hotel with fantastic staff.
The festival experience didn’t start well. The parking signage was appalling. When it’s 35 degrees, you have an excited toddler in the car and you can’t find where you are supposed to be it’s really stressful. We were told by a steward to go to the orange car park (for which there were no signs) that was located down a road that had ‘no festival access’ clearly signposted at the entrance. Luckily after about 15 minutes of driving around country lanes another steward felt sorry for me I think and let me park in one of the other car parks. When we got out of the car, again there were no signs to direct people to the correct entrance. We guessed a direction and got it wrong meaning we had to walk all the way back the path we had just walked up. When you have a small child in tow this is not an easy task!
We finally got into the park and I am happy that the day did get better! First stop was the fair. The rides were an extra charge but I think this is standard based on other events I have been to. Finley enjoyed the tea cups, the bouncy castle, the heater skelter (I had to go on with him – and got stuck half way down which was very amusing to him!)
We were getting hungry but this point so we headed over to the food area. There was a huge amount of food on offer. Fish and chips, pizza, curry, tea and cake. Finley and Nanny shared a portion of fish and chips and I opted for the falafel and hummus wrap. Again, as expected, the food was a little expensive. £7.50 for the fish and chips and £7.50 for the wrap. But it was delicious. Later in the day we had a stonebaked pizza from another stall (£6) which was very tasty.
I really wanted to embrace the whole festival experience and get my face glittered! Finley also wanted his face painted, so we found a stall that could decorate us both. I had a decoration of glitter on one eye and Finley wanted a glittery tiger effect. For the both of us it was £15. I guess you could say it’s good value – I am still trying to get the glitter and paint off his face 4 days later!
Next we decided to visit the kids area where we were just in time for a very interactive performance of Robin Hood in the show tent. It was brilliant! It lasted an hour but Finley really got into it – clapping, shouting and singing. Not only were kids invited up to take part, but Mom’s and Dad’s too! It was really fun and nice to get some shade.
We caught the end of the Deacon Blue set, and being a kid of the 80’s I absolutely loved hearing their hits again. Me and Finley had a fantastic dance to ‘Real Gone Kid’ – one to get on You Tube for him now we are home.
So this leads to the absolute highlight of the day… the weekend… the year! As previously mentioned, my little boy is Squeeze obsessed. He watches them on You Tube, knows the songs, the albums, their names. If he could go on Mastermind, I am not exaggerating when I say he would ace them as a subject. We spotted in the crowd the keyboard player from the band Stephen Large and ex bass player and his wife Lucy Shaw. Mama bear instinct took over I think as I had to grasp the opportunity to speak to them for Finley – I can’t imagine how annoying it probably is if you are well known having people bug you all the time, but I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t at least asked them to say hello to him! So I went bounding over like a crazy person confessing our love and absolute respect for them and the band. I have no idea what I actually said! Stephen had to go and play for Caro Emerald who he also plays keyboard for, but Lucy sat and chatted to us for ages! Finley played with their children – it was all very unexpected. I am still a little starstruck and gobsmacked by the whole thing – but so grateful for her kindness and talking the time to speak to us. She was totally lovely.
Still reeling from my celebrity encounter, we decided to go and camp at the front of the stage so we could get prime position. I had borrowed from a friend a Connecta carrier which was a godsend by this point. Finley was getting tired and I really wanted him to be able to see the stage. I can’t carry him very well now he is so big and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold him up for the hour and a half set.
The moment I was most looking forward to was seeing Finley’s face when Squeeze came on. He spends so much time watching them on screen, I didn’t know if he actually understood that he would be really seeing them in the flesh! When they walked on stage he was mesmerised. He studied them all then started singing along and playing the pretend drums just like he does at home! It was really magical and an experience I will never forget. I think those around him found the toddler that knew all the words to this 80’s group very amusing!
It was great seeing them live again. Including the classics such as ‘Up The Junction,’ ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ and Finley’s favourite ‘Cool For Cats’ as well as including new material such as ‘Rough Ride’ and ‘Cradle To The Grave’ (another favourite- he even has a ukulele because of this song- I could have watched them for hours. Unfortunately as with most things with a toddler in tow it didn’t quite go to plan and towards the end of the set nature called urgently for Mr F so we had to make a quick escape. However, Me and Mom go and see them every time they are in Birmingham and I’m so excited now for next year when they will hopefully tour again.
Back to the hotel we headed. Finley was asleep in 5 minutes, covered in glitter and sweat. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone you love fall in love with the music that you love. I hope that his first experience of live music is his first of many. Next year I would love to experience it with camping over the 3 days. I want to fully embrace the whole festival experience in all its glory! Already looking forward to it!