Cornbury: the resurrection


Last year’s Cornbury Festival was ‘The Fabulous Finale’ and supposedly the last. It had been making a loss over the previous few years but there were so many messages of support and demands that it continued that the decision was made to hold it again this year. As Glastonbury is having a fallow year in 2018 we decided to go with a couple of friends. We were at the gate before it opened so got a good camping pitch not too far from the car park. The tents were soon up and after a meal, we set off to explore. The Campfire Sessions on Thursday evening allows six bands to compete for a place on one of the main stages next year. We watched the last two (this is Pacific).

Some of the stewards had interesting head-gear.

We also watched a great sunset and listened to the music coming from the Ceilidh Liberation Front. They are from London and I am not sure how Celtic they actually are, but many people enjoyed their attempts to get everyone in a dark, crowded tent, dancing. On Friday the Riverside Stage had 15 talented newcomers from Richer Unsigned, a non-profit organisation founded in 2014 by Julian Richer from Richer Sounds. There were a few problems with the amps and one performer was told not to touch the mike or they would be electrocuted. The MC introduced Little Triggers, a band from Liverpool saying that as they had all been drinking beer and were wearing black trousers, they had to be a rock band.

After Tamar and The Two Tone all Skas, it was time to eat and return to the main stage in the evening for Stereo MCs and UB40.


On Saturday we started at the Riverside Stage and treated ourselves to some Nyetimber English Sparkling wine on the top floor of a converted bus after Pixie Lott.

We had a good view of the main stage where Amy Macdonald was performing and also the back of the Hairy Bikers first restaurant where they were leaving food out for staff meals.


The festival attendees are 99% white and fairly middle class. There is a good selection of activities for children and quieter camping areas so many families do attend. The performers are more diverse.
Balloons started to drift across the sky from a balloon meet somewhere nearby.

We enjoyed Mavis Staples at the Songbird Stage

and returned to the main stage for Alanis Morrisette.

Sunday’s music began with the Mighty John Street Ska Orchestra and we divided up to see Catherine McGrath, a UK country music singer or Mari Wilson and the New Wilsations.

In the afternoon we had to take the tents down and get the car packed ready to depart that evening as our friends had to be back at work on Monday. We had never seen Deacon Blue live before.

Ricky Ross, one of the vocalists noted that Donald Trump was visiting Scotland on the day they were performing in England. He said that Trump was not visiting anyone (he refused to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon) but went just to play golf. Ricky told Trump to ‘Fuck off’. Before their final song (Destiny), Ricky told us that the band were meeting former First Lady Michelle Obama next week and he dedicated the song to her and her husband. We enjoyed Caro Emerald before driving home as the sun was going down.

Almost 24 hours in Manchester

Or just over 22 hours to be precise. Our train pulled into Piccadilly Station with enough time to settle into our hotel in Dale Street before sunset. The sun disappeared quickly behind the buildings and lights came on accompanied by the sound of distant fireworks.

This part of the city reminds me a little of the garment district in midtown Manhattan which we visited last year. There are even a couple of wholesale fashion houses in some of the side streets. One more recent addition is Chapter One at 19 Lever Street; an independent bookshop which opened in 2016. Their website notes that in 2013, over 1,000 bookshops in the UK closed down and from 2013 to 2015 not a single new UK bookshop opened. It is also a cafe, welcomes people who want to sit and work and has interesting decor. There are not a lot of books on display but they also sell online and host a weekly creative writing group.

The main reason for visiting Manchester was to see some live music recommended by friends we had made at Cornbury Festival in the summer. Rusty Shackle are a Welsh indie rock group who were performing at Gulliver’s pub on Oldham Street which regularly hosts live music. En route we had an early evening meal at Turtle Bay, a Caribbean restaurant near the venue.

We arrived at the pub before the venue door opened so had a beer downstairs in the bar. It had some interesting light fittings.

The venue upstairs appeared to have been made by combining three rooms with ceiling roses, chandeliers and painted a deep red colour. It chimed with Rusty Shackle who have standard lamps on stage and one by the mixing deck. The support act was a group from Colne called Folkestra who describe themselves as ‘a punk-driven rock-fuelled folk machine’. My musical preference was for Rusty Shackle who came on at 9.30pm. In addition to the usual guitars and drums, the bass guitarist also played a trumpet and one of the other guitarists did some percussion as well. Here they are setting up.

The next morning we headed wandered around the city centre doing a little Christmas shopping. The Christmas market stalls were under construction but it is likely to be after Christmas before we have another day in the city.

Sunshine and jazz in Edinburgh


This gull had found a quiet spot to enjoy the sun we have had for the last few days but many more people were sunbathing in the Meadows, St Andrews Square or Portobello Beach. School and university are out for summer and the tourist season is in full swing. We were here mainly to get some work done on the flat but managed to escape for dinner with some friends on Sunday evening and for a trip to the Jazz Club on Monday evening. The Jazz and Blues Festival runs from 14-23 July before the main Festival and Fringe start. The Jazz Club’s resident Big Band were participating on this occasion. An early evening meal at Biblos which is almost next door meant we were first in the queue when the doors opened. Seating is fairly restricted at the venue and I did not feel like standing for a couple of hours that evening. Biblos has live music sessions in the B Bar throughout the year in Fridays and Saturdays. Here is the Big Band getting ready to perform in the Jazz Bar.

One of the festival staff asked whether I had seen them before and I had to explain that until this summer I had a choir rehearsal on Monday evenings and until last summer had to be in Liverpool early on Tuesday morning so Monday evenings in Edinburgh were not possible. He said the band had played every Monday evening for the last 10 years. The Jazz bar also runs jam sessions in the later part of the evening during the festival. Musicians can just turn up with their instrument and tell the door staff they want to play. Admission is free. They often have music going on until 5am. We enjoyed the selection of music from the Big Band but left well before morning. I made a note to get on with learning to play the alto saxophone. Wednesday was still very warm although overcast and we had a fairly uneventful drive home.

Cornbury: the fabulous finale


The sun was setting on the Cornbury Festival last weekend for the last time because low numbers of people attending in previous years left the organiser seriously financially embarrassed. However, it may not be the end as rumours were circulating that it might reappear in a couple of years in a different venue. We were attending it this year as rugby in New Zealand won over Glastonbury and my friend suggested this as an alternative. The estate is not an ideal festival venue as it has numerous very large trees, one of which obscures the view of the main stage from one side of the audience area and there are no screens. It is however a small festival, other trees provide some shade in hot weather and it is easy to get around everything and move between stages. We arrived about an hour before the campsite opened so could park near it and find a good site for our tents.

After having our very civilised camping dinner of duck à l’orange cooked by my friend with aperitifs and wine followed by dessert we wandered off to the campsite stage to hear the Overtures, a tribute band who took us back to the 1960s for the rest of the evening. On Friday we explored the venue, relaxed in the hammocks before it got too busy (I managed to fall out and acquire some bruises) and sampled some of the music on that day. Here is Kansas Smitty’s House Band: a jazz ensemble.

That evening, my view of the Kaiser Chiefs was blocked by the afore-mentioned tree and also my view of Midge Ure the following day. The festival describes itself as a very English one and certainly over 90% of those attending were white, affluent, southern English. I did spot one saltire, one Welsh and one Swedish flag in the campsite and met some Liverpool FC supporters at one point but most of the voices I heard were southern English. There were ‘posh loos’ that you had to pay to use. There would not be any chanting of ‘Jeremy Corbin’ here. One of our friends thought they spotted Michael Gove but this was not confirmed and David Cameron has attended the festival in previous years. The friends also said that they tried to get into the Cafe Nero stage at one point but were prevented from going in as it was already full (before the arena was open) by people they presumed were VIPs. In addition to music, there was comedy (the best of which was Nish Kumar), activities for children, shopping and of course people-watching. There was an airfield not far away so we saw several small planes fly overhead and it was Bristol balloon festival on the same weekend so a number of hot air balloons also flew over us.

The weather was fabulous and we enjoyed a good variety of music before heading back home, wondering which festival to attend next year as Glastonbury is having a fallow year.

24 hours in Liverpool


For once, our journey to Liverpool was not for work but pleasure. James is a Bob Dylan fan and I had managed to get tickets for his Liverpool night in his current UK tour. We arrived in the morning as for some time I had wanted to visit the Anglican Cathedral with my 1927 guidebook. The Diocese of Liverpool was not founded until 1880 as previously it had been part of Lichfield and then Chester Dioceses. Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned to design the building at the age of 22 in 1902. By 1910 the Lady Chapel had been built and consecrated. Although work did not cease completely during the First World War, fund-raising had not been as successful as hoped and was limited to preventing what had already been built from deteriorating due to the weather. It was still under construction when my guidebook was published and it was not until 1942 that the central tower was completed and the first bells rang in 1951. We wandered around admiring the mix of the sacred with modern art. Here is the west window with a Tracey Emin installation below it.

Charles Lutyen’s Sculpture from wood ‘Outraged Christ’

The Lady Chapel is beautiful

and the Children’s Chapel has a Craigie Aitchison painting

Sadly no-one was playing the organ

You can climb to the top of the tower to see the view but I left that for another time. After a coffee in the mezzanine cafe we headed back down the hill past the entrance to China Town.

Along Bold Street I browsed in News from Nowhere, the radical bookshop but nothing grabbed me. I did find two books in Oxfam. The store had a re-vamp last year but still has a large shelf of newly arrived stock unlike any of their other stores that I have been in. Further down the hill, buskers were competing to see who could make the most noise. It was so sunny and warm we could not resist sitting outside with a cold beer for the first time this year before checking into our hotel. Before we could get into the arena, Simply Dylan, a tribute band were playing on the terrace at Jury’s Inn near the arena and quite a large crowd were listening. Nearby is the John Lennon memorial.
The Echo Arena does not allow photography so no photos of Bob in action. He is renowned for not having a support act, not interacting with the audience and just coming on and playing. A friend had said that he always starts on time so we were a little surprised that his start was delayed by people still coming in 15 minutes after the start time. The vast majority of people respected the no photography law with fewer phones flashing than at other events. Afterwards I only had my phone to get an evening shot as we headed back to the hotel.

New Year in Edinburgh

We saw the New Year in quietly at home as James had worked a 12 hour day and then driven up here on Thursday and we had been out celebrating his birthday with friends on the 30th. The 31st had dawned with high winds which were blowing down all the barriers being erected in the city centre for the Hogmanay celebrations that evening. It then rained for a few hours in the afternoon. I had been contemplating doing some firework photography from Blackford Hill as the weather did improve a little. However, I could see myself slipping in the mud with all my equipment in the dark and thought better of it. New Year’s Day began quietly as some of my neighbours are away and one is a taxi driver who had been working last night. After coffee with friends who popped in to deliver a Christmas present, we needed some exercise and headed up Blackford Hill. The dog-walkers, kite-flyers and some runners were all out and a few others who like me were hoping so see a good sunset. The darkest clouds were moving away to the southwest but the sun remained mostly hidden as it set.
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As we walked downhill towards the Observatory, I spotted this guy who was playing Auld Lang Syne on the top of one of the hillocks.
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Opening the door to history in Edinburgh

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Like Jim Perrin whose book I was reading on the train last night, I always enjoy finding new things or revisiting old favourites in familiar places. My first port of call this morning was the Assembly Rooms in George Street, the first Advent Door to be opened. I joined the 11am guided tour with a small crowd and heard about the various adaptations and renovations of the current building since it was opened in 1787, the most recent being completed in 2012. It replaced buildings in the old town which were described by Youngson in his book The Making of Classical Edinburgh as providing opportunities for ‘dancing. This – as a later age would have thought of it – unpresbyterian diversion was carried on in the form of public assemblies in the Old Assembly Room in the West Bow as early perhaps as 1710’. Here is an illustration of that building:
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That Assembly and its predecessor did not only provide entertainment for the upper classes but also raised funds for the support of the poor. After the last renovation, the building is now a venue for conferences, exhibitions and weddings. They are keen to advertise their green credentials but no mention of supporting the poor. It does have a fabulous ballroom:
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Here is one of the Coade Sybils in the Crush:
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and a chandelier in the later drawing room made from pressed rather than cut glass:
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The music room was lit in red for World Aids Day
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I ended the day at the Queen’s Hall enjoying the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s concert:

SIBELIUS 
Valse Triste
Scene with Cranes
MAXWELL DAVIES 
Strathclyde Concerto No 2
BARTOK 
Divertimento
MAXWELL DAVIES 
An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise – this last piece with the obligatory dram for the conductor, cheers from the orchestra and a finale with a piper.