A load of Cock & Bull: the West’s truly alternative festival

Cock & Bull Festival DJs work their magic

Live(stock) and direct: the farm-based Cock & Bull Festival in 2015

So your mobile phone ran out of battery when you were trying to book tickets through the Glastonbury hotline and SXSW is a little too south by south-west for your building-society account to cope with. But ask yourself what you’re really missing. Are you desperate to listen to the foul-mouthed Adele jabbering to 100,000 revellers in an accent not heard in London since the doodlebugs were dropping? As for SXSW, it was in March – it’s gone, you’re too late.

There are still festival options if you’re willing to act quickly and not muck about. British Ideas Corporation heard great things about the 500-capacity Cock & Bull Festival in Bath last year, mostly from South-east-based DJs who had played sets on-site and convinced us that these more intimate gatherings were the future of UK summer fun, especially for people of more advancing years – whatever that meant. Some of this year’s acts are even appearing at major UK festivals, so here’s your chance to catch them close up. Like Glastonbury, the Cock & Bull is on a farm and also assisting a charitable cause – and we’re told the beer will be “normally priced”. We chat with Henry Trew, Cock & Bull’s event organiser, to find out more.

British Ideas Corporation: In a crowded UK festival scene, what’s different about the Cock & Bull weekend?
Henry Trew: Well, we’re tiny – we sell just 500 tickets. The big difference is that we are run by, and for, youth charity Jamie’s Farm, which works to re-engage young people in education through residential stays on its farm. This gives the whole festival a special spirit. Every penny you spend at the bar – it’s £3 a pint – and money spent on food, goes straight to the charity. The site is small, so you’ll bump into people over and over and you won’t get lost. We don’t advertise, we rely on word of mouth. And we have a killer line-up.

Why did the Cock & Bull start and how long has it been going for?
This’ll be the sixth year. Last year, we managed to raise £30,000 for the charity. Over the years we’ve made over £100,000. I’m an old friend of Jamie, who set up the charity, and we wanted to have a go at throwing a party. We’d grown bored of going to larger festivals and thought we could do better.

Could you tell us about the work of Jamie’s Farm?
It’s a mixture of farming, family and therapy. Groups of young people stay on the farm with their teachers and for many of them, it’s their first time away from home and their first visit to a farm. They go on a big journey over the course of those five days. The easiest thing is to get your readers to watch our video.

Are bands and performers local?
A number of acts are from the Bath and Bristol area, and many are from London. This year we have Sheelanagig, who are local festival favourites. But Broken Brass Ensemble are from Holland and Kasai Masai come all the way from Congo via Hackney. 47Soul are a special group, all the way from Palestine. They play Arabic folk music mixed with electronic funk and are not to be missed.

Do you pay performers – for example, is your Saturday headliner looking at a six-figure sum to appear?
We rely on artists’ generosity to play at cost because they believe in what we’re doing. They share their backstage area with three chickens and a friendly pet goat called Flo. They love it!

What’s the camping and toilet situation, and is there a glamping option for the London media set?
Everyone camps together. It’s a small site so no big treks and tantrums. We have five-star compost toilets, which we guarantee will be the best festival loo experience you ever have.

Is there a food element to the festival and if so, what can we look forward to?
All the food is home cooked on-site by the Jamie’s Farm head chef. We have the finest burgers, as you’d expect being in the middle of a working farm. We have a clay pizza oven, a big deli with a wide range of Ottolenghi-style salads and bacon sarnies and proper coffee for your hangovers.

What happens when it rains?
The festival is set in the middle of a working farm, which means we have huge barns as part of the infrastructure so we can party whatever the weather.

Are you a child-friendly festival?
Yes, we’re all in our mid-30s now, so most of us have kids. Being a small event, it’s immediately less stressful than taking your kids to a bigger festival. We have a farmer Olympics on Saturday with egg catching, hay bale throwing and more serious events. We have an adventure playground, puppet shows, hula hooping, costume making and a whole load of kiddy friendly workshops. We also have very cute animals.

What time is bedtime and is there a ban on Mancunians age 17-30 from revealing their entire life stories in their tents between 11pm and 7am, as seems to happen at every festival?
Bedtime is when you want it to be. Life-story sharing is encouraged but this’ll probably be around the campfire at the Acoustic Stage. We have a few late-night secret things planned.

What are the ways of getting tickets?
There are a few tickets left but we’re set to sell out, so jump online quickly.

Cock & Bull Festival, secret location near Bath, 22-24 July. cockandbullfestival.co.uk

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