One foot in the groove: Cock & Bull Festival 2016

DJ Tom Jennings at Cock & Bull Festival

You arable lot: DJ Tom Jennings possibly, but possibly not, playing a medley by The Farm

When your knees have started to knock and there are too many miles on the clock, the idea of spending a weekend in the sprawling metropolis of Glastonbury brings on a sense of unease rather than excitement. All that expanse, all those people and, can you believe it?, Coldplay!

Nowadays, of course, there are more festivals than bands but for those of us not overly fussed about standing three-quarters of a mile down a field to watch Muse on a distant screen, there are options. Take the Cock & Bull Festival near Bath, for example, a 500-capacity gathering that manages to mix music, DJs, farm animals, decent food and reasonably priced drinks. Cock & Bull is more Livestock than Woodstock, with pigs, cows and sheepdogs all delighted that you could make it.

The sun is beating down and a goat named Flo has halted her plod to watch a couple attempt to put up a tent. There used to be two things that you never borrowed from friends: underpants and money. Add tent to that list. Flo the goat makes no comment, nor does she have to, as crumbling, sheared and gaffer-taped poles are fed and re-fed through canvas channels. When the tent’s up, it resembles a crooked jelly in a Warsaw café in 1960. It’s an embarrassment to ourselves, to camping and to a generation.

However, all is not lost. For some unfathomable reason we’ve brought a spare tent along, a bijou shelter snapped up in Asda for £40 the previous evening while stocking up on Sunbites crisps. Tent two’s purchase seems an unlikely stroke of good planning. But why would you buy a tent if you’d already borrowed one? Only divine intervention can account for its appearance today.

Flo the goat at Cock & Bull Festival 2016
Go with the Flo: you could time the passing of the farm’s goat to the minute, unlike Great Northern Trains!

Tent one is literally kicked to death and within 30 minutes, tent two is erect and we are no longer the laughing stock of Wiltshire. In two hours, we’ve gained a suntan, probably lost a few pounds in weight and we’re ready for those cans of Pimm’s in the cool bag. Flo, by now, is already more interested in the steady stream of children arriving in the adjacent Family Field. Kids – the human variety – mean endless pats and rubs and Flo can waste no more of her precious time gazing at overheated middle-aged campers.

The Cock & Bull Festival has been running for six years and in that time has built an impressive, word-of-mouth/Facebook reputation as a true alternative festival. Cock & Bull’s primary aim is to generate money for Jamie’s Farm, a charity that provides residential stays to disadvantaged young people from urban schools. This is a true arable setting, with tractors, barns, piles of logs, water-filled troughs and acres of green pasture. Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be Joe Sugden.

Pigs at Cock & Bull Festival
How soon is sow: we really wanted to take a piglet home with us

Last year, £30,000 was raised and – if we heard correctly through a drunk haze – that figure has gone up in 2016. There may be a correlation. The five-strong British Ideas Corporation contingent manages to make its way through a hefty selection of Kronenbourg 1664 (£3 a tin), fizz (£15 a bottle of Prosecco), wine (£12 a bottle), cocktails (£6-£8) and hangover-cure fried-egg baps (£3.50 for two eggs) – all served with smiles and agricultural stories.

You won’t have heard of many of the bands performing but that’s not really the point of Cock & Bull. There’s Palestinian street music, a hip-hop infused brass band and a jab of Balkan gyspy music, plus a few local acts, alongside a secret barn of Vauxhall Conference-level DJs who’ve been cruelly overlooked by Bluedot Festival at Jodrell Bank. It’s partly why British Ideas Corporation is present in Wiltshire, serving up a nostalgia-filled DJ set (see below) to what appears to be a magnificently older crowd.

Sheepdog at Cock & Bull Festival
Hot dog: the chief sheep chaser keeps cool in temperatures of 27°C by not moving from this trough

Onsite, there are no healing fields or Shangri-Las on distant perimeters to discover, just a couple of acres of grass to yomp across. In fact, at certain times of day, you can have the best part of a field to yourself. What a pleasure it is to walk across ankle-high tufts with the sun shimmering on the horizon and be able to rest for an hour perched on hay bales while, nearby, bartenders in a converted horsebox pour glasses of ice-cold cider. For a moment, we are at our happiest point of the year.

Glastonbury’s toilets in 1995 left deep psychological scars to any indie kid or raver who’d never heard of Imodium. On that searing weekend, revellers with a newspaper under their arm entered an enclosed hard-plastic box and, once inside, witnessed sights, sounds and smells that the mind would have difficulty processing for decades. In Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) became obsessed with Devil’s Tower, a sharp-peaked mountain that would later prove to be a UFO landing point. A similar promontory could be found in those upright Glastonbury tombs. Without labouring the point, it was a multi-layered experience, assisted by a gagging reflex that sounded remarkably similar to the five-note alien tonal phrase blasted out by the mother ship, while in the distance, Oasis played.

Woodchip and compost toilets at Cock & Bull Festival
When in aroma: smell-free toilets using cups of woodchips, what a relief!

Some of us are out of touch with modern festivals’ public conveniences but the Cock & Bull’s set-up is ingenious. Gone are the stygian plastic cabins with heaps emerging majestically from the pan. Today’s Natural Event cubicles have vinyl surroundings acting as curtains, with plenty of gaps for choking air to float free into soft Wiltshire surroundings. When you’ve done, you simply throw a cupful of woodchip mulch down onto the dollops. The result is an odour-free festival WC. It’s like an evil witch’s curse has been lifted after 100 years.

Pod Bar at Cock & Bull Festival
Have I got snooze for you?: Saturday afternoon in the Pod Bar; two-hour naps a must

Hangovers are best dealt with in the open air while wearing sunglasses and slowly consuming Prosecco. Without the aggro of having to see 17 bands within a two-hour window across 11 square miles of the West Country, the afternoon is spent sprawled like the Coronation Street cat in the Pod bar. Camping for the majority is a zero-sleep endeavour; you can see why World War Two battles were waged at dawn – you’re up, you may as well just get on with the day. By 2pm, the Pod has become a nap zone. We take our chance and drift into cotton-wool dreams to the sound of guitar, bass and moo.

Dolly birds at Cock & Bull
Are you not entertained?: Dolly birds enjoying, so it’s hoped, the records of British Ideas Corporation resident DJ The Funk Pursuivant

A suitably reinvigorated British Ideas Corporation takes control of the decks on Saturday from 8.30pm-10pm and the dancefloor rapidly fills with beaming faces and raised hands. It’s a smashing feeling for a Non-League DJ to see happy punters but as always, we have New Order and The Human League to thank for getting the throng in party spirits.

It’s hardly surprising, but some of us are tucked up in our tents by 11pm and sleep soundly till 4am, only waking to hear the din of the barnyard disco still in full flight across mist-filled fields. God knows what the sheepdogs must make of it all.

Apparently, 14 million people in the UK visit summer festivals every year. Having swelled the ranks of a variety of Euro events ourselves since the Eighties, including Glastonbury, Reading, Sziget, Cities In The Park and Spike Island, perhaps, just perhaps, Cock & Bull has been our favourite yet. If this farmyard setting can soften the hearts of even the most hardened of Victor and Margaret Meldrews, it might just work for you. Just remember to take Mrs Warboys.

British Ideas Corporation Champion Sound Friday night Sixties set:
“I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face” – Dusty Springfield
“It Takes Two” – Junior Walker & The All Stars
“Louie Louie” – The Kingsmen
“Taxman” – The Beatles
“He Was Really Saying Something” – Velvelettes
“Psychedelic Shack” – The Temptations
“African Velvet” – Black Velvet
“Orbit” – Joy Lovejoy
“Good Time Rock” – Hugh Malcolm
“25 Miles” – Edwin Starr
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” – Wayne McGhie
“Green Onions” – Booker T & The MGs
“Under My Thumb” – The Rolling Stones
“Lonely For You Baby” – Sam Dees
“Psychotic Reaction” – Count Five
“Nothing But A Heartache” – The Flirtations
“Ali Baba” – John Holt
“Tainted Love” – Gloria Jones
“What Is This?” – Bobby Womack
“I Want To Know” – Sugar Simone
“Just A Little Misunderstanding” – The Contours
“I Know You Got Soul” – Bobby Byrd

British Ideas Corporation Champion Sound Saturday night set:
“Love Is The Drug” – Roxy Music
“My Old Piano” – Diana Ross
“Black Is Black” – Belle Epoque
“Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League
“Blue Monday” – New Order
“Huarache Lights” – Hot Chip
“I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix)” – Lykke Li
“Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weekend
“Funky President (People It’s Bad)” – James Brown
“Big Fun” – Kool & The Gang
“Town Called Malice” – The Jam
“She Does It Right” – Dr Feelgood
“Too Much Too Young” – The Specials
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“A Girl Like You” – Edwyn Collins
“Living On The Ceiling” – Blancmange
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” – Bananarama
“I Feel Love” – Donna Summer
“Untouchable” – Girls Aloud
“Everybody Dance” – Chic
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division
“Remember Me” – Blueboy
“Back By Dope Demand (Funky Bass Mix)” – King Bee
“Fools Gold” – The Stone Roses

1 thought on “One foot in the groove: Cock & Bull Festival 2016”

  1. Oh yes, SET LISTS! I forgot they played that cover of Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers, I’ve been trying to find it for about 6 months!! Oh boozy flashbacks :3 :3

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