February 4, 2011

Alex James turns into Festival host

Blur bassist turned country squire Alex James once confessed that in the heady days of Britpop he had spent £1m on champagne in three years. He had no regrets, saying that "the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom".

Guests at the festival he is planning to host on his Oxfordshire estate can expect a slightly less debauched affair, with the event set to focus on James's new drug of choice – food.

The four-day festival will, of course, also feature James's longest-standing addiction, with music from acts such as KT Tunstall.

The Harvest festival, due to take place from 9 to 12 September, will showcase "the very best of the British food scene alongside a soundtrack of the finest bands around", according to organisers. It is more than likely that James's award-winning cheeses – such as Blue Monday, named after his favourite New Order song – will also feature.

Since leaving Blur, James has exchanged his plane for a Volvo, and his London high life for a quieter existence in the country. But the star, now a broadcaster and writer as well as a cheesemaker, is expected to record with Blur again this year.

Last year, lead singer Damon Albarn said the band would "probably do something in January" and had discussed getting together early this year to work on a small project.

The band reunited in 2009 for a series of rapturously received concerts after a six-year break. They also released a new song, Fool's Day, as a limited edition 7-inch record that quickly sold out.

For James, the festival seems to be as much about the fodder as the music. Notable foodies at the event will include Richard Corrigan, Mark Hix and Yotam Ottolenghi. As if any more proof of James's graduation into country living were needed, it was revealed that Gardeners' World host Monty Don will also take part.

"We'll throw open the farm gates for Harvest this September," said James. "My family are looking forward to a celebration of all our favourite things – food, the farm and music. What more could we ask for?"

At the farm in Kingham, Chipping Norton, there will be a range of pursuits on offer, including gardening workshops, cookery masterclasses, a children's field, pop-up restaurants and the obligatory farmers' market.

A spokesman for festival organiser Big Wheel said: "Alex will bring his energy and personality to Harvest and help us celebrate the simple pleasures in life. As a food and music lover himself, we are ecstatic to be joining him for a weekend of mouth-watering treats and great tunes."

The festival will be a sister event to the one launched by TV presenter Jimmy Doherty at his farm in Suffolk, which will take place on the same weekend.

Source: Guardian


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