Good food, good music and good times on Alex James' farm in the Cotswolds. Read our Big Feastival review and find out what this family friendly festival is all about.
Big Feastival 2019 Review
My kids are only 7 & 9, but have already become seasoned festival-goers. This was our second family festival this year, and the kids' fifth ever festival. Not bad considering their young ages.
We've got packing for a family festival down to an art, and the kids are accustomed to spending occasional weekends covered in glitter. We've been to Camp Bestival many times now and love partying together in fields.
This time, over the August bank holiday weekend, we went to our first Big Feastival. This foodie and family friendly festival is set on the Oxfordshire farm of Alex James (of Blur fame). They promise good music, good food and good times. And it didn't disappoint.
The Big Feastival is a family friendly festival, combining award winning street food, Michelin star chefs live on stage with live music from your favourite bands. Not to mention an exciting programme of family entertainment all happening on Alex James’ Farm in Kingham! The Big Feastival really does have something for everyone. - Big Feastival
Check out my family festival packing list.
Family Friendly Festival
Both the name and the lineup show that Big Feastival is definitely for foodies. The long list of musical acts was equalled by a veritable feast (sorry) of chefs, cooks and food demos.
Think of a great food festival that's a weekend long, with huge musical acts, funfair rides, village fete, bars, and more kids activities than you could ever get round to.
Then add in a petting zoo, pop up shops, talent competitions, food tastings, cookery classes, stilt-walkers and Rudimental blowing the lid off the place with an epic show. That doesn't even cover it all.
Have I even mentioned watching Dermot O'Leary reading a tent full of kids a bedtime story? Or a giant helter skelter? A banging silent disco? Huge dinosaur wandering around?
Festivals have come a long way food-wise in recent years. I remember my first festivals where the only veggie option was a falafel and a carrot salad. All day. Every day. Nowadays, however, festivals have really upped their game with variety and quality of food stalls. It's rare to see a greasy burger van. Instead there's restaurant quality food, intriguing combinations and top notch food trucks.
Being a foodie festival, I had high expectations of the food at Big Feastival. There were veggie and vegan options galore, as well as gluten free.
A major food highlight was a flavourful cauliflower harissa wrap from Warner's Gin. Served out of a van at the side of their gin tent (with great music acts on their little stage), the £7 wrap was impressively delicious, with al dente roasted cauli, sauces and veggies and a halo of pea shoots.
Another highlight was a Buddha bowl from David and Charlotte Bailey of Wholefood Heaven. It had a fragrant and deeply flavoured (but not too spicy) massaman potato pineapple curry, topped with carrot kimchi slaw, brown rice, steamed kale and sprinkled with seeds. Bliss in a bowl.
Other options included tofu bao buns, vegetarian pad thai, vegan pizzas cooked in the back of a van, filled flatbreads and naans and so much more.
Popdogs' vegan hot dogs were delicious as always, but bizarrely their vegan stall was placed next to DJ BBQ with their awesome party vibe, but huge firepit roasting pigs with heads on stakes decorating their space. My daughter (who isn't veggie) saw the pig heads and cow ribcages dangling from the stall and promptly burst into tears. It didn't help that we had just been watching Peppa Pig on the main stage.
Expect to pay £7-£10 per main meal from the many streetfood stalls.
When you go to a festival with two kids, it ends up being about what they want to do a lot of the time. Their needs and wants have to take precedence so it was a fine balance between toilet trips, foraging for food from the stalls, crafting, fairground rides and, finally, mum and dad getting to see bands. Luckily at Big Feastival you can hear the main stage from loads of places around the site and see the big screens.
I don't mind it really. When my kids were little, they fell asleep in their trolley at 8pm and we could party on, dragging them from stage to stage. These days, they stay up to 11 at festivals so we have to try to keep everyone happy.
Luckily, at Big Feastival we could let the kids do crafts in a tent, and from there we could see bands on the main stage!
One big plus point of it being a family festival, is that if you love an act, you can pretty easily get right to the front. Most people stay at the back where there's plenty of space for the kids. We put the ear defenders onto the kids, grabbed beer and cider and easily walked right to the front to see Sleeper, Grandmaster Flash and loads of other acts. My kids happily danced for a few songs each, whooping and singing along on shoulders.
We watched Rudimental light up the stage, heard Jess Glynne from the ferris wheel and listened to Lewis Capaldi from the woodland walk.
The one thing that my kids couldn't get enough of was the Silent Disco. Every night at 8:30pm the lights go out in the Udder Stage and they hand out headphones. Two DJs battle it out to get the most people listening and dancing to their tracks. Every night we had an amazing family party in there and the kids couldn't wait to go, asking about it again and again throughout the day.
There were loads of celebrity chefs on site, with book signings, demos, classes and collaborations.
The Neff Big Kitchen saw the likes of Prue Leith, Mark Hix, Raymond Blanc, Candice Brown and many more. I saw Gennaro Contaldo on stage, as well as Sophie Michell and Jodie Kidd.
At the Waterstone's pop up book shop, writers such as Prue Leith, DJ BBQ, Isaac Carew and Raymond Blanc did book signings and had books for sale.
Over at the Neff Skillery, School of Wok gave cookery classes making bao buns and there were classes for food and beer pairing, botanical baking and butchery.
In the Collaboration Kitchen, cooks from around the site teamed up to create special dishes together, such as Crepe Kings x My Cookie Dough, Wingmans x Smokestak.
My daughter was very keen to take the kids cookery class at the Neff Little Kitchen where kids got to walk through the allotment and cook breadsticks together. Sadly, we queued up but didn't get a place. Get there early if you want to sign up for any of the classes!
Crafts, crafts, crafts. There were loads of tents full of hands on activities for kids. They made masks, wings, bug houses and so much more. One of the first tents we went into had one side full of Brio trains, and the other side had loads of Gravitrax for kids to make magnetic marble runs.
They could watch circus shows, comedy and theatre. They also loved watching Big Feastival's Got Talent and cheering on all the kids as they performed.
Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park brought a small petting zoo. My son wasn't feeling very well with a poorly tummy and when we weren't looking he lay down on some hay with a piglet cuddling him. My heart absolutely melted.
Other activities included:
The Royal Shakespeare Company with games, face painting and performing The Boy in the Dress.
Orchestra of Objects - percussion instruments and sound sculptures
The Flying Seagull Project
Village Green Games
and loads more!
Big Feastival - Top Tips
- The carpark is very close to the entrance where you get your wristbands. Through that entrance you have the campsites. After the epic treks with camping equipment at Glastonbury or Camp Bestival, it's such a relief to only have a short, flat, walk to set up camp. Though it's still very useful to have a trolley to transport your gear.
- Arrive early on Friday. We arrived at 10:30 am and the campsites were already pretty full. If you have a large group, be sure to get there very early.
- There are multiple campsites, but the main one is Lemon. Head there and find a spot. There are no toilets inside the campsite, but they are just outside on the main path.
- The back of the Lemon campsite is a quiet area.
- There are free showers in the campsite. The queues are very very long in the mornings. Try the late afternoons as the queue, if any, will be much shorter.
- The campsite has a tent with hot and cold running water for washing up, as well as a kettle and microwave.
- We were on Vodafone and found the whole site to have pretty good phone reception. The 4G signal was patchy, but good in places.
- The food ranged from about £7 - £10 per meal from the stalls. Beers were about £5.50. It adds up for a family over a weekend, but you can cook some meals at the campsite.
- Nearly all stalls took contactless card payments. There are also cash machines on site.
- The programme on a lanyard seemed pricey for £8. You can print out a map and timetable from their site though.
- The toilet situation was probably the best I've had at a festival. They're separated into three parts: urinals, men's toilets and women's toilets. The blocks are fairly far apart, but since they're all really big I only had to queue once near the main stage. They were also always clean and full of loo roll. There were cold water hand wash stations, but the soap ran out after the first day. The hand sanitiser also ran out early, so bring your own small bottle.
- There were lots of water fountains and places to fill water bottles.
- Unfortunately, my son got ill after accidentally having food with milk which gave him a stomach ache. Luckily the on-site doctors at the first aid tent (like a mini field hospital) were AMAZING. They checked him out and got him back on his feet quickly.
- There are lots of cooking classes, but you have to queue up early if you want a chance to get on one.
Big Feastival - our highlights
As a foodie, this was a perfect festival for me. I was able to try loads of great meals, watch celebrity chefs, attend demos with cooks and be immersed in a passionate foodie culture. But that's not all. There was loads of great music to keep us entertained. And the kids? Well there were so many craft tents that we didn't get a chance to visit them all.
Here are a few of our highlights:
- The silent disco every night!
- Watching the crown jumping up and down during Rudimental's set.
- The campfire at night was a lovely touch - right in the middle of the site.
- Amazing choices for food and drink.
- My kids loved the fairground rides.
- Tonnes of craft tents for kids.
- The petting zoo from Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park.
- Shoutout to the Volvo tent, which was a cool haven during the crazy heatwave. We sheltered in there where they had a water tap, and my son spent ages building bug houses out of wood and natural materials. The kids also made masks and fairy wings, crawled through a rope web, watched triathalon challenges and got to hold bugs. It was all free and Volvo really showed big corporations how to do their tents at festivals right!
Big Feastival Information
Date: Late August Bank Holiday weekend
Location: Alex James’s Farm, Kingham, Chipping Norton OX7 6UJ
Disclosure – My family and I were invited as guests to review The Big Feastival. All thoughts and opinions are my own.