Alex James: feast of fun

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls chats to musician, cheese maker and dad Alex James, 49, ahead of The Big Feastival which takes place 24th-26th August, in the Cotswolds

Q: How do you start planning each new Big Feastival?
“The first thing we do is invite The Cuban Brothers and Justin Fletcher; then we’ve got a party. Justin turns up and marches on stage with his little red nose on to sing One Man Went To Mow and brings the house down, without fail, every year. As time goes on it gets easier to attract the big stars. I’m delighted Marco [Pierre White] is involved this year; the whole British food revival started with him. Raymond Blanc and Pierre Koffmann complete the trio of culinary granddaddies.”

Q. Do you love the local food scene?
“Totally. We’re lucky with such a brilliant culture of food, starting with Daylesford just up the road and that’s drawn loads of brilliant chefs to the area. I love all the great pop-ups, farmers, producers…”

Q. Do you get to enjoy the festival once all the hard prep work is done?
“Yes; it takes all my charms and the odd cheese parcel, as well as loads of hard work. But when the sun’s shining and everyone’s jumping up and down, having a good time, it’s worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun as this – it’s an absolute scream. I get the whole family involved; everyone’s got a role.”

Q. You make parenting look easy, with your big brood!
“Haha! Yeah but I do get stressed too, man. Having a big family teaches you to roll with the punches, focus on the horizon, keep pushing.”

Q. You seem very productive?
“I’ve made five children, six cheeses and seven records. That’s the only reason I can do a food, music and family festival. You’ve got to care to make it happen.”

Q. How do you stay so svelte, making so much cheese!?
“Thanks for saying; I don’t feel it! I’ve got two new cheeses out this year so each one is quite a bit of time in the gym. It’s difficult not to invent cheese without eating loads of f***ing cheese!”

Q. Where do you want to travel next?
“Marco and I were talking about this the other day – he wants to go round Europe. South America, for me, is mind-blowing. The last time I was in Chile with the band I had a great meal and there wasn’t one ingredient I recognised. There’s interest in doing a festival down there, actually. I love travelling as a family; it’s so easy to travel in the 21st century.”

Q. Do you still love astronomy?
“Yeah; I watch lots of videos on YouTube; science, physics. It’s a good way to zone out at the end of a long day. Since the kids arrived I’ve got more down-to-earth concerns but my love of astronomy has gone into a more abstract realm of higher maths.”

Q. Who’s your favourite author?
“I like to re-read those books I’ve always loved, especially Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson.”

Visit www.thebigfeastival.com

Hurry! Enter for our The Big Feastival Competition – ends Friday, 27th July

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