I met Singer, Author, Radio 6 Music presenter and Guardian columnist Cerys Matthews a few years ago when she visited Gloucestershire to film for The One Show and we bonded over talk of foraging. She went home on the train with a bottle of our homemade elderflower champagne that I feared would explode on the train! We've stayed in touch and since we met in 2013, Cerys has won Broadcaster of the Year at the Sony Radio Academy Awards, been awarded an MBE for her services to the music industry, published two books and in 2014 launched her own festival, The Good Life with husband Steve Abbott and friends Charlie and Caroline Gladstone!
I'm delighted that despite her busy schedule, Cerys has taken the time to talk to me about festivals, family and an army of gnomes!
Emma: Huge congratulations Cerys! The Good Life Experience 2014 was a huge success, where did the idea come from to launch a festival?
Cerys: Like many a good idea, it started over a pint of ale and a roaring fire in a favourite pub. Four of us were blathering on about festivals and how commercial and expensive they were. We got to talking about what would constitute a perfect festival - value for money (free rides, free talks, free activities once entry tickets bought); a huge dollop of the great outdoors, and finely curated food and arts - all there for their quality , not for the hype surrounding them.
Emma: I loved the vintage fair ground, Mr. Natty the barber, and all the little touches like the free pear stall and the wild flowers in jars on the tables. What were your personal highlights from the Good Life 2014?
Cerys: Campfire Friday - where mainly acoustic music was enjoyed by the light of a huge crackling fire. This year we've invited Rhioghnach Connelly and band 'Honeyfeet' to host the evening with their traditional Irish and jazz roots. It ended last year as a kind of open evening where people were welcome to stand up and sing or recite or play an instrument. Also the fires dotted around the site - children were helping themselves to the maize from the field and cooking the heads on the fires. I just love the smell of wood burning on the warm end of summer breeze.
Emma. Why do you think it's so important that we reconnect with the simple things such as nature and the outdoors?
Cerys: We spend so much time in a rush, with tight schedules, and gadgets adding to the stress. Health and safety rules and the fact that most of us now are urban dwellers mean that children and adults alike seldom get to do simple things like sitting around a fire, or getting their hands dirty trying skills like sharpening an axe, or wood carving.
Emma: So can you give us a sneak preview of the 2015 festival, what's new?
Cerys: We've tried to keep a familiar stamp - so Tom Herbert (of the Fabulous Baker Brothers) is back with his 60 year old sour dough, Beer Bods, and the vintage fair with its endless free rides is also returning. Abseiling, archery and axe throwing, also the Best Made Co from New York are back too.
But we have a whole new line up for the music tent - including Catrin Finch, Big Boss man and DJ 78. We also have invited 5x15 to host a literary tent with talks from respected authors. Chefs new to the festival include Thomsina Miers and Ella Woodward, of Deliciously Ella fame. We've also added the Idler Academy, Caught by the River and Eroica Cycling Culture and there's lots more we'll be announcing soon.
Emma: You are so busy, how do you juggle the demands of your many roles with family life?
Cerys: It is hard-because all the dots are beginning to line up in terms of seeing how to make things happen . I’ve been lucky enough to have survived in business for 25 years now, and there are just so many projects I want to get off the ground! But the truth is, I also want to be there for the children; to help them with homework or football , or just be there. I don’t have a full time nanny so it is a struggle, but one I wouldn’t change for the world. Well maybe I would - I'd love for the ironing to be done by a secret gnome, ditto the vacuuming and cleaning and putting the children to bed when I'm extremely tired. That would be very cool, yes; an army of tiny gnomes or elves to help with the household chores would be an ideal.
Emma: Ha! Just like the children’s book the Elves and the Shoemaker! How do you encourage your family to have 'a good life'?
Cerys: Seeing through hype, informing yourself and using time as well as possible,. Also, I’ve vowed recently to break when the children have school holidays, and not to work right through them. This Easter we'll be off on a train journey through France .The children are older now and I love seeing them taking in the world around them. Horrible Histories has made them love history and facts and figures – it’s wonderful to see.
Emma: Did your own childhood in Wales influence you as a mother?
Cerys: I love living in London - a small fish in a big multi cultural pond, though I still feel like a little of the country girl at heart. I like knowing the people in my square mile,seeing familiar faces and saying hello, the children go to the local schools, play under the Westway doing sports or music and we feel rooted here. Community is so important. I don’t know if Wales influenced my parenting or not.I’ll never know, it’s my roots and I’ve had no others. I know my mother influenced me with her love of nature and plants . She passed that on to me. I hope I’ll pass on that to my children and on it goes.
Emma: If you had the day off tomorrow, what would you do?
Cerys: Lord! I had a great day on Sunday after the radio show (BBC Radio 6 10am-1pm every Sunday) I programme the show picking every tune and topic so it’s a huge buzz to share my finds .Then it's home time , and as it was Mothering Sunday, my husband had a lovely bottle of St.Emilion waiting for me, the woodstove was smoking and the children were there. I loved it. So for a perfect day off ?I love nothing more than that –some great music sharing and slow time with the family.
Emma: Cerys, thank you so much for your time. I’ve loved the glimpse into your family life and can’t wait to see you at The Good Life Experience in September x
Tickets for The Good Life Festival 2015 September 18/19/20 2015 are on sale now and if you buy before Easter are available at an early bird rate!
BBC 6Music - Sunday 10 am - 1pm
Hook , Line and Singer -
A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs available now Earthquakeltd.com