The Big Chill

Stages flanked by 10ft-high daffodils, a fake moon rising in the sky and a hillside sauna with no ob

Now in its fourteenth year, the Malvern valley festival offers a melange of jazz, folk, ambient, dance, comedy and spoken word performances, alongside an art trail, moonlight cinema and Victorian fairground, to name just some of the other attractions

Highlights from the Big Chill, Saturday 2 August

Jamie Woon is the first act to grace the Open Air stage on Saturday, and already a change to the programme. Accompanied by drums and double bass, Woon knocks out slick soul numbers where everything rides on a funky riff. He does have a gorgeous, expressive voice, but when I realise that this is basically Darren Hayes-lite, I start to feel a bit nauseous and gladly make my way over to the Castle stage. First up here are the Spokes, a folk-inflected rock five-piece who combine Celtic modes and the bright melodic cut of the violin with driving guitars and ample drum rolls. It's lively enough but they seem to denote power merely by increasing the volume, and the crowd blanket-sits its way through their set. Expect to hear them on a Vodaphone ad sometime soon.

Nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, the Portico Quartet play with complex time signatures and unconventional instrumentation to fling out quick, hot jazz numbers and deceptively soothing ambient ones. Technical sophistication aside, the Quartet's ability to exploit the full potential of their instruments' timbre mean they really do sound fresh and new, almost as if they play four instruments each and employ a different combination for each song. From the crowd reception, they already have a dedicated fanbase that will only grow if they do clinch the Mercury Music prize. That the Malvern Hills are bathed in sunshine by this point can't do any harm.

Back on the Open Air stage, Fujiya and Miyagi combine pared down guitar riffs with computer game scales and a chattering bass to create a kind of rock electronica which has everybody dancing. It's a very British kind of sexy funk, "if only he wasn't wearing that hideous sports jacket," grimaces my friend G. But the sun is still shining and spirits are high in anticipation of one of the weekend's highlights, up next.

"Big Chill - you dirty bitches!", Noel Fielding simpers to the crowd from out of his Nannageddon guise before stripping to reveal a skin-tight sequinned siliver jumpsuit. So begins the much anticipated 45-minute set from the Mighty Boosh in which the band invoke a number of memorable characters from the three series of their TV show, and generally rollick.

A "Robots in Disguise" sketch which features Rich Fulcher as a priapic cyberman is a particular highlight. The psychedelic monk and the polo-eyed Cockney Hitcher both perform numbers, and even Bollo is afforded a pink feathered mohawk. At one point the crowd starts to boo when a technical hitch threatens to repeat an already-seen Boosh moon video skit but order is restored and the set ends with the requisite mistaken death of Naboo set piece, all to much whooping and laughter from audience and performers alike.

You know that the crowd would pretty much settle for anything Fielding and his band presented right now, such is the current affection for the Boosh. That said, its all been carefully choreographed and very well practised and Noel Fielding is the consummate showman. Sardonic romping music hall for the 21st Century.

The evening ends with a set from Plaid, featuring a unique dance performance from Wayne McGregor's Random Dance troop. It's this kind of collaboration, and a willingness to give it the final main stage slot on the Saturday night that makes the Big Chill one of the better festivals.

Nichi Hodgson is a 25-year-old Yorkshire emigree working as an Editorial Assistant on an Arts Database. She freelances on arts, culture and gender issues

Nichi Hodgson is a writer and broadcaster specialising in sexual politics, censorship, and  human rights. Her first book, Bound To You, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is out now. She tweets @NichiHodgson.

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Byron burgers and bacon sandwiches: can any politician get away with eating on camera?

Memo to aspirant world leaders: eating in public is a political minefield.

Miliband’s sandwich. Cameron’s hot dog. Osborne’s burger. The other Miliband’s banana. As well as excellent names for up-and-coming indie bands, these are just a few examples of now infamous food faux pas committed by British politicians.

During his entire mayoral campaign, Sadiq Khan refused to eat anything in public. When journalist Simon Hattenstone met him in his local curry house for the Guardian, the now-mayor didn’t eat a single bite despite “dish after dish” arriving at the table. Who can blame him? Though Ed Miliband had been pictured blunderingly eating a bacon sandwich an entire year earlier, the national furore around the incident had not yet died down. “He can make me look Clooneyesque or make me look like Ed eating a bacon sandwich,” Khan said of the photographer at the time.

Miliband’s bacon sandwich is now so infamous that I need offer no explanation for the event other than those words. There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the photograph of Ed, lips curled and eyes rolling, as he tucks into that fateful sarnie. Yet politicians frequently bite off more than they can chew – why did Ed’s mishap inspire multiple headlines and an entire front page of The Sun?

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“The momentum got behind the bacon sandwich story because he was awkward, it showed him in a light which was true - he was an awkward candidate in that election,” says Paul Baines, a professor of political marketing at Cranfield University. “He didn’t come across right.”

The photograph of Miliband fit neatly within a pre-existing image of the politician – that he was bumbling, incompetent, and unable to take control. Similarly, when David Cameron was pictured eating a hot dog with a knife and fork months later, the story reinforced popular notions of him as a posh, out-of-touch, champagne-swilling old Etonian. Though Oxford-educated, two-kitchen Miliband is nearly as privileged as Cameron, and Brexit-inducing Dave equally as incompetent as Ed, the pictures would not gain the same popularity in reverse. There are many, many less-than-flattering pictures of Cameron eating, but they didn’t fit into a workable narrative.

Via Getty

No one, for example, focused on the price of Ed’s sandwich. Purchased at New Covenant Garden Market, it was undoubtedly more expensive than Greggs’ £1.75 bacon roll – but no one cared. When George Osborne was pictured eating an £8 Byron burger whilst cutting £11.5 million from the British budget, however, the picture spoke to many. The then-chancellor was forced to explain that “McDonalds doesn't deliver”, although, as it turned out, Byron didn’t either.

“The idea was to try and display him in a good light – here's a guy eating a burger just like everyone else. The only problem was it was a posh burger and of course he didn't look like everyone else because he was spending ten quid on a burger,” explains Baines.

But Dave, Ed, and George are just the latest in a long, long line of politicians who have been mocked for their eating habits. Across the ocean, Donald Trump has been lambasted for liking his steak well done, while in 1976, Gerald Ford was mocked after biting into the inedible corn husk of a tamale. Why then, do politicians not copy Khan, and avoid being pictured around food altogether?

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“Food connects everybody, food is essentially a connection to culture and the 'every person',” explains Baines. “[Nigel] Farage's appearance in the pub has definitely had a positive impact on how he's perceived by a big chunk of the working class electorate which is an important, sizeable group.” Though Cameron, too, has been pictured with pints, his undeniably weird grasp on the glass make the pictures seem inauthentic, compared to Farage whose pints are clearly at home in his hands. In America, Joe Biden managed to capture the same authenticity with an ice-cream cone.

“I think when it comes across badly is when it comes across as inauthentic,” says Baines. “If I were advising, I certainly wouldn't advise Theresa May to be seen in the pub having a pint, that would not shine with her particular character or style. But could Tim Farron come across better in that way? Possibly but it does have to be authentic.”

Food, then, can instantly make a politician seem in or out of touch. This is especially true when food connects to national identity. Tony Blair, for example, publicly claimed his favourite dish was fish and chips despite earlier saying it was fettuccine with olive oil, sundried tomatoes and capers. In the 1980s, Lord Mandelson allegedly mistook mushy peas for guacamole, insulting us all. In the States, you’d be hard pressed to find a politician who hasn’t been pictured with a hot dog, and there are entire articles dedicated to US politicians who eat pizza with a knife and fork. Again, the food fits a narrative – politicians out of touch with the common person.  

Then again, sometimes, just sometimes, no narrative is needed. We’d advise any candidate who seriously wants a shot in the 2017 General Election to not, under any circumstances, be pictured casually feeding a Solero to an unidentified young woman. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

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