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Craig Ogden: an Aussie abroad

PUBLISHED: 17:32 16 December 2013 | UPDATED: 17:34 16 December 2013

Christmas Time by Craig Ogden

Christmas Time by Craig Ogden

Archant

He can’t surf here (has anyone told him about the Severn Bore?) but he can get to Heathrow quicker than he could from North London. Classical guitarist and Perth exile Craig Ogden tells Katie Jarvis about his Cotswold life

Craig Ogden at his home near Chipping NortonCraig Ogden at his home near Chipping Norton

Classical guitarist Craig Ogden was born and raised in Australia, where he embraced the outdoor life of swimming, cycling and surfing. To pursue his ambition of making a career out of music, he came to the UK to study – and here he’s stayed, forging a reputation as an outstanding artist, and – as described by BBC Music Magazine - a worthy successor to Julian Bream.

Although he’s as comfortable playing at the Royal Albert Hall as he is putting on fundraising concerts for his local school, his soon-to-be-released Christmas album will appeal across the board. Featuring a mix of carols and popular Christmas songs, it’s superbly arranged and performed – but fun and relaxing, too.

Craig and his opera singer wife Claire Bradshaw founded the Dean & Chadlington Summer Music Festival in 2007, which they run each year. They have two children: Gabriel, 10, and Gracie, five.

Where do you live and why?

Craig Ogden with his wife Claire Bradshaw at thier home near Chipping NortonCraig Ogden with his wife Claire Bradshaw at thier home near Chipping Norton

We were living in London, but wanting to move out; and Claire was working with Brian Kay - one of the original King’s Singers - in his capacity as a conductor. Brian, who lives in Fulbrook, recommended north-west Oxfordshire to us because of its accessibility. We looked at about 40 properties until we found our home here in Dean. The manager of the band Madness used to live here and there were phone points everywhere – even the bathroom! We love everything about the area, including the local community – which is fascinatingly Bohemian. David Cameron lives just opposite and will say ‘Hello’ when he walks past with his family; Ronnie Barker used to own Dean Mill; Ben Kingsley is in the next village; Jeremy Clarkson is just outside Chippy.

How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?

For 14 years. When I first came over from Perth, I went to study at the Royal Northern in Manchester, which is where I met Claire; after four years, we moved to London. Perth is very outdoorsy and I loved all the cycling, canoeing, swimming and windsurfing. When we were in Manchester and London, that sort of contact with nature got sidelined. So the Cotswolds feels more like my childhood than anywhere else I’ve lived in the UK. I know it’s cold and dark and foggy for chunks of the year but that means you appreciate every millisecond of a beautiful summer’s day. In Perth, it’s easy to get blasé about blue skies.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?

Craig Ogden at his home near Chipping NortonCraig Ogden at his home near Chipping Norton

Concerts frequently take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so my perfect weekend would be being at home, socialising with friends, and having lunch at a nice pub. If it was summer, I’d take the kids for a swim in the pool at Dean Manor: Lord and Lady Chadlington are absolutely lovely and help us run the music festival. On the Sunday night, I’d play my usual five-a-side football up at Chippy Leisure Centre with a bunch of other dads. When I go in goal, everybody knows that I just don’t use my hands! I can’t insure my fingers because the risk of damage is ultimately so high; but if something significant went wrong, we’d be a charity case very quickly.

If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?

Dean Manor. It’s a big house but a family house, too, with phenomenal gardens. We met Lord and Lady Chadlington, who are both huge opera buffs, at a summer drinks party, and we approached them when we first had the idea of running a music festival. We wanted to be able to get into private venues locally so that people could see concerts in places that are not normally open to the public. So, for example, the festival has a late-night jazz event and a lovely Sunday afternoon concert in Dean Manor Barn, followed by tea and cakes in the garden. And there’s a twilight candlelit concert in the chapel on the Sarsden Estate.

Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?

We probably would avoid the centre of one of the bigger, more popular towns – Stow, Bourton, Broadway or Burford – but neither would we be far from a station. As well as concerts all over the country, I teach at the Royal Northern for 30 weeks a year, and the Royal College of Music a few times a term.

Where’s the best pub in the area?

We’d go to The Tite Inn in Chadlington, which was closed for a while before being reopened by a lovely couple called Ann and David. In summer, there’s a really nice terrace; and in winter, it’s incredibly cosy inside. Every December 27, this great pair of guys called Adam and James organise the Great Brook Run, which starts from the pub, and takes entrants through a muddy field, and then back through the brook. Everyone gets drenched. David Cameron did it last year!

And the best place to eat?

We’re spoilt for choice. We might go to the Plough at Kingham or Wild Thyme in Chippy.

Have you a favourite tearoom?

Jaffé & Neale [Bookshop & Café] in Chipping Norton. The book I’d pluck off the shelf while I’m having a drink would be the Wildlife Photographer of the Year publication. I’m a keen amateur.

What would you do for a special occasion?

Career-wise, my ‘special occasions’ are playing somewhere like the Royal Albert Hall – a concerto with an orchestra. Just before Gabriel was born, we bought a shed from Burford Garden Centre, which is where I teach and practise. I can go out there at two o’clock in the morning and not disturb anyone.

What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?

For me, it’s the ability to be outdoors. I had a childhood of real freedom in Perth, which is right on the coast. There’s nothing between you and South Africa except Indian Ocean. Whenever I come back from a visit, I have a few days of terribly depressing homesickness. There is a big part of me that feels slightly regretful about this geographical dislocation, but I sacrificed that life because of my love for playing the guitar, and all my family were hugely supportive of that.

... and the worst?

The tourist traps in the height of summer, though I understand their importance to the area.

Which shop could you not live without?

I’m not the world’s biggest shopper, but Cotswold Cycles in Moreton-in-Marsh, which is run by Andy Hutchings from Chadlington. It’s really well stocked, and the guys who work there are either keen competitive cyclists or at least keen amateurs. I love the experiences you get out on a bike. I was on the way back from a friend’s house a couple of miles away in Lidstone, where we’d had a boys’ evening playing table tennis, pool and darts. It was about midnight when a Muntjac dashed straight out in front of me. Beautiful.

What’s the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?

People tend to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’: Aren’t you lucky to live in the Cotswolds!’ But what they miss is that the Cotswolds are so practical and accessible. When we lived in North London, it used to take us longer to get to Heathrow than it does from here.

What would be a three course Cotswold meal?

I do cook, but serviceably, not brilliantly. I’d have locally-made sausages and mash from Slatters, the butcher in Chadlington. For starters, it would have to be something gamey, like pheasant. And for dessert, a Cotswold ice cream.

What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?

If you go from Chadlington to the Wychwood Forest, there’s a bench overlooking the Evenlode Valley. You can see Chadlington over on one side; to the right are Spelsbury and Charlbury; while down to the left are Shorthampton, Pudlicote and Chilson. It’s our little corner of England.

What’s your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?

Dean has beautiful Cotswold stone houses that date back to the mid-18th century and a lovely manor house - but its only amenity is a postbox. Whereas Chadlington has a school, sports club, pub, deli, butcher - and I must talk about Café de la Post. It used to be the post office but it was lost in that sad glut of closures and, for a while, there was complete uncertainty whether it could continue as a corner shop. But the guy who runs it – Martin Chapman – has done a brilliant job of creating a niche for it. On Friday night, they turn it into a small restaurant with a set menu; on Saturday night, they do pizzas that they bake on site. But the day-to-day use is as a corner shop. As part of our festival, we put on an 8am concert in the church, followed by fresh croissants and coffee brought up warm from the shop.

Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds

Local community – because I miss being with my own extended family in Perth;

Being able to cycle on the bridleways and run on the quiet roads;

Having all those wonderful private venues available during the Dean & Chadlington Summer Music Festival.

What’s your favourite Cotswolds building and why?

I do enjoy Bill Heine’s shark. Bill is a Radio Oxford presenter; and one of my brothers – both of whom are scientists – used to live a couple of doors down from him [during his time an Oxford University Fellow]. Blenheim Palace is also special. Woodstock is the landmark point where the hills start to kick in.

What would you never do in the Cotswolds?

Surf.

Starter homes or executive properties?

There are entirely appropriate places in many villages for starter homes. They have to be sympathetic to the essence of these places, but they bring families in and keep villages alive.

What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?

If I do it in venues I’ve played in, then it would be: Chadlington Church; Stratford Town Hall; Gloucester Cathedral; and Bath, where I did a concert with Louis de Bernières, who’s a lovely guy. I needed somewhere to rehearse in Norfolk recently. Louis was in Hong Kong so he left his keys out for me.

If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?

I do live abroad! If I did end up back in Australia, I’d take photos of the postbox in Dean, with the ancient tree behind it, in all four seasons.

What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?

Go to the sports club; go to the pub; go to Café de la Post, have a coffee, and chat to the people who work there because they live here as well. I’m chair of the PTA at Chadlington School, where both the kids go, and Claire is a parent governor. It’s great to be involved.

And which book should they read?

Pub Walks in the Cotswolds and Cotswolds Mountain Biking: 20 Classic Rides. But whatever you get, make sure you buy from Jaffé & Neale.

Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?

We did a lovely one recently into what we call Dean Forest, where there’s an old dilapidated barn where owls live. I often take my camera, which I bought with money left to me by Alison Stephens, who was like a sister. She was this country’s most successful classical mandolinist by a country mile, but she died in 2010 from cervical cancer. I miss her hugely.

Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?

The Dean & Chadlington Summer Music Festival brings together the best of everything we do. For the first two years, we did the box office ourselves – and in the second year, we had Gracie, a crying baby! Now we have some brilliant help with all of that. We love making music; we love this area; and there are some beautiful venues, visually and acoustically. It’s such a natural marriage, and we have the contacts and the knowledge to bring it all together.

To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?

People who provide the glue that sticks communities together.

With whom would you most like to have a cider?

I offered to do a recital for an auction of promises and Ian McEwan ‘bought’ me, so I went to play at a dinner party at his house in Gloucestershire. There was the most amazing collection of guests – all phenomenally accomplished. Among others, I spoke to Sue Birtwistle, who commissioned the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice ; to the artist David Garland; and to Ian’s wife, Annalena McAfee, who was arts editor at the Financial Times and the Guardian. The composer Michael Berkeley was also there, who I already knew, and I played some of his pieces. It was a very relaxed, chatty evening. The one person I didn’t get to chat to very much was Ian, so I’d like to have a cider with him.

----------------------

For more information on Craig, visit: 
www.craigogden.com

His latest album Christmas Time is out now on the Classic FM label. Further details about the Dean & Chadlington Summer Music Festival, which takes place in the last week of June, are at:

www.chadlingtonfestival.org.uk

This article is from the December 2013 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Katie Jarvis, follow her on Twitter: @katiejarvis

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