My Cotswold Life: Ian George

PUBLISHED: 15:11 10 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013

My Cotswold Life: Ian George

My Cotswold Life: Ian George

Ian George is director of Cheltenham Jazz Festival. So you can't blame him if he mentions it once (or twice). "If you're into good quality, live music, there will be something you'll love at the festival," he promises.

My Cotswold Life: Ian George

Katie Jarvis talks to Cheltenham Jazz Festival director and Cotswold boomerang Ian George about his Cotswold Life. Photography by Antony Thompson.

Ian George is director of Cheltenham Jazz Festival. So you cant blame him if he mentions it once (or twice). If youre into good quality, live music, there will be something youll love at the festival, he promises. This year, the action has moved to Montpellier Gardens, allowing the team to create a 1,300-seat big-top where all the headliners will perform. Therell also be films, science, hands-on music tech, bars, craft and food stalls and free live music.

With Jamie Cullum as guest director, this years line-up includes the Puppini Sisters, who featured on Michael Bubls Christmas album, Melody Gardot, wholl be doing a performance live on Radio 2; Friday Night is Music Night broadcasts from the festival, celebrating the music of Ray Charles. Theres CW Stoneking with his 1930s blues sound, Bristol-based soul band Phantom Limb, contemporary guitarist Bill Frisell, and a funky bass-line courtesy of Marcus Miller to name but a few!

Where do you live and why?

I live in Gretton Fields, a small village near Winchcombe, with my wife, Sophie, stepdaughter Issy, and new baby Jessica Rose. We were in Cheltenham for many years and I loved living in the middle of town. Id walk to work every morning through Montpellier and the Suffolks, which puts you in good stead for the day (unless youre walking through winter sleet). But we moved to Gretton nearly 12 months ago, in search of a slice of the countryside. My fathers side is from farming stock, and I was craving a vegetable patch!

How long have you lived inthe Cotswolds?

Im a bit of a Cotswold boomerang: I might move away, but I keep coming back. I was born in Gloucester but, six months later, we moved to Hampshire. We came back here when I was 11, when my father got a job heading up Heart of England tourism, and I went to school in Bishops Cleeve. I also lived in New Zealand for a bit, before university, in a place called the Bay of Islands. I would walk to work in my shorts and clean windows in a hotel by day, work in a seafood restaurant in the evening, and spend my earnings in the bar that night. It was a pretty good lifestyle.

Whats your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?

Without wanting to sound like an alkie, this is one I make sure I do every year the Cotswold Beer Festival (this year, July 20-22). About 20 of us meet at the Rising Sun and walk across Cleeve Hill down into Postlip. It may be a beer festival but you couldnt get a more beautiful setting. I drink quite a range but I do enjoy Badgers Ales and Im a huge Westons cider fan.

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

Id go for Sudeley Castle. Heating bills could be a bit of a nightmare but there would be plenty of room for the kids to run around.

Where are you least likely tolive in the Cotswolds?

Anywhere thats a floodplain.

Wheres the best pub in the area?

Ive got two. In Cheltenham, its the Jolly Brewmaster, which has fantastic local ales, and theyre very supportive of the festivals. And then the Royal Oak in Gretton, which I believe has just been taken over by the guys who run Wesley House in Winchcombe [Matthew and Wendy Brown]. A good pub has atmosphere, local ales, friendly staff and colourful characters, most of whom have rosy cheeks.

And the best place to eat?

Sunday lunch at the Mount in Stanton. We went the other day and I had the venison, which was fantastic; but Sophie had the lamb and I had instant food-envy: it was a huge bone with enough meat wrapped round it for months.

Have you a favourite tearoom?

Were opening the Verve Lounge in Montpellier Gardens as part of the festival. Verve is a jazz record label and theyre going to use us to launch a lot of their artists for the UK. The lounge will be next to the stage, so it will be a great chance for people to listen to the latest artists and to have a nice coffee in the setting of Montpellier Gardens.

Whats the best thing about the Cotswolds?

The great outdoors; Im always itching to get out. I think its tragic when children sit in front of a telly instead of being out walking or on cycle rides.

and the worst?

Getting stuck behind a tractor but even then, Im quite content because theyve got their job to do. (And I dont want to get chased by farmers.)

What would you do for a special occasion?

Am I allowed to mention the jazz festival again? Its always a special occasion and I get to meet some fantastic artists. Its been particularly good to be able to develop relationships with Jamie (Cullum) and Paloma (Faith) because theyre so involved with what we do. I didnt start out as a big jazz fan: Ive always been a blues fan; I liked jazzy club music; I loved Cuban music; in other words, all elements that are influenced by jazz. Im lucky enough to work closely with Tony Dudley-Evans, who is our artistic director and the godfather of British contemporary jazz; his knowledge is fantastic.

Which shop could you notlive without?

Ive got two. One is Food Fanatics, a deli in Winchcombe, which does the most amazing black puddings and scotch eggs though Im not allowed too many. The other one, for my wife particularly, is RJ Spicer, a wonderful jewellers in Cheltenham. Ryan, the guy who owns it, designs a lot of the stuff himself. My wife has a liking for diamonds so I try not to go too often.

Whats the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?

The underground music scene, in the sense that a lot of locals arent aware of it. There are so many people who spend their spare time putting on year-round gigs in small venues, offering a great range of music. You have to be really committed to be a music promoter because the money just isnt in it; you do it for the love of it and for the buzz of getting audiences. Look out for places like the Frog and Fiddle in Cheltenham or the Guildhall in Gloucester.

What is a person from theCotswolds called?


What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?

Actually, friends of ours came down from London recently and we did a meal where everything was sourced from the Cotswolds. We went for a walk round Sudeley Castle, then popped into Browns, the butchers in Winchcombe, for a ribeye from Sudeley Farm. Starters would be local asparagus and, to finish, Single Gloucester cheese from Food Fantatics.

Whats your favourite view inthe Cotswolds?

From my back garden, which looks over the farm next door towards Dixton Hill, with my family beside me.

Whats your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?

Im a big fan of the Slaughters; theres nothing like a beautiful blue sky viewed against Cotswold stone. They look so much like film sets that Im sure many visitors presume theyre plastic houses that would fall over if you pushed them.

Name three basic elements ofthe Cotswolds

Ill name three basic elements of the jazz festival. Firstly, we always try to support young artists, whether that be local bands or young artists nationally looking for record-label deals; and, through Jazz It Up, we work with 10 Gloucestershire schools who perform on the free stage during the main festival.

Secondly, we include cutting-edge stuff. For example, weve a cinema this year, which will be showing Palomas film A Nice Touch. Alongside that, were getting in a scientist to look at the emotions around film noir and the effect on the brain.

Then, thirdly, there are the one-off events. We had the UK premier of Hugh Laurie last year (performing songs from his debut album); this year, Paloma will be performing music from her new album for the first time for a live audience, so you wont have seen that anywhere else in the world.

Whats your favourite Cotswolds building and why?

It has to be the Shed at Kingsholm (Gloucesters famous rugby terrace).

What would you never doin the Cotswolds?

Stay indoors (if its not hammering down with rain).

Starter homes or executive properties?

Theres a huge building site between Gotherington and Bishops Cleeve currently. I know the Government has its quota to fulfill but Cheltenham certainly seems to be doing its bit. No one wants that in their back garden but, at the same time, people who want to live or stay in the area should be able to do so. Its a job Im glad I dont have.

What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?

I didnt know there were four corners. For me, theyre wherever any of the festival audiences come from.

Whats the first piece of advice youd give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?

If youre thinking of visiting the Cotswolds and staying in Cheltenham, make sure you choose a weekend with an international festival, set in a beautiful Regency square. You can enjoy all the fabulous restaurants and hotels; you can enjoy the events in the evening; and you can spend your day walking through the Cotswolds. That sounds pretty good to me I might even move here.

And which book should they read?

Ive got a cracking one called A Cotswold Village by J Arthur Gibbs, written in 1912. Its a really quirky insight into the nature of the Cotswold character, from the farmers and workers in the fields to the local vicars.

Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?

Around Belas Knap (a Neolithic long barrow on Cleeve Hill).

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

The Romantic Road in a classic car (for route details, see Ive never done it so this is a shout-out to anyone who could lend me a Bentley!

If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?

Id go and see what really happens at GCHQ. You hear all the Bond rumours of big computers cooled by waterfalls, and I want to know if any of them are true. The big fear is that its just lots of people sitting in front of computers. Id really like there to be a big screen of the world, showing green lights when everything is well and red lights when theres a bit of an issue.

To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?

In 1945, when the second world war was still going on, a couple of councillors, the town hall manager and a few other artistic types got together to put on a bit of music to lift everyones spirits. The music festival was formed as a result, and it blossomed into the Cheltenham Festivals that you see now. We shouldnt forget those visionaries.

The Cotswolds aspic or asphalt?

Can you have a jelly-concrete hybrid?

Which attitude best sums upthe Cotswolds?

Something I try to do: take time to enjoy life.

With whom would you most like to have a cider?

I wouldnt have minded a gin and tonic with Miles Davis. Otherwise, it would be a pint of Westons with Mike Teague, Gloucestershire and England Lions legend.

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