Sophie Ellis Bextor at the Festival of Chichester

Robin Bextor is the organiser for Chichester's Priory Park Festival. His daughter Sophie Ellis Bextor is one of its stars.


“He said he would cut me out of the inheritance if I didn’t do it,” laughs Sophie. “But no, actually, it was just a natural thing. My dad was a big part of reason I got into the music business in the first place. It’s completely genuine, and putting it together suits him very, very well!”

The Priory Park Festival runs in Chichester Priory Park from July 8-10 with Sophie one of the main attractions on the Sunday, the final day.

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The day (11am-7pm) will see Sophie premiere her new album and play those sparkly greatest hits. There will also be a unique orchestral rendering of Kate Bush’s Ninth Wave from Hounds of Love, plus 54321 and Do Wah Diddy from Paul Jones and the Manfreds, with anarchic comedy from the Bonzos before Courtney Pine and Zoë Rahman take over for the evening. Among the attractions on the Saturday will be The Feeling, featuring Sophie’s husband Richard Jones.

As she says, it will be quite a family event – as indeed festivals should be: “I love playing festivals. Festivals have their own unique feel. You are part of a bigger line-up, part of bigger picture. People are there for a good time. They are not being judgemental. They are there just because they want to have fun. People are different at a concert because they have got more expectations. At the end of the day it is down to you to give them a good night or a bad night. But at a festival, you can have a really, really relaxed feeling with it all. You haven’t got the big run-up. You just get on the stage and have fun.”

As for the album, it is all done and dusted, with a view to a release later this year. It will be called Familia, a very appropriate title for a mum of four: “I mean family, real family. But that was also the case with the last album, Wanderlust with Ed Harcourt. I made it with friends and family and musicians.

“The last album was very different to what I had done before. There was no dance or disco. It felt quite left-field and folky and influenced by eastern European music, and this album is more like part of a family with that album.”

And since Wanderlust’s release the family has grown, with Jesse born last November: “Four boys. They keep on multiplying! I am cradling my fourth as we speak. But really you just think there is not a massive difference between three and four, and I have always liked the idea of having a big family. My eldest is actually my secret weapon. He is brilliant with the others, and it’s fine. It’s not like we have proper jobs!

“I made the new album in February, and it was pretty intense. I had Jesse with me because he was only 14 weeks and I was still feeding him, but the band were great. They understood when I had to stop. And it was just great fun. But it just really helps when you are doing something that you love. Richard helped me with this album and the last one. And of course it helps that we both do the same kind of thing, but even if we didn’t, I am sure there would be ways of coping.”

And so album number six now looms. Proof of longevity in the business?

“I think you would be a bit deluded if you thought it was up to you how long you lasted! It’s just about trying to keep people interested in what you are doing. You have got to be passionate about what you are doing, but with the last album I thought it was really important that I challenged myself. I love disco and dance and made those albums really happily, but I just thought it was a good time for me to do something that was a bit different.

“You don’t know how long it is going to last, but it can’t be about that. No matter how it all goes in concerts, it has got to be about the bigger picture, and the response to the last album was amazing. I had just the most incredible year with it. Everything that happened was brilliant. You never know what people expect, but I was just thinking that if I have a diverse collection of musical tastes, then why shouldn’t other people.

“But really I am not that practical. I don’t think I am very good at being objective about my music. I think you have just got to follow your nose. You have got to do what you feel is right.”

As for whether the children have changed her as an artist and a person, Sophie admits: “I don’t really remember now how I felt before I had children. I have now spent most of my adult life as a parent, but yes, I do think it gives you a greater perspective. The stories from around the world that involve a child, immediately you are in that story and it is like it is your own child that is involved, but at the same time, you are thinking that as long as you are within your own four walls with your family, then you are OK. So being a parent, it feels like it is an incredibly massive thing, but at the same time it feels like it is an incredibly-small thing…. if that makes sense!”

n Artists appearing on the main stage over the weekend include Sophie Ellis Bextor, The Feeling, Seth Lakeman, Zoe Rahman, Courtney Pine, The Manfreds with Paul Jones, John Otway, PP Arnold, Martin Simpson, The Monochrome Set, Ryan Burnett, the Hounds Of Love featuring Lisa Abbott, Heath, Lunir, and the Charlotte Glasson Band with Chris Spedding.”

Various ticket prices apply and all are available on line at or in person from the festival box office Cloisters Shop, Cathedral Cloisters, Chichester, PO18 1PX (open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm) or 01243 813595.

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