Published: 08:50, 30 June 2014
This year’s festival is going to have to do a lot to top Eliza Doolittle’s first Hop Farm experience back in 2011, when she appeared as a warm-up act for Prince.
Back this year as a bigger star in her own right, the 26-year-old Londoner – whose hits have included Big When I Was Little, Skinny Genes and Pack Up - will be among the headline acts on the main stage next Friday, July 4, alongside acts including Ray Davies and the Lightning Seeds.
She was born Eliza Caird to a playwright father, a mother in musical theatre, and is the granddaughter of theatre school founder Sylvia Young. As a child she played Cosette in the West End show Les Miserables. Little wonder, then, that the family bestowed on her the showbiz nickname Eliza Doolittle, after the My Fair Lady heroine played by Audrey Hepburn.
Your family are in the performing arts – how do you think that has impacted on your career choice?
“It’s had a huge impact on me. Always being in the theatre as a kid, I loved it. I think the idea of being a performer myself wasn’t such an impossibility – it made it seem like a normal route to take, I guess. Anytime I got to step onto the stage it gave me such a thrill and that is definitely an addictive feeling. So once I got a taste there was no going back.”
Which other careers, if any, did you consider, or was showbiz so much in the blood?
“I don’t remember considering other options – in fact, as soon as I found out you could leave school at 16, I knew I would to really go for it with music. Eliza is my name, and the Doolittle nickname just came along with that. I love acting too, I’d love to pursue that more… I lie though, when I was about five I wanted to be a fairy princess and then when I was six I wanted to be a taxi driver!”
Have you played many festivals in the past?
“There have been lots. I love festivals. Always such a good atmosphere, and you not only get to perform to people who like your music, but also to people who have never heard it before, and I love that challenge of winning them over.”
Which of your songs tends to draw the biggest audience reaction?
“It changes with every gig. The connection with the crowd varies on each performance, and I think it varies on my own connection with the music too.”
What is it that you’re looking forward to most about the Hop Farm Music Festival?
“I don’t know Kent that well, I’ve actually played Hop Farm before though and it was amazing, one of my favourites – it was the time Prince played. We were on before him and got to watch from the press pit right up close. Incredible!”
She’s won practically every folk award under the sun, had a song remixed into an Ibiza club anthem, is huge in China, and has even voiced a Disney movie. Oh, and Ed Sheeran is her biggest fan.
Now the luscious voice of Irish folk singer Cara Dillon will be backed by a 50-piece orchestra in what promises to be an epic performance on the opening day of the Hop Farm Music Festival on Friday, July 4.
“I’ve done a couple of smaller gigs in Kent in the past with my usual band of six, but this is going to be something amazing,” said the 38-year-old, whose previous awards include Album Of The Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, The Meteor Music Award for Best Irish Female, and Tatler’s Woman Of The Year in Music.
“It’s so powerful with the orchestra. My songs are quite soul-stirring – about people who’ve emigrated and never had the chance to return home, real songs of the people – and the strings just seem to bring out some of the emotions.
“I hope it will stand out within the programme. The orchestra breathe a whole new element of life into the songs.”
Cara’s idyllic childhood in the tiny Northern Irish village of Dungiven involved being given tin whistles and fiddles to play from day one of entering school. Children were always welcome in the village pub to meet and play alongside travelling musicians enjoying the craic.
This saturation in music is perhaps part of the reason why Cara, who was described by Q magazine as ‘quite possibly the world’s most beautiful female voice’, has achieved so much in a far-reaching career.
As well as her albums – of which the most commercially successful is Hill of Thieves – Cara has featured on singles by Mike Oldfield and Judge Jules, had her song Black is the Colour remixed into a club hit the world over, sung on and narrated Disney movie Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue movie, and has a massive following in China.
“We headed out to China with no idea what to expect, maybe a little reception for 100 expats,” Cara explained.
“It turned out we were playing in national concert halls, 2,000 seaters, and they were sold out. They were all standing with their iPads and filming the gig, singing along in my accent.
“We found out later that our first two albums were used as part of the curriculum for teaching English.”
Married to her musical collaborator Sam Lakeman – brother of the Mercury-nominated folk rocker Seth Lakeman – and with their three children in tow, the making of her latest album, A Thousand Hearts, has been a real family affair.
“The children helped with choosing the artwork, and they will be at the Hop Farm Festival as well,” said Cara, who has made her UK home in Somerset with her brood.
“It’s such a blessing – I don’t see this as a job, I see it as a gift.”
The Hop Farm Music Festival is at the Hop Farm, near Paddock Wood, from Friday, July 4 to Sunday, July 6. Tickets range from £135 for an adult full weekend pass to £68 for a day pass on the Friday. A family camping ticket for two adults and two children under 16 costs £330.
For full ticket prices and details call 0845 0756101 or visit
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