FORMER Blur bassist Alex James has given his backing to an Oxfordshire rock school after a chance encounter on a train.

Neil Backwith, the father of one the founders of The Musical Box near Bicester, chatted to Mr James during a train journey home to the Cotswolds.

Mr James, who has a farm and makes cheese in Kingham, near Chipping Norton, then wrote to the rock school to encourage them to “keep up the good work”.

He added: “Playing in a band is a wonderful thing no matter how large or small the audience.

“The harder you work, the more you enjoy it and the more happens. Keep rocking.”

The Musical Box teaches guitar, bass and drums using rock songs and trains students to play in bands.

Tim Kirkham and Paula Backwith, who started the business in Stratford in 2006, opened a new branch in Fritwell, near Bicester, at the beginning of September.

Miss Backwith’s father, Neil Backwith, 61, found himself sitting opposite Mr James while on the train home from work in London to Moreton-in-Marsh.

He said: “During the course of the journey we had a chat about his involvement in Blur, music and his children.

“I mentioned the fact that my daughter and her partner run a rock school and he was really interested in it.

“I suggested he write them a note wishing them luck, and he said he would love to do that.”

Mr Backwith, a former public relations firm chief executive, now works as a consultant to public relations firms in London.

Mr James produces cheese at his Kingham farm and hosts The Big Feastival alongside celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Studio manager Mark Jessop, 26, from Coventry, said: “It just reaffirms what we do because a genuine rock star can see what we are doing and supports it.”

Miss Backwith, 38, said Mr James’s letter had given the staff a real boost. She said: “It shows them that although the music industry is difficult it is all worthwhile.”

Miss Backwith, who lives in Warmington, near Banbury, said: “X Factor is not the be-all and end-all.

“It is better, in our opinion, to do what people used to do years ago, which is really learn your trade.

“Playing music increases confidence massively, it is a massive stress relief for adults in high-pressure jobs and it is a great form of entertainment.”

For more information, visit the