Gate To Southwell Festival announces top names

Gate To Southwell Festival

The eleventh Gate To Southwell Festival is expected to attract five thousand visitors to the East Midlands in early June. With over sixty international, UK and local music acts, ceilidhs and dance displays, poets and storytellers, fantastic family entertainment, plus workshops, great food stalls, a beer and cider festival and a craft fair, this 2017 event looks certain to be the most eclectic, entertaining and exciting yet.

Running from Thursday June 8th to Sunday June 11th, in the beautiful rural setting near Southwell racecourse, the festival headliners include Kate Rusby, the much-loved leading lady of English folk (Friday 9th) and Jon Boden, charismatic frontman of the extraordinary Bellowhead (Saturday 10th). There’s also a great array of international stars including BOC from Mallorca – who were sensational at the 2015 event – plus top quality Canadian bands Le Vent Du Nord and The East Pointers.

Adding to this treasure chest of fine music, the legendary harmony supergroup Daphne’s Flight (first formed at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1995) are reuniting to appear at Southwell, and the Thursday night bill will feature the intoxicating Blazin’ Fiddles from Scotland and The Changing Room, an acclaimed modern folk collaboration between Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain. There’ll also be welcome returns for much-loved artists such as the Californian ukulele-toting Ooks Of Hazzard (their cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ was one of the highlights of 2016), the Glaswegian Americana of James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band and the folk roots cerebral singer-songwriting of Jess Morgan.

Adding to the warm atmosphere at this most family-friendly of festivals, the 2017 event will be hosting a Summer Of Love @ 50 celebration to mark fifty years since the US hippy movement in California broke through into the mainstream. Having led the house band for last year’s wonderful Dylan @ 75 tribute gig, the immensely-talented Jim Moray returns to fuel this flower-powered extravaganza.

Also on the ever-blossoming Gate To Southwell 2017 bill there’s American folk-blues guitar veteran Chris Smither, highly-acclaimed due Megson, flame-haired traditional star Megan Henwood, comedy veteran Les Barker, newly-formed double act Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage, Welsh singer-songwriter Jack Harris, Tyneside female vocal group She Shanties, Australia’s immensely popular harmony trio Cloudstreet, BBC Folk Award-winning Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin, Celtic contemporary music from Ranagri, the all-female gothic folk troubadours Wookalily, swing-folksters The BeauBowBelles along with a rare chance to see Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley.

Bringing drama and colour to both the festival and the streets of Southwell, in procession along King Street on Saturday morning, there’s a host of dance sides confirmed to perform including Slubbing Billy’s from Huddersfield, Thrales Rapper from London, Micklebarrow and Poacher and Bishops Morris (all from Lincolnshire), Anstey from Leicestershire, the Plough Morris of Rattlejag and the Cotswold Morris of Harlequin, plus Conroy’s Irish Dance and the Koyuki Tribal Belly Dancers. Last but not least, there are the Hells Angels of Morris Dancers, the magic menacing Witchmen.

Back on the festival site, there’ll be five venues for music over four days, including the newly-named boundary-pushing Frontier Stage will welcome diverse talents such as pioneer punk poet Atilla The Stockbroker and heiress to Billy Bragg, Leicester’s Grace Petrie. There’s something for everyone from the western-swing-meets-country-blues of Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra, the energetic European folk of Sheelanigig and the alt-country eccentricity of Dana Immanuel & the Stolen Band through to rising Scottish stars such as Tannara, Wayward Jane and Gnoss, The Vagaband and Alden Patterson & Dashwood from Norfolk, and Nottinghamshire’s own immensely-danceable Wholesome Fish!

With the new Robin Hood Energy Stage showcasing the best in traditional and contemporary folk music, the festival is also committed to promoting the work of East Midlands poets so there will be a Spoken Word Showcase featuring the rising stars of the Nottingham-based DIY Poets Collective, and The Southwell Slam – an open poetry and spoken word competition, for performers and writers of all ages and abilities, to find the Bard of the Gate To Southwell 2017. For more Slam details contact Southwellslam@gmail.com.

Gate To Southwell Festival tickets are now available from www.gtsf.uk

Wickham Festival 2015 – Reviewed by Simon Burch

Wickham Festival 2015 - Reviewed by Simon BurchStaged in a corn field and with three stages linked by alleyways of food and crafts stalls, Wickham proved to be a good nursery slope for my family of first-time festival goers: no intimidating vast crowds and a relaxed atmosphere which built steadily through what turned out to be some swelteringly hot days.

showofhands_wickham15Musically, in the main All Time Grates big top stage it was folk with a twist of vintage pop and rock: from crowd-pleasing sets by folk stars such as Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands, Eliza Carthy, Lisbee Stainton and Martin Carthy to The South – Beautiful South survivors Dave Hemmingway and Alison Wheeler – 10CC, Billy Bragg, Cockney Rebel, Wilko Johnson and The Proclaimers.

Crowd_Wickham15The crowd was an eclectic mix of folk devotees and commuter belt families, but overall the demographic was mature and knowledgeable so that at times the main stage had the contented air of a cricket match, with festival goers seated sensibly underneath sun-hats on folding chairs, sipping real ale and completing sudokus to the sound of music.

Giants@WickhamI soon found out that for a parent festivals have to be enjoyed in the round. My children weren’t there for the music, but found instead joy in the laser quest – a shoot-‘em-up inside a series of sweaty, dark inflatable tunnels – the solar-powered Groovy Movie cinema and the digital funfair, a quirky installation where gamers played Space Invaders while sitting on a stationary bike or racked up high scores by slapping two headless mannequins on their plastic buttocks in time to music.

Playbus_Wickham15After a while it became possible to enjoy the music while waiting for them to complete their activities or resisting their pleas to spend the GDP of a small country in the various food and craft stalls, simply via the proximity to the three stages, especially the acoustic stage, where a varied line-up of young up-and-comers and older veterans strummed, picked and twanged their way skilfully through a mixture of their own material and interpretations of popular classics, finding favour with a sprinkling of punters lounging back on the straw-coated ground.

At the top of the festival was the sweatier and rockier Bowman Ales Stage 2 tent – which hosted performances from Edward II, headlining prog rockers Stone Cold and Damn Beats – but I confess that, as a first-timer wanting to immerse myself in folk my visits there were fleeting so I concentrated on the main stage, where a succession of acts filled the afternoons and evenings with musical stories from every corner of Britain and beyond.

SpookyMen_Wickham15From the lilting Northumberland romance of Kathryn Tickell and the Side, to the seasoned yarns of Huw Williams and Maartin Allcock and the acapella oddness of the Spooky Men’s Chorale, it is fair to say there was something for everyone’s tastes, but the big top came into its own later on as the sun dipped behind the food stalls and the headliners took to the stage.

BillyBragg_Wickham15Among the highlights was the life-affirming return to action of Wilko Johnson, the welcome familiarity of The (Beautiful) South’s hits and the appearance of Billy Bragg, whose wit and political zeal brought Friday night to a close. The next night, Seth Lakeman gave a rollicking masterclass of modern folk rock, sweeping the audience along and raising the temperature in the big top.

Proclaimers2_Wickham15Despite the passing of years, festival headliners The Proclaimers hadn’t seemingly aged that much and their set was a polished resounding collection of love songs, devoted to Scotland as much as to the objects of their desire. The large TV screens showed that the Reid twins had their committed fans who knew all of Proclaimers1_Wickham15the words, but as the night continued, you did get the feeling that most people in the tent were waiting for their signature tune – I Would Walk 500 Mile – like a seashore full of surfers all readying themselves for the big wave that would take them right to shore.

And, duly, at about five to 11, it arrived: cueing a joyous outburst of jigs and a singalong in affected Scottish accents. This provided the most exuberant moment of the weekend, before it drew to a close with a thank you and good night, and the boys left the stage.

The third night was over, but the next day the sun again rose hot and strong. Family holiday commitments meant I had to slip away early, but in my absence the crowds returned with their chairs and sun hats, eager for more.

Simon Burch – 23 August 2015

See the full photo set on Flickr here

Les Barker’s Guide Cats for the Blind Vol. 5 ‘Herding Cats’

The Guide Cats for the Blind album series was produced to raise funds for a project run by the British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB). Guide Cats Volumes 1 to 4 enabled the Association to create “EyeT4All”, a programme of life changing computer workshops for blind and partially sighted people. The work doesn’t stop there. With funds from Vol. 5 ‘Herding Cats’ will empower community centres for blind and partially sighted people throughout the UK to hold “EyeT4All” workshops for themselves. Continue reading Les Barker’s Guide Cats for the Blind Vol. 5 ‘Herding Cats’