Gate To Southwell Festival – full details

Gate To Southwell Festival

The 17th Gate To Southwell Festival looks set to be the most successful yet, with high advance ticket sales and more than 5000 visitors expected to visit “England’s perfect market town” (The Telegraph) from Thursday July 4th to Sunday July 7th. With over 60 international quality artists performing across four stages, the four-day festival of music and dance will continue to build on the critical and commercial successes of recent years, according to GTSF director Mike Kirrage.

“Since the move to our beautiful lakeside setting at Kirklington the audience response has been phenomenal”, says Mike. “Buoyed by this we’ve booked an amazing line up of artists headlined by the incredible Rhiannon Giddens making her only UK festival appearance.”

Gate To Southwell Fesstival 2024 begins on the Fourth of July when the “wildly thrilling” (The Guardian) Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell headlines with her award-winning band The Darkening. Kathryn’s had a remarkable career so far. It began learning pipe tunes from old shepherd friends and it has led her to becoming the first folk artist to appear at the BBC Proms as a composer and performer, an OBE and the Queen’s Medal for Music. Also lined up for the Thursday night, there’s one of British folk’s most enduring partnerships in Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman. The Dartmoor-based husband and wife have twice won the BBC Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’ title, mixing traditional songs with self-penned material. And as it’s July the Fourth, there’ll also be a celebration of The Great American Songbook featuring various festival artists performing alongside Leeds-based jazz, jive, soul and lindyhop combo Louis Louis Louis.

Friday July 5th has an addictively Celtic flavour with the return of “one of the greatest live acts around” (Americana UK) in Blue Rose Code and his Big Caley Soul Band. Ross Wilson (aka BRC) went down a storm the last time he played Southwell and he’s just released his first album in five years to great acclaim. Bright Circumstances builds his growing reputation and follows 2023 star performances at Cambridge, Black Deer and Shrewsbury festivals. “A completely wonderful melding of folk, roots, soul, country and Americana that touches your very soul” (Progradar).

Also on Friday, The Haar unite three of Ireland’s most talented instrumentalists – Cormac Byrne, Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger – with one of the most talented Irish voices in Molly Donnery. Together they create “great traditional music, sung and played brilliantly” according to Mike Harding. (Donnery will also appear as part of Cider With Molly in conjunction with the Ciderhouse Rebellion. )

Mixing up the sounds on Friday there’ll be Sheffield’s Melrose Quartet which unites four internationally renowned singers and musicians: Nancy Kerr (voice & fiddle), James Fagan on bouzouki, and the Arrowsmiths on fiddle and melodeon. Adding Gaelic and West African rhythms to the melting pot, GTSF also welcomes An Dannsa Dub, who fuse sound-system-style reggae and dub to create modern Celtic dance music.

Saturday July 6th looks certain to be one of the key moments in the ongoing development of the Gate To Southwell Festival. Rhiannon Giddens is arguably the most critically acclaimed artist to appear at GTSF. She’s the double Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winning folk star who recently guested on Beyonce’s 300-million plus streamed country hit ‘Texas Hold Em’.

A singer, fiddler and banjo player, Rhiannon was a founding member of the country blues old-time music band The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their 2010 album ‘Genuine Negro Jig’ won her first Grammy, and her second came in 2022 for Best Folk album, They’re Calling Me Home. She’s worked with a wide range of famous artists including Elvis Costello, Paul Simon and Tom Jones. Her ‘Forever Young’ collaboration with Iron & Wine for the TV series Parenthood has been streamed 43 million times and her 2023 solo album, You’re The One, is highly acclaimed in country, blues, folk, cajun, gospel and jazz circles.

Rhiannon’s work celebrates her multi-racial heritage and the influential magazine American Songwriter has called her “one of the most important musical minds walking on the planet”.

Adding to the typically eclectic, diverse and international music mix, on Saturday Gate To Southwell Festival also welcomes the New York-based singer-songwriter Lizzie No who’s one of the most exciting voices in USA indie-folk music. She’s just released her third solo album Halfsies and it’s already being tipped as one of the best of 2024. Adding further Trans-Atlantic talent to the line-up there’ll also be Americana stars Campbell/Jensen featuring Glen Campbell’s daughter Ashley, who started out with her Dad’s band and also had solo success with her country music single ‘Remembering’. Having played banjo with Rascal Flatts, Ashley teamed up with Thor Jensen and their debut duo album Turtle Cottage came out last year.

Canadian folk collective The Fugitives arrive at Gate To Southwell Festival with a rising reputation for unforgettable live shows and top notch musicianship. Hailing from East Vancouver, they’ve supported Buffy Sainte-Marie, played Glastonbury and, according to Georgia Straight music magazine, “bring enough energy to the stage to light up a small city”.

Bringing Gate To Southwell Festival Sunday (July 7th) to a Celtic climax will be the iconic and internationally respected Scottish band Manran, and one of the biggest names in Irish folk music, the Daoiri Farrell Trio. Manran went down a storm at GTSF 2015 and they return with two new members – singer/songwriter Kim Carnie and guitarist/vocalist Aidan Moodie (formerly of Gnoss). Multi-award winning, Manran have toured the World and now have a global fanbase for their powerful songs in Gaelic and English. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, their “twin bagpipe attack could heat the blood of any non-Celt”! Meanwhile Daoiri Farrell, the Dublin singer/bouzouki player “has the best Irish traditional voice currently around” (Folk Radio) and is increasingly regarded as the “torch bearer for Irish folk” (Irish Times). He’ll play with Kieran Munnelly (flute/tin whistle) and Kevin Glackin (fiddle).

Mixing it up with the Celts, Sunday also offers the chance to catch one of the best live festival bands around in The Cable Street Collective who create “spicy indie pop with a tropical feel” (Clash magazine). Hot foot from Glastonbury, Boardmasters, The Isle of Wight and Bestival, they bring upbeat rhythms and Congolese-influenced guitar sounds designed to make you want to dance. In contrast, The Often Herd are an award-winning bluegrass band who blend a Trans-Atlantic sound with songs coloured by their surrounding natural and industrial landscape of Northern England.

Gate To Southwell Festival 2024 will also pay tribute to one of the greatest pioneering American singer-songwriters, Woody Guthrie. Pete Townshend of The Who commissioned award-winning English folk troubadour Reg Meuross to create the song cycle Fire & Dust in tandem with Welsh piano player and accordionist Geraint Watkins. By exploring Woody’s life and highlighting themes such as racism, bigotry, corruption and inequality that he challenged, Reg seeks to draw parallels between those old dustbowl Depression days and our own. Meuross – in tandem with Gambian kora master and percussionist Suntou Susso and concertina wizard Colin Braithwaite-Kilcoyne – will also be performing Stolen From God at the festival, a song cycle that tackles England’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

Various other notable international acts will be appearing over the weekend, including Charm Of Finches, the Australian sister duo who perform darkly bewitching folk-pop; Catherine MacLellan and Tara MacLean – two renowned Canadian singer-songwriters whose work has been celebrated by artists such as Bryan Adams and Dido; cowboy blues and Western Swing from Rocky Mountain duo Over The Moon: and the unique Finnish folk-punk band Slack Bird who manage to blend Appalachian banjo with dark traditional music from Central Finland.

From closer to home, GTSF welcomes back eleven-piece festival favourites The Activators who effortlessly and entertainingly fuse Celtic, Punk, Dub, Ska, Reggae, Balkan and Tango; one of the finest folk-rock ceilidh bands around in Frog On A Bike; a magical musical gumbo of Western Swing, Blues, Country, Soul & Rock & Roll from Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra; excellent songwriting, storytelling and harmonies from festival regulars Winter Wilson; Lincoln-tinged Americana from the Rye Sisters; melodic folk-rock from Liverpool trio the Thomas Bradley Project; award-winning traditional singer and Shantyman of the Year 2022 at Bromyard, Seb Stone; folky Americana from Sheffield’s Banjo Jen Trio; innovative folk and traditional music from Hull’s Hase Waits; sea shanties and piracy with Oxford’s Jolly Grogsters; folk-meets-electronica via talented Cornish fiddler Martha Woods; Americana roots, folk and blues from The Phil Ashmore Band; charismatic West Yorkshire fiddle & guitar duo Reuben & The Bridge; the powerful and beautiful voice of Louise Rogan, in tandem with her Dad Chris; and, last but definitely not least, fine positive singer-songwriting from Southwell’s own Becky Syson and globe-trotting Geordie troubadour Keith Donnelly.

“Overall the array of acts is as eclectic as ever”, says Festival Director Mike Kirrage, “with something for everyone whatever your tastes. There’s also a comprehensive and engaging programme of family entertainment. And just in case the sun doesn’t shine again this year we’ve invested in an impressive audience cover for our main stage.”

Set in the Nottinghamshire countryside (NG22 8NX), GTSF is definitely a family-friendly festival and children under 12 years of age are free with a paying adult. There’s camping, glamping, ceilidhs, comedy, music workshops, Campfire Sessions with cooking and games, plus great craft stalls and quality drink and food options on site (such as Chef Stef, Pandemania, Crepe Lucette, Chaat-It, Somtam Street and Moor & Coast.)

This year’s family entertainment includes improvised silliness from Dan The Hat, spectacular tricks from the Fit Up Street Circus, Becky Bops (led by the Children’s Festival Coordinator Becky Syson), great storytelling from Mark Fraser of Walk The Lines, kids’s music workshops and ceilidh, Family Yoga, Festival Fairies, arts and crafts by Made Of Leaves, face painting, multi-sensory activities from Soul Sensory, outdoor games with Shindigs of Sherwood plus top kids’ music entertainment from Paul Carbuncle.

Day tickets are still available as well as full weekend tickets. There are accessible toilets and showers on site, and buses to and from Southwell. For more details and to buy tickets go to