In a non-pandemic year and given a sunny August weekend, Wickham would be an idyllic festival. It boasts a natural amphitheatre that any festival would give its eye teeth for with camping and other facilities encircling it. Sadly, circumstances conspired against it this year and the opening on Thursday was a story of confusion and multiple queues in ankle-deep mud and persistent drizzle. I have to say that the staff and volunteers were unfailingly helpful and cheerful and there was a very British Dunkirk spirit among the festival-goers.
We got in just as Kitty Macfarlane was beginning her set in the Quay West tent. This should have been on the main stage but for technical reasons that wasn’t ready but I couldn’t help thinking that everything had been moved to higher ground leaving the arena empty. Under better conditions I would have ambled around the site inspecting the stalls on the promenade but the stage offered shelter and was conveniently located close to the entrance so it seemed the best place to be. Kitty’s delightful set brought an air of quiet calm which I, for one, welcomed.
The published programme was already a work of speculative fiction but I was in a good place because next up was Tim Edey who, by some miracle, brought forth a brief glimpse of sunshine, as he subjected an acoustic guitar to cruel and unusual punishment and then proceeded to do the same to his melodeon.
John Otway delivered one of the most insane sets I’ve ever seen to an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd. The show was almost stolen by the deadpan humour of Deadly The Roadie whose contributions were carefully choreographed to appear spontaneous and natural. John has a whole raft of tour dates through into next year and is well worth seeing.
The Quay West was full to bursting now so we took a breather as the stage was set up for Nine Below Zero and Tankus The Henge but we could hear Peatbog Faeries blasting out of the Big Top Stage at the other end of the field – and it’s a big field.
Given the state of the car park when we arrived it seemed prudent to make an early exit and we were right – the only way off the car park was by being towed behind a tractor and as we got into bed I wondered if I was too old to face that again. It’s been fifty years since I slept under the stars in an open field at an event.
Wickham Festival has a lot going for it but it suffered two cancellations in recent years because of Covid and it may be that luck still isn’t on its side. We shall see.
Festival website: https://www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/