Gate To Southwell Festival – Global Summer Sounds

Gate To Southwell Festival
Photograph by Phil Richards

This summer’s 16th Gate To Southwell Festival (June 29-July 2) looks certain to be the East Midlands’ most international, entertaining and musically diverse event yet. Seth Lakeman and The Kris Drever Band are among the latest headline acts added to the highly anticipated long weekend folk roots World and acoustic gathering at the beautiful Nottinghamshire location of Kirklington Lakes (NG22 8NX).

Mercury Prize-nominated and BBC Folk award-winning singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lakeman, and Drever (one of Scotland’s finest performers) will join more than 50 other folk, roots, acoustic, World and Americana acts (performing across four stages) including The Raghu Dixit Project, The Dog Show Sessions – British folk music legends Show Of Hands with the Madrid-based Irish-American roots quartet Track Dogs, Thursday Blues Night headliners the veteran British R&B outfit Nine Below Zero, famous West Ireland traditional musicians Gatehouse, plus top singer-songwriters such as John Smith , Martyn Joseph and Tom Russell and many other unmissable acts such as NoGood Boyo, London Afrobeat Collective, Jake Blount, Rory McLeod, Helian, and Joe Broughton’s inspiring and influential Conservatoire Folk Ensemble from Birmingham.

Seth Lakeman’s celebrated album Kitty Jay catapulted him to the forefront of the new British folk movement and its successor Freedom Fields became the first of his six UK Top 40 albums.  The West Country roots star recently released Make Your Mark and will perform on Sunday night with Benji Fitzpatrick (Bellowhead, Faustus) and Devon singer-songwriter Alex Hart.

Meanwhile, also on Sunday evening, The Kris Drever Band play their only English festival at GTSF.  Kris is one of the finest contemporary Scottish musicians and songwriters, best known for his work with Lau alongside Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke and his recent collaboration with Karine Polwart on a cover of Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’.  Kris performs in Southwell with Louis Abbott from Admiral Fallow, double bassist Euan Burton and jazz singer Rachel Lightbody.

Confirming the eclecticism and inclusiveness of GTSF, among the headline acts on Saturday 31st are acclaimed World music stars The Raghu Dixit Project who perform highly-danceable Indian ethnic music.  Raghu himself is a famous singer-songwriter, producer and film score composer from Bangalore, and the Project have become one of India’s best musical and cultural exports.

Headlining GTSF on Friday night (30th) will be The Dog Show Sessions – an unmissable collaboration between British folk music legends Show Of Hands and the Madrid-based Irish-American roots quartet Track Dogs.  Both acts have played Southwell before but together they’re guaranteed to create a folk roots supergroup.

Other high calibre artists appearing include Thursday Blues Night headliners the veteran British R&B outfit Nine Below Zero (the big band version featuring Charlie Austin on vocals); the Hoth Brothers (Friday & Saturday) bringing bluegrass and Americana from the wilds of New Mexico; old-time & ragtime from Italian duo Max  De Bernardi & Veronica Sbergia, famous West Ireland traditional musicians Gatehouse (Friday), alt-country London duo Morton Valance, top quality slide blues guitar from the Martin Harley Band (Thursday) and Birmingham’s rising progressive folk band, Bonfire Radicals.  Plus Joe Broughton’s life-affirming, influential and exhilarating Conservatoire Folk Ensemble will appear on Sunday, as will those mighty folk-meets-ska-meets-punk-meets-Celtic-meets-Balkan-meets-tango etc fusion warriors The Activators.

As usual there’ll be plenty of great singer-songwriters performing including John Smith (Friday), who missed the 2022 festival due to Covid but whose ‘Far Too Good’ has been streamed nearly 50 million times on Spotify, and the Californian troubadour Tom Russell (Saturday) who’s been compared to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Hank Williams or described as “Jack Kerouac meets Johnny Cash” (Americana UK).

Overall more than fifty music acts will appear across four stages including raving Welsh steampunk-meets-traditional from NoGood Boyo on Friday, the immensely danceable rhythms of London Afrobeat Collective on Sunday and the legendary Martyn Joseph, one of the UK’s most politically-charged singer-songwriters and charismatic performers who’s rightly been branded “the Welsh Springsteen”.  Martyn will perform on Saturday.

Amongst more recent additions to the GTSF line up there’s Jake Blount, one of the rising stars of American roots music, who’ll perform on Saturday.  A captivating live performer, talented multi-instrumentalist and soulful singer, Jake’s trio has been described as an “incredible combo” by Rhiannon Giddens.  The Rhode Islander’s acclaimed recent albums ‘Spider Tales’ and ‘The New Faith’ have also shone a light on important contributions made by black, indigenous and LGBTQ artists to American folk traditions.

Other artists performing include the Manchester collective Kabantu, the award-winning folk duo Good Habits, close harmony female folk trio Michell Pfeiffer & Kulesh, English folk ambassadors Tarren (Saturday), Northallerton-born poetic guitarist George Boomsma, rhythmic South African soulful trio Stone Jets (Sunday), Northumbrian harmonies from Brothers Gillespie, returning Americana-folk rockers Rogue Embers, rising singer-songwriter Isabel Inkcap, the highly-regarded vocal and instrumental virtuosity of Jon Doran & The Northern Assembly and perhaps one of the UK’s most overlooked performers, Jason McNiff.  Plus,there’s a welcome comeback on Sunday for that unique singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rory McLeod, who played Southwell back in 2010 and 2018.  Rightly branded a British storytelling troubadour, Rory’s also been a fire eater and circus clown and remains one of the great entertainers on the festival circuit.

As well as the Blues Night on Thursday June 29th, there’ll be a new format on the Folk Stage with an evening of music hosted by Kip & Dave from Winter Wilson and Ali Russell.  It’ll start with a folk show featuring artists such as Lauren South in “floor spots” and later will develop into “The Big Sing” with sing-a-rounds and shanties with The Caisterways, Higgs Bosun and others.

Other artists who’ll grace the various GTSF stages include harmony brothers Foreign Affairs, Anglo-Scottish duo Thorpe & Morrison, Americana and alt-country from The Rye Sisters, indie singer-songwriter Francesca Louise, roots-meets-trad-folk songs from Emily Ashberry, Great British Folk Festival award winner Louise Rogan, Yorkshire roots duo Reuben & The Bridge, sublime folk rock from Becky Syson, and that one-man talent show Keith Donnelly.

As always, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to get dancing at this year’s Gate To Southwell Festival.  Friday night’s ceilidh will be led by one of the most exciting dance bands on the festival folk circuit, Lasair.  They’re a class act, featuring members of Steamchicken and Albion Band, with a supercharged line-up of fiddle, mandolin, melodeon, drums and guitars.  Meanwhile Saturday night will welcome high quality performers Juniper, the six piece who memorably hosted an accessible ceilidh in Birmingham for the Commonwealth festival.  For those with the energy and stamina, there’ll even be a special Sunday morning dance set from a very untraditional ‘prog folk’ band, Bonfire Radicals, who deliver global grooves, instrumental fireworks and rich vocal harmonies.

This year, GTSF and the streets of Southwell will also welcome sides such as Mortimer’s Morris from Nottingham, Poacher Morris from Lincoln, Rattlejag from Retford, Witchmen from Northants and Whip The Cat Rapper & Clog also Nottingham.

Regarded as one of the best family-friendly gatherings in the festival calendar, the 16th GTSF will also showcase an outstanding line-up of family entertainers including comedy jugglers Dan The Hat and Nutty Noah.  As usual there’ll be great camping and glamping, ceilidhs and music workshops, spoken word & top comedy (David Eagle & Jonny Awsum), pub gigs, Camp Fire, craft stalls hosted by an eclectic mix of traders, top-quality cask beers and ciders, and great food.

There’ll be free parking and a regular festival shuttle bus to and from Southwell and the festival site.  Weekend and Day Tickets for the East Midlands’ best loved music event are now available from