It’s been a pretty decent summer weather-wise this year….let’s hope that the trend continues (without the thunderstorms!) as there are a number of great bluegrass festivals coming up in the UK in the next month or so. As we all know, a bit of fine weather helps to make festivals just that little bit more special, and campground picking sessions are the best!
First off the mark (Thurs 29th Aug – Sun 1st Sep) is the Didmarton Bluegrass Festival, now in its 25th year and taking place in the unique surroundings of Kemble Airfield (now Cotswold Airport) near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. This venue adds some extra interest to the event, with the occasional light aircraft or aerobatic team practising overhead. The festival site is hosted by the friendly local Ogri Motorcycle Club which provides a real ale bar and a nightly bonfire outside their clubhouse, around which much picking takes place. This year’s line-up includes many UK favourites including slick traditional bluegrass practitioners the New Essex Bluegrass Band, up and coming Brighton group Hatful of Rain, top old-time and Cajun musicians Jock Tyldesley and Vera van Heeringen, hot new UK/Ireland collective Lands End and many more.
The friendly and welcoming Gower Bluegrass Festival kicks off the following weekend (Fri 6th – Sun 8th Sep). This event also has a unique home at the Gower Heritage Centre, a rural life museum based around a 12th century water mill. There will be an extensive line-up of performances as well as many lively picking sessions. Featured bands include the Grass Snakes (a great set of musicians, many drawn from venerable GBF hosts Roots and Galoots, who also appear this year), guitar whizz Chris Moreton and UK festival favourites Dalebilly among others. If you can spare the time from listening and picking, it’s also worthwhile exploring the glorious natural attractions nearby, including the spectacular Three Cliffs Bay (a pleasant 20 minute walk through the woods and along the river bank).
Heading further south, the weekend of Fri 13th – Sun 15th Sep brings the Cornish Bluegrass Festival, held at the Hendra Holiday Park just outside Newquay. This means you can opt for a little extra comfort and rent a static caravan if you wish! The Cornish festival has a bit more of an international feel with the band line-up featuring Jack Lawrence and Richard Plank from the USA and the Barcelona Bluegrass Band from Spain. Acts from the UK include Scotland’s popular Longway, local Cornish young guns Flats and Sharps and top London-based musos The Absentees. This is just a taste of the extensive performance programme which will take place in both the cabaret room and the outdoor marquee. As with all the other festivals there will be plenty of picking sessions too. Of course the CBF’s location close to Newquay brings many opportunities for attendees (or their less bluegrass-inclined family members!) to explore all the attractions of the North Cornish coast before, during or after your stay.
So if you fancy a fun few days of great live music in friendly surroundings, check out any or all of these festivals. I’ve only been able to include brief details here, so click on the website links above for more information on locations, bands, dance teams, ticket prices (all very reasonable) and accommodation options. Support live music, and take an instrument along yourself if you’re a picker….these gatherings are some of the most fun times I have ever had. Enjoy!