Road trip part three – Gower Bluegrass Festival

Onwards to the second bluegrass festival of our September road trip! The Gower Bluegrass Festival takes place annually at the Gower Heritage Centre in this picturesque corner of South Wales. Now in its eighth year, the festival is run by bluegrass stalwart Roland Emmanuel and his small team of helpers. The site itself is really fascinating, a rural life museum based around a working water mill. It was also just a short walk through the woods and along the river to the spectacularly beautiful Three Cliffs Bay, providing some of the most gorgeous coastal views you’ll find in the UK. Usually I can’t be persuaded to leave the festival site during the weekend, but I was very glad that I took a couple of hours out on Saturday afternoon to walk on this beach.

But back to the main event! Along with scheduled concerts and workshops, informal jams sprang up in various locations in and around the centre, so there was always something going on. Friday night’s concert saw a packed crowd enjoying a number of bands, with Roots and Galoots rounding off the evening. Other bands appearing over the weekend included A Band Like Alice, Dalebilly, Chris Moreton, The Woodberrys and Tall Paul’s latest venture, the entertaining Great Western Revellers, featuring John Breese (banjo), Jules Bushell (bass) and Charlotte & Laura Carrivick (mandolin & fiddle respectively).  Headlining the weekend were Ozarks bluegrass stalwarts Cedar Hill, rounding off their two week tour of England and Wales.  On Saturday night they delivered another stonking set of straight-ahead bluegrass picking and harmony singing.

The members of Cedar Hill also led various instrument workshops on Saturday afternoon and I sat in on enjoyable sessions with Shannon Cox (guitar) and Pete Brown (fiddle). The two also took part in each other’s workshops, so we got treated to some great demonstrations of how guitar and fiddle play off each other. As well as the beach walk on Saturday teatime, I enjoyed singing and picking with lots of folks throughout the day and into the night, and also took part in the open mic session on Saturday afternoon, aided and abetted by Roland and his mandolin.

Sunday morning saw a packed house in the lovely little Mount Pisgah chapel for an uplifting gospel session which included a rousing rendition of Bread of Heaven from the congregation as well as a number of gospel songs from festival participants. Another full schedule of bands kept visitors entertained throughout Sunday afternoon, before the programme of events came to a close at 5pm. It had been a great weekend for my first experience of this friendly little festival, and I look forward to going back next year.