WE REALLY are spoilt in this country for festivals and with so many on during the summer there are not too many club gigs about.
The picturesque village of Wickham, set in the Hampshire countryside approximately 90 miles from London, hosts its annual Wickham Festival over four days from Thursday, August 14 until Sunday, August 17 with a cracking and varied line-up.
Among those on the bill include singer/songwriter James Blunt, seller of more 20 million albums, who headlines the festival on August 14 alongside The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Scotland’s legendary folk hero Dick Gaughan, and guitarist Tony McManus. The second ‘Big Top’ stage on the same night will feature James McNally’s mighty Afro Celt Sound System.
The pick of Friday would have to be Liverpudlian outfit The Lightning Seeds, the award-winning Oysterband, Julie Fowlis and Barbara Dickson & Rab Noakes. Saturday is a real coup for the festival. The great Steve Earle & The Dukes top a super bill that includes The Men They Couldn’t Hang, The Poozies, Thea Gilmore and many more.
The music on Sunday will start at noon and there is quite an Irish presence in the line-up. Kildare singer/songwriter Heidi Talbot will be on stage at 3pm followed by Luka Bloom, who in turn will give way to the brilliant Michael McGoldrick with John McCusker and John Doyle.
Donegal’s super trad group Altan will precede 11-piece Bellowhead who will close the festival in fine style. Full details on www.wickhamfestival.co.uk
Whitby in North Yorkshire holds its Whitby Folk Week from August 16-22. Irish artists appearing include Thomas McCarthy, a man who seems to be very busy these days. Coming from a Co. Offaly Traveller family, Thomas sings songs collected from his background, keeping the rich musical tradition alive.
Racker Donnelly will also be performing his own brilliant material while trad and ballad Co. Meath natives Ann Lynch Lyons with Sean and John Lyons make their first appearance at Whitby. www.whitbyfolk.co.uk
So what is it that makes a good festival?
Booking big names well in advance is an obvious one but watching who is coming up is equally important. A wide variety of entertainment is essential but without good facilities and organisation it can be wasted. Festival-goers are well used to the uncertain weather and usually cope brilliantly with good humour. The long-running festivals generally have things well in hand.
From Thursday, August 21 until Monday, August 25, Towersey Festival in Oxfordshire will celebrate its 50th Anniversary this year. If a festival has been running for that length of time it’s a fair assumption that it must be doing something right so it is well worth checking out.
Folk superstar Richard Thompson tops the bill with Seth Lakeman not far behind. Dick Gaughan needs no introduction, nor does Lau. The group had three consecutive wins for Best Group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Add in Mike McGoldrick and John McCusker, Blair Dunlop, Nancy Kerr, the great Cajun sound of The Flatville Aces, Ashley Hutchings and far too many more to mention and you can see why Towersey has been running for so long.
There is a special night on Saturday, August 23 when independent trad and folk label, Topic Records, celebrates 75 years of recording the finest folk music from these islands.
Their huge and very impressive back catalogue also includes some great Irish music. The evening will be hosted by Norma Waterson along with her daughter Eliza Carthy & The Gift Band and will include many surprise special guests. www.towerseyfestival.com