I approached this – I have to admit – with a little caution, but decided to attend without any preconception (and little previous exposure to the expected musical genre), and (dis)cover the Gate to Southwell 2018 Festival for LeftLion.
The four day Festival has been running for twelve years, and this year featured a whole host of bands plus real ale, excellent wines, a range of cuisines on offer and accommodation. Although not as large as some, the festival still attracts band from all over.
The festival website proved invaluable for both long-time fans and practitioners as well as comparative newcomers like me. I greatly enjoyed the range of talent in this festival, making a number of useful contacts for future festival attendance. The organising committee had done a great job of finding acts which certainly opened my eyes to what comes under the title ‘Country and Folk Music’. I’m glad I took this opportunity to observe and listen.
In essence, any fears or preconceptions were immediately laid to rest on my first night, after being exposed to the Blues and RnB of two quite diverse practitioners’: L’il Jimmy Reid and Nine Below Zero. This contrasted with Lindisfarne - the elder states-persons - who although greatly ageing , ‘did their thing’ (according to long-time participants). The range of instruments used was extravagant, often explosive, with a wide range of musical influences.
There were other hugely impressive and entertaining acts, most of which were full of musical surprises and humour. Some were less-experienced - like Joshua Cook, a raw-talented guy who managed to jam with the brilliant and smoothly-operating Sunjay with great success. I was also lucky to encounter the huge talent of Rory McCleod, and share a chat besides.
Others which greatly impressed me included: Rogue Embers, Alex Cumming and Nicola Beazeley, Banter, Truckstop Honeymoon, Winter Wilson, Ellie Ford, Harbottle & Jonas, The Shackleton Trio, Seas of Mirth (a piratical outfit!), Ol Savannah and Habadekuk.
As a New Canadian, The Boxcar Boys (who in fact weren’t all boys), along with the brilliantly musical Outside Track (with their clever Klezmer and 1930s dance hall content) and the singing, playing, step-dancing Fitzgeralds, gave great pleasure. Celtic and Appalachian influences were obviously evident, but so were others, such as the hint of coming Summer holidays from Spanish based Dinamo. In the opinion of most observers, the standard of musicianship - especially amongst the younger acts - is definitely increasing.
Other festival events included folk dancing, and kids’ play-areas, fancy dress and music by ‘Johnny & the Raindrops’. I particularly enjoyed partaking in the ‘Poetry Slam’ programme (and actually getting a place in the competition!)
Festival buses linked the event at Southwell Racecourse, and a very limited EMT Train service operated at local stations Rolleston and Thurgarton. My one caveat was the limited public transport, making attendance difficult at later acts (no Taxi service available), and my only other gripe was the limited card facilities. However the solution lies elsewhere. A hugely friendly and helpful atmosphere predominated.
In sum, I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend the whole darn theng! (But leave your expectations outside, y’all, y’hear?!)...
Gate to Southwell Festival took place on Thursday 7 - Sunday 10 June.