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Review: Southwell Festival 2019

10 June 19 words: Adrian Shaw

Our Adrian went down and got down with the beltin' beats...

Southwell Festival featured a whole range of supporting activities, including kids entertainment, folk-dancing, and instrumental lessons, etc. were on offer and festival on-site food and accommodation were too available. As well as the music, spoken word was also on offer, with Poetry Slam, story-telling, et al.

However, despite the Thunder & Lightning Polka playing pretty much the whole time, the punters enjoyed a real feast of entertainment and talen, especially by new voices to the Festival – notably the Canadian Band, Jessica Pearson and the East Wind, with their driving beat and great vocals.

There was also the wonderful soul-wrenching solo songs by Danish (Jutland) performer, Ida Wenoe (a musical equivalent of one of my favourite visual artists, Paula Rego, with her sometimes dark themes), the sweet harmonies of the Dutch trio, Sya, and the amazing gender political power of Grace Petrie. A whole host of new talents made their mark during the Open Mic competition (won this year by Oliver Lee), and another rising talent, with his adoring mum videoing his performance, at the Barleycorn Stage, a lad named Kieron did a great rendition of the Bob Dylan favourite, ‘Forever Young’.  

The attraction of this wonderful musical festival was once again evident with the return of old favourites (including kids’ favourite, Johnny & The Raindrops), Truckstop Honeymoon, Ranagri, and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (a real tour de force), and the Scottish pounding rhythms and pipes of Skippinish. The very talented guitar and vocals of my own favourites from my first visit last year, Joshua Cook and Sunjay, did well both separately and in their fantastic duo performances; a particular highlight of this year’s festival with its tribute to Buddy Holly and a multi-talented celebration of the great Woodstock Festival (see playlist below).

As someone who was lucky to be in South London’s Crystal Palace area in the 70s, when several stars from that event were flown in later to entertain a sun-and rain-soaked crowd of thousands (nothing changes with the weather at such festivals!), I can vouch for the verisimilitude of the performances with the originals.  I was particularly taken by tributes to Janis Joplin (Amy Kakoura), and Joan Baez (by Nancy Kerr) respectively, and Ritchie Havens (by Josh).

I was able to stay for the whole of the Buddy Holly Tribute performance late, until nearly 1am Monday, which was made up by a quartet of Sunjay, who had in fact performed the role of the Great One in the London Show, Joshua, with his intricate stringing and chords, and very-ably assisted by the double bass of Ian Jennings and the ecstatic drumming of Darren Barnes. This was especially electric in their rendition of ‘Wipeout’ (originally by ‘The Ventures’).  The Tribute also included songs by ‘The Everly Brothers’ and music of other greats.                      

I must mention again (in response, perhaps, to Brexit?) the international flavour of the musical talent performing so tremendously here, with The Basque (peasant) Band Korronzi, with a young high-kicking,  jumping boy and girl dance-pair, Dinamo, and the Indian-influenced Mishra (another new act here). 

Of course, the particularly efficient, successful, and memorable effort, was made by the Organising Committee, and the extremely hard-working and gifted technical back-up of the sound and light engineers: all unsung heroes and heroines too often!

See y’all next year folks!

Southwell Festival was from Thursday 4 June - Sunday 9 June

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