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Summer Love, Great Music and Family Fun at Gate to Southwell Festival in Nottinghamshire

Kate Rusby

The eleventh Gate To Southwell Festival is expected to attract five thousand visitors to the East Midlands in early June.  With over 60 international, UK and local music acts, ceilidhs and dance displays, poets and storytellers, fantastic family entertainment, plus workshops, great food stalls, a beer and cider festival and a craft fair, this 2017 event looks certain to be the most eclectic, entertaining and exciting yet.
Running from Thursday June 8th to Sunday June 11th, in the beautiful rural setting near Southwell racecourse, the festival headliners include Kate Rusby, the much-loved leading lady of English folk (Friday 9th) and Jon Boden, charismatic frontman of the extraordinary Bellowhead (Saturday 10th).  There’s also a great array of international stars including BOC from Mallorca – who were sensational at the 2015 event – plus top quality Canadian bands Le Vent Du Nord and The East Pointers.  
Adding to this treasure chest of fine music, the legendary harmony supergroup Daphne’s Flight (first formed at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1995) are reuniting to appear at Southwell, and the Thursday night bill will feature the intoxicating Blazin’ Fiddles from Scotland and The Changing Room, an acclaimed modern folk collaboration between Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain.  There’ll also be welcome returns for much-loved artists such as the Californian ukulele-toting Ooks Of Hazzard (their cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ was one of the highlights of 2016), the Glaswegian Americana of James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band and the folk roots cerebral singer-songwriting of Jess Morgan.    
Adding to the warm atmosphere at this most family-friendly of festivals, the 2017 event will be hosting a Summer Of Love @ 50 celebration to mark fifty years since the US hippy movement in California broke through into the mainstream. Having led the house band for last year’s wonderful Dylan @ 75 tribute gig, the immensely-talented Jim Moray returns to fuel this flower-powered extravaganza.

Also on the ever-blossoming Gate To Southwell 2017 bill there’s American folk-blues guitar veteran Chris Smither, highly-acclaimed due Megson, flame-haired traditional star Megan Henwood, comedy veteran Les Barker, newly-formed double act Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage, Welsh singer-songwriter Jack Harris, Tyneside female vocal group She Shanties, Australia’s immensely popular harmony trio Cloudstreet, BBC Folk Award-winning Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin, Celtic contemporary music from Ranagri, the all-female gothic folk troubadours Wookalily, swing-folksters The BeauBowBelles along with a rare chance to see Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley.
Bringing drama and colour to both the festival and the streets of Southwell, in procession along King Street on Saturday morning, there’s a host of dance sides confirmed to perform including Slubbing Billy’s from Huddersfield, Thrales Rapper from London, Micklebarrow and Poacher and Bishops Morris (all from Lincolnshire), Anstey from Leicestershire, the Plough Morris of Rattlejag and the Cotswold Morris of Harlequin, plus Conroy’s Irish Dance and the Koyuki Tribal Belly Dancers.  Last but not least, there are the Hells Angels of Morris Dancers, the magic menacing Witchmen.
Back on the festival site, there’ll be five venues for music over four days, including the newly-named boundary-pushing Frontier Stage will welcome diverse talents such as pioneer punk poet Atilla The Stockbroker and heiress to Billy Bragg, Leicester’s Grace Petrie.  There’s something for everyone from the western-swing-meets-country-blues of Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra, the energetic European folk of Sheelanigig and the alt-country eccentricity of Dana Immanuel & the Stolen Band through to rising Scottish stars such as Tannara, Wayward Jane and Gnoss, The Vagaband and Alden Patterson & Dashwood from Norfolk, and Nottinghamshire’s own immensely-danceable Wholesome Fish!   
With the new Robin Hood Energy Stage showcasing the best in traditional and contemporary folk music, the festival is also committed to promoting the work of East Midlands poets so there will be a Spoken Word Showcase featuring the rising stars of the Nottingham-based DIY Poets Collective, and The Southwell Slam – an open poetry and spoken word competition, for performers and writers of all ages and abilities, to find the Bard of the Gate To Southwell 2017.  For more Slam details contact Southwellslam@gmail.com.  
Gate To Southwell Festival tickets are now available from www.gtsf.uk

Jon Boden

Warthog

May sees the return to Lowdham of a very popular and unique couple – Hat Fitz & Cara. Hat Fitz is a “veteran” wild man of the blues scene in Australia.  He has a record 18 straight appearances at Byron’s East Coast Blues and Roots Festival, a record that is not likely to ever be broken, and one which bears testimony to his amazing live performances and popularity with festival goers.

Cara draws on her soul background (she’s toured Europe and the United States with singers such as Jamiroquai and the hugely popular Corinne Bailey-Rae), and although blessed with a sensational voice she was not content to be labelled as ‘just a singer’. She has taken to drumming duties as well as washboards, flute and tin whistle, sometimes all at once. They visit the Village Hall on Wednesday 3rd May.
They will be followed on Friday 12th May by the Phil Beer Band. Phil Beer is the multi-instrumentalist half of England’s foremost acoustic duo ‘Show of Hands’. His instrumental wizardry is well documented and has been utilised by countless artists over the years, the most notable being The Rolling Stones, Mike Oldfield and Steve Harley. While having his feet firmly in the ‘Acoustic’ camp, he has “kept his hand in” with electric music with an annual outing of The Phil Beer Band.
The Phil Beer Band performs a unique blend of folk and roll trawled from Phil”s treasure trove of traditional tunes and American country rock.
For more information on the forthcoming programme, visit www.warthogpromotions.com
Tickets from Mike & Jacky Hoare    Tel 0115 9663596