Browsing articles in "News"

Announcing Gretchen Peters

Feb 2, 2018   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

One of America’s most successful singer-songwriters, Gretchen Peters, will be one of the headline acts at this year’s Gate To Southwell Festival in June.

Grammy-nominated and recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Gretchen’s songs have been recorded by diverse artists such as Etta James, George Strait, Shania Twain and Neil Diamond, and she’s co-written and duetted with Bryan Adams. Her 2015 UK tour sold out and featured an acclaimed performance at Glastonbury.

Long regarded as one of the best voices in country and roots music, her hit album ‘Blackbirds’ was described as “an Americana tour de force” by The Sun while Uncut magazine hailed her as “one of Nashville’s greatest talents of the past two decades”. Her recent collection, ‘The Essential Gretchen Peters’, features many of her classic songs including ‘Independence Day’, ‘Hello Cruel World’, ‘The Secret Of Life’ and ‘On A Bus To St Cloud’. She’ll be performing in the Southwell Big Top on Saturday June 9th.

Gretchen Peters brings further international class to Gate To Southwell 2018, joining an eclectic musical line up that already includes legendary folk rockers Lindisfarne, great Irish singer Cara Dillon, Denmark’s Habadekuk, Louisiana blues stars the Lil Jimmy Reed Band, award-winning English folk stars The Young’uns, hillbilly Canadians Ol’ Savannah and many more artists.

Another exciting USA newcomer to Southwell in June will be Truckstop Honeymoon, fusing bluegrass, punk rock and soul with music hall jazz and rock & roll. Created by Katie and Mike West, and born in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Truckstop Honeymoon took to the road in 2005 after their home and their recording studio were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Since then, they’ve relocated to the Midwest music mecca of Lawrence Kansas but still continue to travel the world with their four kids.


Jan 19, 2018   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

The Greet will meet the Mississippi on Thursday June 7th when the Gate to Southwell Festival brings some of the world’s best blues stars to town.  Headliners Nine Below Zero have been one of Britain’s best blues exports for over 30 years and they’ve supported everyone from Alexis Korner, Chuck Berry, The Kinks and The Who through to recent successful tours with Squeeze and The Stranglers.  Also on the bill there’s The Lil’ Jimmy Reed Band, led by one of the last original Louisiana bluesmen.  Now in his late Seventies, Lil’ Jimmy has shared the stage with blues greats such as BB King and Bobby Blue Bland; he’ll be joined by Bob Hall, one of the finest blues and boogie pianists of his generation.

“We’ve booked the best international folk, roots and acoustic artists over the years but we’ve also had some great blues performers at Southwell,” says festival director Mike Kirrage.  “So this year we’ve decided to start the festival with a top-quality blues extravaganza and we hope to attract blues fans from throughout the Midlands.”

Alongside Nine Below Zero and The Lil’ Jimmy Reed Band, there’s also Ol’ Savannah, one of Canada’s best roots bands – they put the blues into bluegrass and have been described as a cross between Tom Waits, Muddy Waters, Roscoe Holcomb, and The Pogues! – and, from closer-to-home, Northumbrian bluesman, Johnny Dickinson, who’s universally regarded as one of Britain’s finest blues and slide guitarists, and played at the first ever Gate to Southwell Festival.

Over the weekend there’s a great line-up of roots and acoustic stars for the twelfth festival (June 7th to 10th) – includingLindisfarne, Cara Dillon and the Young’uns – plus another big name to be announced soon. “Tickets are selling fast,” reports Mike, “and Gate To Southwell 2018 definitely looks set to be the best yet.”

Special priced Thursday evening tickets are on sale now from £20 and Tier One Weekend and Weekend Extra tickets can also be purchased via  the website at

Dance Sides Now Confirmed

Jan 5, 2018   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

See the website for a string of dance sides now added to the line-up for 2018. And don’t forget it’s Plough Sunday this weekend (7th Jan) which kicks off with the service at St. Denis Church, Morton-cum-Fiskerton, followed by a sword dance at the village hall, then over to Southwell for displays at The Hearty Goodfellow and The Admiral Rodney from 12.30 to 1.30 and then from 2pm to 4pm at The Final Whistle, Southwell.

See the link below for details of sides playing at the festival

Dance displays 2018

Further acts announced for 2018

Jan 5, 2018   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments
There’s a perfect blend of rising stars, festival favourites and music legends lined up for next year’s Gate To Southwell.  
Already booked for the East Midlands’ premier roots and acoustic event are hugely-successful veteran Geordies Lindisfarne, award-winning folkies The Young’uns, one of Ireland’s greatest singers Cara Dillon performing with special guests, Danish roots stars Habadekuk, brilliant Devon guitarist and singer-songwriter John Smith, acclaimed Canadian fiddlers The Fitzgeralds and 2017 BBC Folk Singer of the Year Kris Drever.  There’ll also be a special Blues Night featuring Britain’s number one R&B band Nine Below Zero, Louisiana bluesmen The Lil’ Jimmy Reed Band and the UK’s best slide guitarist Johnny Dickinson.  
Nottinghamshire countryside from Thursday June 7th to Sunday June 10th.    
Also joining the eclectic, international bill there’s Scotland’s Blue Rose Code, the Canadian jazz-meets-klezmer-meets-folk of The Boxcar Boys, acclaimed Southwell regulars Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, 2017 BBC Group of the Year The Furrow Collective, the megafolk of Birmingham’s The Destroyers, much-loved global troubadour Rory McLeod, highly-rated harmonious Celts Mongoose and award-winning songstress Vikki Clayton.  
Plus, with more names still to be announced, there’s the East Anglian Americana of The Shackleton Trio, Derbyshire’s Rogue Embers and promising folk duo Harbottle & Jonas, who’ll all add to the party atmosphere at this most family-friendly of festivals, which also features music workshops, ceilidhs, dance displays, children’s entertainment, a craft fair plus great food and drink stalls.
Still led by Rod Clements, one of their original singer-songwriters, it’s 45 years since Lindisfarne’s first hit ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ cracked the UK charts and made their second LP ‘Fog On The Tyne’ the best-selling British album of 1972.  Since then the Geordie folk-rock kings have scored with hits such as ‘Lady Eleanor’, ‘Run For Home’ and ‘We Can Swing Together’.  Headlining the Big Top on Friday June 8th, with the late Alan Hull’s son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm joining the latest line-up, Lindisfarne are guaranteed to get the Southwell audience singing and swinging along. 
Gate To Southwell 2009 was The Young’uns first “proper festival” and since then they’ve returned to great acclaim in both 2011 and 2015.  Described by Mike Harding as “one of the best live acts I have ever seen”, the life-enhancing North Easterners will headline the festival on Saturday June 9th.  Following the great success of their ‘Another Man’s Ground’ collection, their 2017 release ‘Strangers’ looks certain to gather even more folk awards. 
Topping the bill on Sunday June 10th, Cara Dillon is regarded as one of the best vocalists and interpreters of traditional songs on the planet.  Mojo magazine stated she possessed “what may well be the world’s most beautiful female voice” as showcased on her seventh studio album, this year’s ‘Wanderer’.  Cara will perform alongside her husband and musical partner Sam Lakeman plus some very special guests. 
Making his first appearance at Southwell, the acclaimed singer-songwriter and innovative guitarist John Smith has become a star of the British acoustic music scene over the past 10 years, performing alongside artists such as Jackson Browne, Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker and Rodney Crowell, and guesting on albums by David Gray, Lisa Hannigan and LeAnn Rimes.  His recent album’, ‘Headlong’, is a fine example of a “master craftsman at work” (Folk Radio). 
Anyone who caught Habadekuk’s last visit to Gate To Southwell will welcome them back with open arms and dancing feet.  Regarded as one of the most exciting live folk bands, the Danish nine-piece mix it up with salsa, polkas and big band jazz.  Appropriately, their motto is “we blow you away”.  
Kicking off the festival on Thursday June 7th, there’s a great feast of blues from Nine Below Zero, Lil’ Jimmy Reed Band and Johnny Dickinson.  NBZ formed at the height of punk and went on to become one of the most respected blues bands on the Eighties and Nineties, working with artists such as Eric Clapton, Gary Moore and Chuck Berry.  Their extended eight-piece big band appearance at Glastonbury in 2016 won them a new generation of fans and recently they’ve toured extensively with Squeeze. 
21st century bluesmen don’t come much more authentic than 77 year old Lil’ Jimmy Reed, who was born on the Mississippi and who’s been playing harp and guitar since the early 1950s, sharing stages with blues legends such as BB King and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland.  He’s guaranteed to bring the gritty sounds of the deep South to Southwell and his band will feature acclaimed blues and boogie pianist Bob Hall.  Also on Thursday, while Johnny Dickinson might hail from Morpeth rather than Baton Rouge, he’s rightly regarded as one of Britain’s best blues and slide guitarists.  Having recovered from serious illness, this is a great opportunity to enjoy a rare talent.  

First Acts Announced for 2018

Aug 23, 2017   //   by mikekirrage   //   News  //  No Comments

We are pleased to confirm the first five acts booked for next year.

Nine piece Danish band Habadekuk, who were sensational on their last visit will close  the main stage on Saturday afternoon and the Frontier Stage on Saturday night. ” Denmark’s most exciting and innovative folk band.” – Eddie Barcan, Avalon Stage, Glastonbury Festival.

Closing the main stage on Saturday night and winners of the best group in the Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2015 and 2016 we have the UK’s favourite folk trio, The Young ‘uns.

Also on Saturday we are pleased to welcome back Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar -two times BBC Radio 2 Award winners and “one of the best young folk duos around” – R2 Magazine.

Booked for Sunday, are Dallahan, described by Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2 as “some of the most exciting trad musicians to emerge in recent years.”

Finally (so far!) we have one of the most impressive of the latest crop of singer songwriters , Blue Rose Code. “Seriously can’t recommend Blue Rose Code enough, cannot stop listening” – Ewan Mcgregor. “The Boy’s a genius” – Ian Rankin. Day to be confirmed.

Festival Thanks

Jun 14, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

We are deeply grateful to each and every person who made the Gate to Southwell Festival such a success this year.
We appreciate all the time, skills and support that have been so generously given.

So, in no particular order, a huge resounding thank you to;

All the volunteers, for being so friendly, giving your time, and keeping everything running so smoothly. Special thanks to all the team leaders for the extra responsibility they take, and to those whose volunteering work runs throughout the year.

All the artists, for those of you who travelled a long way, and those nearby, for all your unique contributions to the ‘mix’ that Southwell is known for, and for putting heart and soul into your performances.

To all the traders, for bring your wares, and such positivity and variety to the festival, we all really enjoyed looking around your stalls. Thank you.

To the first aiders, who kept us all feeling safe and cared for, and kept on smiling throughout.

To Robin Hood Energy and our other sponsors, we really wouldn’t manage without you! Thank you for your support, often ongoing through many years.

To Southwell Lions, for showing us the way with such cheerfulness!

To the decorators, who made the site so welcoming and even more beautiful this year, and to everyone who decorated their gate.

To all the poets, who performed boldly, and were such fun to have around.

To the open mic entries, for your talented contributions and for being such good sports.

For the contractors, whose skill and expertise is so valuable, during the festival, and those working during set up and take down, the invisible teams.

To the dancers, who keep us firmly rooted in our strong traditions, for bringing good cheer, and for the joy you shared in the town centre performances.

Thank you all!!

We really look forward to seeing you all next year, for Gate to Southwell Festival 2018!

Kind regards
Mike Kirrage for the Board and Committee of GTSF

Sunday Review 2017

Jun 13, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

If Saturday had been conquered by hippies, Sunday at Gate To Southwell belonged to our much-loved foreign musical friends, chiefly the Californians, Canadians and Mallorcans. Big Top headliners Le Vent Du Nord blew in from Quebec celebrating fifteen years on the road together. Combining Canadian traditional music with their own, cinematically-French compositions (like ‘Little Dream Number Nine’) they warmed the Southwell crowd with fond memories of their brilliant 2012 performance. Their fellow countrymen, The East Pointers were equally impressive, provoking wild dancing in the aisles as they promoted “our first and therefore our best record” ‘Secret Victory’ and threw in a Prince Edward Island cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ for good measure. Stirring stuff!

Sunday crowds also packed the Robin Hood Energy stage to get another dose of the extra-entertaining Ooks Of Hazzard. Their famous uke-powered takes on MGMT’s ‘Kids’ and Radiohead’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ and ‘Creep’ were real festival highlights alongside a gravelly Tom Waits-style down-at-heel ‘Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out’. A standing ovation again; everyone loves them. As live performers, BOC from Mallorca take some beating. Many of their tracks begin like weird Prog Folk symphonies but then – with guttural Latin cries of “uno dos tres cuatro!” they kick off into a remarkably diverse world of folk-meets-flamenco-meets-gypsy-meets-ska-meets-metal musics… Hard to define, impossible to avoid dancing madly to…they’re a festival force of nature.

Of course, there was plenty of homegrown talent too, from the beautifully intelligent jazz folk of the Bowbeaubelles (‘Blue Tree’ was a stand-out track here) and the socio-political songwriting of mohicaned Paul Carbuncle (who did a great version of Dick Gaughan’s ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’) through to the sweeter traditional acoustic sounds of Alder Patterson & Dashwood and Grimsby’s own purveyors of Deep South swamp blues, The Life And Times Of The Brothers Hogg. Not forgetting Megson’s warm, emotional set of contemporary folk songs and ballads drawn from their own landscape of Teesside. ‘Burn Away’ mourned the decline of the steel industry and its impact on the local community, while ‘The Longshot’ captured the intense frustrations and dashed hopes of football supporters generally, and long-suffering recently-relegated Middlesborough fans in particular.

Honourable mentions too for the feisty and funny, hard-living Americana of the excellent Dana Immanuel & The Stolen Band and particularly the extremely likeable and heavily-bearded James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band, who seem to have made Gate To Southwell their second home. Influenced by the likes of Guthrie, Dylan and even Ryan Adams, their cleverly constructed alt-country songs like ‘Maslow’, ‘There’s A Body In The Water’ and ‘On Meeting The Man In The Suit’ definitely make their debut collection ‘The Tower’ worth embracing.

As Sunday drew to a close there was time to reflect on the great collective efforts of everyone involved across four fine days – musicians, stewards, traders, dancers, crew, entertainers, bar staff, health professionals… – and also to remember festival founder and local musician Adey Button. There was an emotional gathering of family and friends in the Barleycorn Bar to mourn Adey’s passing and, more importantly, to celebrate his life and love of music; a fitting tribute to a great friend of the Gate To Southwell.

Saturday Review 2017

Jun 13, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Always Trust A Hippy!

One of the great highlights of the 2016 festival was the Dylan @ 75 celebration concert. This year, Gate To Southwell marked fifty years since the Monterey festival in California, which gave birth to the US underground hippy movement (June 1967), with an onstage gathering of artists performing songs from that flower-powered era. Led by the hugely-talented Jim Moray, Saturday afternoon’s Summer Of Love in Southwell was transformed from Sweet England into Haight-Ashbury. It was a nostalgic whirlwind tour of counterculture classics including Grace Petrie’s take on Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece Of My Heart’, Megan Henwood’s cover of Bobby Gentry’s ‘Ode To Billie Joe’, a heavy duty version of Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ by False Light’s axeman Sam Carter, Moray and Petrie duetting on ‘She’s Leaving Home’ and Reg Meuross channeling his inner-Byrds beautifully on ‘Turn Turn Turn’. But, tripping the light fantastic, the contributions from Philip Henry & Hannah Martin deserve special mention. Not only for Henry’s Ravi Shankar raga slide guitar solo blending into their moving ‘That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’ Leonard Cohen tribute, but also for their powerful version of Jefferson Airplane’s hippy classic ‘White Rabbit’: “Remember what the dormouse said, Feed your head, Feed your head”. Yeah indeed man!

In true festival style, it was a day of musical variety, exceptional family entertainment and vibrant colours, mainly thanks to the floral headdresses created by local charity Reach and The Flower Pod. In the morning, the streets of Southwell were crowded with thousands of visitors watching nearly 300 dancers from sides such as Harlequin Morris, Slubbing Billy’s, Thrales Rappers, Anstey, Rattlejag, Lincoln Mickelbarrow, Bishops, Grimsby and Poachers, plus the Conroy Irish dancers, the Koyuki Tribal Belly dancers and the black-faced Hell’s Angels of morrisdom, the Witchmen. Back on the racecourse site, there was great entertainment from top juggler Jason Maverick, Johnny & The Raindrops and, as ever, Crazy Keith Donnelly with his Incredible Custard Circus.

Just about every roots and acoustic style was covered on the five music stages, notably the emotional music harmonies and fine storytelling of Daphne’s Flight (Helen Watson, Melanie Harrold, Julie Matthews, Chris While and Christine Collister) with a classic cover of Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding’ and strong recent songs such as ‘Count Me In’ and ‘Goddess Of Man’ from their recent ‘Knows Time, Knows Change’ collection. In a similar if saltier harmonious vein, there were also the She Shanties, a warm Geordie women’s collective who seem to be riding the current wave of positive communal singing.

Then came highly-respected American songwriter Chris Smither arrived sounding as gravel-voiced as Johnny Cash, looking like a cross between John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, before delivering two fine sets that charted his personal history while offering wise insights into the state of modern America. Great folk blues guitar playing and poetic lyrics shone through on tracks such as ‘Leave The Light On’, ‘Crocodile Man’ and ‘Love You Like A Man’, famously covered by Bonnie Raitt (as ‘Love Me Like A Man’). Bring him back next year please!

It was entertaining to see Californian ukulele stars, Ooks Of Hazzard back at Southwell with their drawling dry American humour and lovable covers of diverse tracks such as ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and the theme from ‘Thirteen’. (They’re also performing again on Sunday afternoon on the Robin Hood Energy stage.)

As if all this wasn’t enough for one day, headliner Jon Boden, the former Bellowhead frontman, captivated the Big Top with a solo set from his famous ‘Painted Lady’ and ‘Songs From The Floodplain’ albums, proving again that his importance as an artist who can transport an audience through centuries of English folk music and make it all sound contemporary and socially relevant. (Boden’s Summer Of Love takes on Pink Floyd’s ‘Bike’ and the Bee Gees’ ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941’ were both brilliant and bonkers!) In contrast, there was Grace Petrie with her politically-charged songwriting and increasingly confident stage performances since her stint as topical troubadour on BBC Radio Four’s The Now Show. Regardless of your personal politics, Petrie is a youthful, alternative force to be reckoned with, and a cutting edge social commentator as tracks such as ‘God Save The Hungry’, ‘Pride’ and ‘Departures’ testify.

But if Grace Petrie wasn’t political enough for those suffering from General Election Fatigue and Hung Parliament Syndrome, there was the added bonus of veteran counter-culture poet Atilla The Stockbroker on the Frontier Stage. Peddling his excellent Undaunted: Selected Poems 2014-16 collection, Atilla had us recalling the good old days when he was targeted by fascists, led his medieval punk band Barnstormer, and bizarrely stood in for Donny Osmond when the teen idol once cancelled. Naturally, this led us to join him in a singalong of ‘Puppy Love’ followed by a celebration of Prince Harry’s royal appendage. Most famous as a ranter and provocateur, Atilla’s poetry is also personal and moving, particularly his reflections on childhood and the difficult but resolved relationship he had with his stepfather. Top performance from a proper punk legend!

Friday Review 2017

Jun 13, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

As if in anticipation of Saturday’s Summer Of Love concert at Gate To Southwell, the sun shone San Francisco-style on Friday evening. Once again, the little festival with the big heart, produced some golden musical moments with Kate Rusby headlining the Big Top, South coast new boys Kadia warming up the Robin Hood Energy stage and an enjoyable array of diverse bands on the Frontier stage including the Hot Club jazz and swing of Maniere Des Bohemiens.
Celebrating 25 years as a performer, Kate Rusby has one of the most distinctive and emotive voices in British music; there’s still a collective gasp of surprise when her warm Barnsley introductions end and she starts to sing, particularly on beautiful tracks like ‘The Lark’, ‘Big Brave Bill’, ‘Underneath The Stars’ and the recent ‘Hunter Moon’ (from her 2016 ‘Life In A Paper Boat’ collection). In contrast, Kadia are a newish Bournemouth-based trio with strong harmonies and some fine songs. ‘Beast of Bodmin’ and ‘Origin Of Fire’ were highlights here plus a bizarrely-infectious cover of Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’. Given that singing cellist Lee Cuff had dislocated his bowing finger the day before the festival, this was a really upbeat, impressive performance.
Throw into this mix the folk blues and individual lyricism of singer songwriter Jack Harris plus the Deep Southern States-sounds of duo Philip Henry & Hannah Martin, festival-goers were really spoilt for choice. Before catching the last bus back into Southwell, there was still time to thoroughly enjoy the mix of traditional and original contemporary European music delivered by Sheelanagig; straight outta the West Country, they looked like the Allman Brothers meets Focus but delivered an intoxicating performance to the dancing crowd at the Frontier Stage.
Saturday promises an even greater variety of fine roots and acoustic music, with Jon Boden (former frontman of Bellowhead) headlining, supported by diverse acts such as Mallorca’s BOC, well-respected American singer-songwriter Chris Smither and highly-regarded folk singers Megan Henwood and Grace Petrie. Bring it on!

Thursday Review 2017

Jun 13, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

It was a typically eclectic and eccentric start to this year’s Gate To Southwell Festival. As the General Election polls closed and darkness began to fall, there were fine performances from diverse acts such as French classical guitarist Theo Migeon, BBC award winners The Changing Room (featuring Tanya Brittain and Sam Kelly), contemporary Celtic folk storytellers Ranagri, and the West Coast of Scotland headliners Blazin’ Fiddles. Four extraordinary fiddlers – Jenna Reid, Bruce MacGregor, Rua Macmillan and Kristan Harvey – with guitar and piano support from Anna Massie and Angus Lyon, they’ve have made the journey from Highland ceilidhs to international festivals and the Proms, and tonight delivered a whisky-flavoured set of jigs, strathspeys, solos and laments with fine titles such as ‘The Gamekeeper’s Cottage’ and ‘The Cambridge Catastrophe’. It was an emotional evening too when, alongside the celebrated Australian vocal group Cloudstreet, festival director Mike Kirrage paid tribute to his friend and Southwell favourite Vin Garbutt, the Teeside Troubadour who died earlier this week.
Setting the scene for three more days of great music, dance and family entertainment, the first night of the 2017 Gate To Southwell Festival was brought to a close in brilliantly chaotic and comedic fashion by Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra. After teething technical problems during their soundcheck, these engaging exponents of Geordie swing and country blues decided to quit the stage and perform a totally acoustic set amongst the audience. Original, opinionated and highly entertaining, the Teapad Orchestra delivered infectious tracks such as ‘Junk On The Radio’, ‘High Speed Train’, ‘Great Fire Of Byker’ and ‘Hot Bath’ before ending with Heron rolling around on the grass playing guitar as midnight struck. A great opening night, high standards of performance have already been set, but no doubt headliners Kate Rusby (tonight), Jon Boden (Saturday) and Le Vent Du Nord (Sunday) and a diverse host of artists appearing over the weekend will meet the challenge.

Southwell Festival