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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.

Vin Garbutt

Jun 7, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

As we posted on the Facebook News page of the website yesterday, we are all so very sad to hear the news. The Folk Community has lost one of its brightest stars. Thanks Vin for all the great times we’ve shared. Heartfelt commiserations to Pat and the family.”

Gate to Southwell Festival.

The death of Teesside Troubadour Vin Garbutt was announced on Facebook by his family


Mar 31, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Alongside international music artists such as Kate Rusby, Jon Boden, Daphne’s Flight, Blazin’ Fiddles, Le Vent Du Nord and BOC, there’s a feast of poetry and storytelling at this summer’s Gate To Southwell Festival.

Legendary punk poet and musician Attila The Stockbroker makes his first visit to the festival on Saturday June 10th. A radical force of nature and a self-confessed “sharp-tongued, high energy social surrealist”, Attila’s career was launched by Radio One DJ John Peel in the 1980s and, since then he’s performed over 3000 gigs, played every Glastonbury since 1983 and released over 50 collections of music and poetry.

Reaffirming the power of the spoken word, Les Barker is another great poet appearing at the festival, a former accountant who (in his own words) “became a professional idiot”. Appropriately Barker’s famous for doggerel and music such as ‘Up The Creek Without A Poodle’, ‘Daydream Retriever’ and ‘The War On Terrier’, but there’s a more serious side to work such as his folk opera ‘The Stones Of Callanish’ and songs recorded by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick.

Alongside these established wordsmiths, Gate To Southwell is proudly committed to promoting the work of East Midlands poets. On Saturday June 10th there will be a Spoken Word Showcase featuring the rising stars of the Nottingham-based DIY Poets Collective. This will be followed on Sunday June 11th with 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 Leanne Moden

Newsletter, 19 Feb 2017

Feb 19, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments
This is your last chance to get tickets to this year’s festival at tier 1 prices. Right now you can save 20% on full price tickets, but by 1st March they’ll have gone!
Daphne’s Flight and Blazin’ Fiddles added to Bill.
In addition to Kate Rusby, the first lady of English folk, and Jon Boden, former frontman of Bellowhead, we have the legendary harmony supergroup Daphne’s Flight (first formed at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1995) reuniting to appear at Southwell on the Saturday.
And also just confirmed, another celebrated group, the intoxicating Blazin’ Fiddles from Scotland. No other band has quite captured Scottish fiddle music’s variety, energy and sensitivity like Blazin’ Fiddles have – playing Thursday.
Also recently booked are award-winning Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin, a return for Ranagri, last here in 2015, all-female Wookalily, swing-folksters The BeauBowBelles, a rare chance to see Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley, and leading the way on the Frontier stage, Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra, Sheelanigig and Dana Immanuel & the Stolen Band.
All this adds to the impressive international line-up already announced including BOC from Mallorca, Canadian bands Le Vent Du Nord and The East Pointers, Americans Chris Smither and The Ooks of Hazzard, and the last European tour of Australia’s Cloudstreet, as well as plenty of home grown talent, such as The Changing Room (Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain), acclaimed duo Megson, traditional star Megan Henwood, performance poets Les Barker and Jason Maverick, newly-formed Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage, singer-songwriter Jack Harris, and Tyneside’s She Shanties.

Blazin Fiddles

Feb 11, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Replacing Vin Garbutt on Thursday night – Scotland’s major fiddle enemble Blazin’ Fiddles will be entertaining the big top crowds on Thursday night. Always entertaining, with tightly interweaving instruments, frenetic playing and warming wit – we are honoured to have them for one of their small number of dates this year.

News 31 Jan 2016 – Atilla the Stockbroker, Grace Petrie and more….

Feb 11, 2017   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Punk poet Atilla the Stockbroker and Billy Bragg heiress Grace Petrie added to Gate to Southwell line-up

There’s a fantastic line-up of artists at this summer’s Gate To Southwell Festival (June 8th to 11th) in Nottinghamshire.

In addition to Kate Rusby, the first lady of English folk, and Jon Boden, former frontman of Bellowhead, there’s great array of international stars including BOC from Mallorca – who were sensational at the 2015 event – plus leading 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.

Early Bird tickets are selling fast ahead of price rises in March and Mike Kirrage, the festival director, reports that sales are already 30 per cent up on last year. “Our reputation really grows each year and the 2017 line-up has already captured the public’s imagination. Kate Rusby is a brilliant artist with a great following and who can forget that Jon and Bellowhead went down a storm here back in 2008.”

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), folk legend Vin Garbutt and the Glaswegian Americana of James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band.

Once again, there’ll be five venues for music at the Racecourse near Southwell over four days including the newly-named boundary-pushing Frontier Stage, which will welcome diverse talents such as pioneer punk poet Atilla The Stockbroker and the heiress to Billy Bragg, Leicester’s Grace Petrie, and the Robin Hood Energy Stage showcasing the best in traditional and contemporary folk music.

Adding to the great atmosphere at this most family-friendly of festivals – with activities including music workshops, ceilidhs, dance displays, a craft fair plus great food and drink outlets – 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 resulting in one of the most creative and memorable years in music history. Having led the house band for last year’s wonderful Dylan @ 75 tribute gig, the immensely-talented Jim Moray returns to Southwell for this flower-powered extravaganza.

Also on the entertainingly eclectic Gate To Southwell 2017 bill there’s Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain’s new venture The Changing Room, 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, and last chance to see Australia’s immensely popular harmony trio Cloudstreet on their farewell European tour, and much more.

Adrian Button

Dec 2, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments


It is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of one of the directors and founding members of the Gate to Southwell Festival,

Adrian Button, ‘Adey’ was well known and respected on the local roots music circuit, and a passionate, enthusiastic and talented musician. His favourite form of music was probably Irish, but his eclecticism knew no bounds! He was also a great spotter of talent, being the first to pick up on several acts who we subsequently booked, the Henry Girls being just one example. As well as being part of the artist selection committee, Adey also organised the concessions and was immensely popular with the traders.

We offer our sincere condolences to all his family.
He will be sorely missed.


Oct 17, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Early Bird tickets are now on sale for 2017 at a discount of 20% on tier 3 tickets. When Early

British folk heroine Kate Rusby and former Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden are among the first headline acts announced to appear at the Gate To Southwell Festival next June, and reduced price tickets are now available.

Widely regarded as “the first lady of English folk music”, Kate Rusby is famous for her Mercury-nominated debut ‘Sleepless’, her acclaimed collection ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly’ and her Xmas album ‘Sweet Bells’.  From Penistone, near Barnsley, Kate’s latest album ‘Life In A Paper Boat’ has just been released.

Jon Boden is one of the most charismatic singers, composers, arrangers, fiddlers and multi-instrumentalists on the acoustic and roots music scene.  Having fronted Bellowhead for 10 years, Jon is also well known for his work with John Spiers, his band The Remnant Kings and also Eliza Carthy’s Ratcatchers.

Also lined up for Britain’s most eclectic acoustic and roots music events, there’s internationally-renowned Canadian acts such as Le Vent Du Nord (who were a huge hit at the 2012 festival) and the East Pointers from Prince Edward Island, plus acclaimed Californian ukulele band the Ooks Of Hazzard (among the highlights of 2016 with their wonderful cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’) and popular English husband-and-wife folk duo Megson.

Further adding to the diverse magic of the festival, which runs from June 8th to 12th 2017, the immensely entertaining and danceable Mallorcan World music band BOC make a welcome return, having played their first gig outside Spain at Gate To Southwell back in 2015.

Following the great success of this year’s on-stage gathering to mark Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday – described as “one of those never to be forgotten festival events” by Folk Radio UK – Jim Moray will return to curate a flower-powered 50th anniversary celebration of 1967’s Summer Of Love, the original blooming of the American underground hippy movement.

If all this is not enough for roots music hungry fans, Gate To Southwell has also booked legendary American folk blues artist Chris Smither and the wittily-named Whitley Bay female collective She Shanties. These are just the first of over 50 artists booked for 2017 with negotiations underway to book more major acts soon.

Set in a superb rural site close to the lovely market town of Southwell in Nottinghamshire, the eleventh festival will showcase a mix of international acoustic and roots artists alongside local and up and coming talent, performing across four main undercover stages.  With music workshops, dance displays and ceilidhs, street theatre and kids’ entertainment, great food outlets and a beer and cider festival, the Gate To Southwell 2017 is definitely a date for the diary.  June 8th to 12th.

Advance tickets are on sale now via the website –

Southwell Festival