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May 12, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

There’ll be an explosive start to the Gate To Southwell festival on Thursday June 9th. To celebrate the tenth birthday of the Midlands’ premier acoustic and roots event, there’s an evening of great music plus a firework display at the site near Southwell Racecourse. The fireworks, and free buses between Southwell and the festival site, have been sponsored by Gusto Homes/Becher’s Court, the new development on Southwell’s Burgage.

The opening night party features one of Ireland’s greatest traditional folk acts Kila headlining alongside Jim Moray and Sam Carter’s new band False Lights. Plus there’s the festival’s new “alternative stage” featuring diverse acts such as the Latin passion of Alejandro Toledo’s Full Attack Band, multi-instrumental harmonious four-piece The BeauBowBelles from London, Nottingham’s highly-rated rising indie sons Same Streets, and Glaswegian alt-country stars James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band.

“It promises to be a great start to the 10th birthday weekend,” says festival director Mike Kirrage. “We’ve come a long way since the first festival with less than 500 people attending. This year we’re expecting around 4000 visitors to Southwell over the four days and we’re increasingly attracting great artists from all over the world.”

Following Kila on Thursday, the festival continues with American hillbilly stars Hayseed Dixie headlining on Friday (10th) and English folk roots favourites Show of Hands making a welcome return on Saturday evening (11th). Scotland’s Eddi Reader will bring the tenth celebrations to an emotional and entertaining close on Sunday night (12th).

“We’re extremely grateful for the help we receive to make the festival run smoothly and be successful,” says Mike Kirrage. “There’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes from our committee, stewards and many other volunteers and we really value the support we get from the people and businesses of Southwell and the surrounding region. Long may it continue.”

With five different music stages, great family entertainment, plus the usual fine mix of food and drink tents, a craft fair, a beer and cider festival plus pub sessions in town, the 10th Gate To Southwell (June 9th-12th) is guaranteed to be an unmissable Midlands event.

*To help promote the 10th festival there’s an advance pop-up gig in Nottingham this Saturday night (May 14th) featuring the highly-entertaining Penny Black Remedy with support from Cheshire & The Cat. The venue is Spanky Van Dyke’s at 17 Goldsmith Street, Nottingham NG1 5JT. Doors open at 7.30pm. Tickets £10. Venue contact: 0115 924 3730.


Jan 8, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments


A bright new wave of young English musical talent will shine at the 10th anniversary Gate To Southwell Festival next June.

Alongside multi-award-winning headline acts Hayseed Dixie, Show Of Hands, Scotland’s Eddi Reader and Ireland’s Kila, the Midlands’ premier acoustic and roots event will showcase eagerly-anticipated performances from acclaimed homegrown talent including young singer-songwriter Ange Hardy, rising bluegrass stars Flats & Sharps, the youthful acapella quartet The Teacups, Birmingham’s inspiring and entertaining Conservatoire Folk Ensemble (returning by popular demand) and, one of the most acclaimed acts of 2015, Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys.

Recently described as “absolutely brilliant” by Mike Harding, as a teenager Sam was a runner up on Britain’s Got Talent, losing out to Ashleigh and Pudsey the dog in 2012!! His presence in June, alongside diverse other bright young acts, will build on Gate to Southwell’s growing reputation for developing new talent. In previous years, The Young’uns and Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar have used the festival as a career springboard. In common with these two award winning acts Sam has great audience rapport, which will no doubt be boosted by Ciaran’s presence in his current band.

There’s also the “folk rock explosion” False Lights, a new band featuring award-winners Jim Moray and Sam Carter, who take the spirit of the Sixties and create fresh sounds somewhere between Fairport Convention, Radiohead and Queens Of The Stone Age. BBC folk radio DJ Mark Radcliffe described their 2015 debut LP ‘Salvor’ – recorded in deepest Lincolnshire – as “quite brilliant”. Jim’s sister, the singer and fiddler Jackie Oates – previously of the Unthanks and The Imagined Village – returns to Southwell with her trio, following the success of her own album ‘The Spyglass & The Herringbone’.

Further developing the festival’s international reputation for eclectic acoustic roots music, there are great names from much further afield. Following an autumn reconnaissance trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada, by two of the festival organizers, there are the first English appearances by the extraordinary French-Canadian multi-instrumental trio Vishtèn and the flame-haired country singer- songwriter and superb guitarist Meaghan Blanchard.

Plus, being flown in specially to headline at The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain, the following weekend, Southwell welcomes the bizarre Californian nine-piece act Ooks Of Hazzard whose covers of rock classics by Led Zeppelin, Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd have brought the uke players “worldwide attention” (according to the LA Times).

Other acts already announced to appear at the tenth festival celebrations, which runs from Thursday 9th until Sunday 12th June 2016, include the popular trad-Irish-meets-Americana of Donegal’s The Henry Girls, the electrifying dance energy of Hérétique and the “charismatic psychedelic classical folk” of Brighton’s Moulettes.

The Jeremiahs

Dec 6, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

The Jeremiahs 2

The Jeremiahs combine traditional and contemporary sounds to create their own brand of Urban Folk music. Since founding in 2013 the quartet have trailblazed across Ireland and Europe playing some of the top venues and Festivals.

Joe Gibney   Vocals/whistle

Brian Corry    Tin whistle/Flute

James Ryan Guitar/Bouzouki

Jean Christophe Morel Fiddle/Mandola

“One of the freshest bands in Irish traditional music” Séan Laffey Irish Music Magazine

’Superb musicians who engage with their audience to produce a memorable show, definitely not to be missed. Irish Music at its very best.’ Charles Devlin, Director Ireby Festival”


November Newsletter

Nov 5, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Super Early Bird Tickets Ending!

Please act fast if you want to get hold of Super Early Bird tickets – they have sold quickly and remember “when they’re gone…they’re gone!”.
It is likely that they will sell out in the next day or two. We will then move on to Early Bird prices.

Headliners already announced

It will be the first appearance for Irish world music band Kila along with False Lights  – the exciting new band created by Jim Moray and Sam Carter – as double header forThursday night.
The original bluegrass rockers Hayseed Dixie headline on Friday. English folk legendsShow Of Hands headline on Saturday and Scotland’s first lady of song, Eddi Reader, closes the main stage on Sunday.
Other acts already announced include Brighton’s sophisticated and unpredictable Moulettes, the award-winning Jackie Oates Trio, and festival favourites Donegal’s The Henry Girls.  Plus there’ll be loads more acts announced soon.

Dylan @ 75

As part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations, we are holding a special concert “Dylan @ 75”. On 24th May 2016 Bob Dylan will be 75.  A couple of weeks later, on Saturday 11th June, we will mark the occasion at the Gate to Southwell Festival with a special show featuring many of the festival artists playing their favourite Dylan songs – and with a house band lead by Jim Moray. It is surely not to be missed.
Watch out for further anniversary news coming soon!

Call For Stewards…

Rosie Garner is delighted to be back organising the stewards next year after her sabbatical last year. We need stewards for set-up (MondayThursday) to help with preparations, as well as about 150 stewards for the weekend and for the clear-up process.
Application Forms are available on the website here.
Whether you have stewarded before or want to try it out, we would love to hear from you.


Nov 3, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

We have teamed up with Liftshare to make car-sharing to the festival easier. Details on our website here:

“…without a doubt, a superb festival…”

Jun 17, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Folk Radio UK has published the first in a series of reviews of Gate to Southwell 2015.  Here is their intro, and link to the review

“In part one of our live review of Gate to Southwell Festival Johnny takes in top performances from Ranagri, The Hot Seats, Chris Wood, Billy Bragg & The Young’uns. It was, without a doubt, a superb festival and we have more to come! ”



Jun 10, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Gate To Southwell Festival weekend (Saturday/Sunday)

If variety is the spice of festival life then there was no better place to be than Southwell in Nottinghamshire. In brilliant sunshine, on a new site near the racecourse, the Gate To Southwell event built on the successes of Thursday (Billy Bragg) and Friday (Clannad and The Young’Uns) to deliver a truly eclectic international mix of acoustic and roots music, plus great family entertainment and some of the most ferocious folk dancing in town by sides such as the Anstey Morrismen, the Witchmen and Nottingham’s own Whip The Cat and Mortimers.

Following the traditional Saturday procession, and taster pub performances by acts including Granny’s Attic, The Rusty Sunsand Said The Maiden, the centre of attention became the festival site. Given the high quality and great entertainment value of the diverse artists on display across four different stages, it was tough deciding which to focus on. There were even magical moments for children, with the irreverent puppetry of Pickled Image, the masterful juggling hilarity of Dan the Hat, as well as popular distractions from water zorbing, trampolining and climbing through to creative musical and craft workshops. And let’s not forget the top quality folk dance-off by local primary schools on Sunday and the fancy dress parade led by sci-folk band Maia.

On the main stage on Saturday night, there was an atmospheric splendour about the performances of Chris Wood and Andy Cutting followed by group of the moment, Galway’s We Banjo 3. Wood – who also performed brilliantly solo on Sunday afternoon – is a genius on fiddle and guitar and one of the finest songwriters of modern times; he combined with Cutting’s magic melodeon to create a mesmerizing and affecting blend of traditional English and French folk music. In contrast, the two sets of brothers who make up We Banjo 3 (yes, there’s four of ‘em!) worked wonders mixing traditional Irish sounds with cutting edge banjo-powered bluegrass Americana. Believe me, live they’re as excellent as their acclaimed ‘Gather The Good’ CD suggested.

As if this wasn’t enough there was a double-bill of comedic anarchy and global frenzy on the second stage. CoCo And The Butterfields combined banjos, fiddles and double bass with mad Scandinavian horns and an overactive beatboxer. Onstage they looked like refugees from a weird variety of different genre bands, but together they summoned up a whirlwind of influences. Great energetic performers, their recent single ‘Warriors’ had echoes of Adam Ant and House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ gets a mad folk rap makeover here.

Hot on their heels came BOC, an eight-piece band from Mallorca – playing outside Spain for the first time – who must have swallowed the entire musical history of Europe and Northern Africa. Eastern European gypsy dance rhythms might be at the very heart of what they do, but there’s metal, ska, klezmer, Spanish folk and a whole host of other exotic ingredients in their very strange but irresistible soup. It’s no wonder Southwell has such a growing reputation for spotting emerging talent, having given The Young’Uns their first festival break six years ago, confident that music fans who flock to the festival are always appreciative of original talent.
Elsewhere – more low key but equally intriguing, there were plenty of original young talents on display, such as Leicester’s The Skunk Boy Project with his ukulele and thoughtful, funny, even spiritual lyrics on songs such as ‘Fourth On My List Of Evil Dictators’, and also Harry Skully from Leeds University who won the Open Mic competition singing traditional songs in the style of a young MacColl.

One of the greatest strengths of this year’s festival was the sheer quality of American bands performing at Southwell and in the UK for the first time. Following the Appalachian sounds of the Hot Seats from Virginia, came the beautiful, intimate and melancholic songs of Mark Rogers and Mary Byrne from Brooklyn. Add to this the entertaining Americana rock of San Francisco’s Blind Willies and we were already being spoilt for choice. But then came The Railsplitters, a two guys two gals roots band with a country twang from Colorado featuring great names like Lauren Stovall on guitar and Dusty Rider on banjo. Together they delivered a brilliant set of past and present classic bluegrass; among them, ‘My World’ was one of the sweetest country tracks of recent years.

Yet all these performances were matched by homegrown UK talents such as highly-entertaining Celtic folk rockers Manran, featuring extra fine fiddle, accordion, flute, and Highland pipes, the stylish Tweed Project – a youthfully brilliant blend of Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar with the Mischa Mcpherson Trio – and last but not least the remarkable Conservatoire Folk Ensemblefrom Birmingham, led by Joe Broughton of the Urban Folk Quartet. Given the responsibility of delivering an upbeat energetic finale to the festival late on Sunday night, the Conservatoire featured around 50 of the brightest young folk musicians in the country. As a result, the main stage was absolutely rammed with a global fusion of roots musics, and bouncing with such boundless energy and fresh talent that the big marquee crowd was overwhelmed with musical enthusiasm and appreciation.

Without doubt, it’s been a fantastic few days in Southwell in early June 2015. But it’ll be a really hard act to follow in 2016! Can’t wait…

Len Brown 2015

Feedback 2015 – win a ticket for 2016

Jun 9, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

If you came to the festival, even just for a day or two, thank you, and we hope you enjoyed it!

We have set up an online survey for those who did not manage to fill in a form over the weekend.  It is much shorter than last year’s survey (we listened to comments that it was too long!!) and so should only take a few minutes to complete.

We really appreciate any feedback you can give to us – it all helps us organise better festivals in the years to come.

You can complete it anonymously if you like, we value all the feedback we can get. However if you leave your name and email address, we will add you to our mailing list and enter you into a prize draw to win a weekend ticket for 2016. .

Please click here to start the survey

Clannad, The Young uns. Friday 5th June 2015

Jun 8, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Gate To Southwell Festival 2015

Fresh from collecting their Best Folk Group 2015 award, The Young’Uns arrive with a spring in their steps and lashings of comedic confidence. Earlier in the day they’d performed in Southwell’s magnificent Minster and also visited a local Church of England school. Branding it posh, they revealed that one pupil had asked them “what’s your favourite cheese?” They contrasted this with a recent question from a kid in a Northern school: “which one of you three is the hardest?”

In truth, Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes don’t look as if, collectively, they could knock the skin off a rice pudding. But all three do possess some of the finest voices and harmonies on the current roots and acoustic scene, combined with a rare talent for original songwriting and distinctive interpretation. Their extremely funny, yet very moving set drifted from the tragic beauty of ‘The Streets Of Lahore’ and the political comedy of ‘Lovely Cup Of Tea’ through to covers of Billy Bragg’s ‘Between The Wars’ and “our favourite folk song from Manchester” James’ ‘Sit Down’. Self-deprecating, relaxed and incredibly talented, The Young’Uns’ will prove to be a shining highlight of this and any festival.

In a lifetime of music that has seen them develop from rural Donegal to conquer the Celtic, traditional, folk and roots music world, Clannad have sold over 15 milion records and collected Grammys, BAFTAs, Ivor Novellos and Billboard awards along the way. Now forty-five years from their inception, this Southwell set was an atmospheric movement through their greatest hits including ‘Harry’s Game’, ‘I Will Find You’ (from the Last of the Mohicans), ‘Closer To Your Heart’ and ‘Newgrange’. Along the way they warmed local hearts with a beautifully-nostalgic medley from their soundtrack for the TV series ‘Robin The Hooded Man’, and they also demonstrated their extraordinary musical talents on several almost Prog Folk instrumentals.

It was great to see and hear the family chemistry at work on ‘Vellum’ and ‘Rhapsody na gCrann’ from their 2013 comeback collection ‘Nadur’; the traditional Irish harmonies of Moya Brennan and her brothers Ciaran and Pol were an intoxicating contrast to the Teesider sounds of the Young’Uns. At the heart of it all, Moya’s ethereal voice and her green-fingered harp-playing set them apart and confirmed their Celtic legend status. A warm night revealing the richness and depth of the traditional roots and acoustic music scene in 2015, and a special night for Southwell.

Len Brown

Gate to Southwell Festival