This summer has been a bit hit and miss weather-wise….let’s hope that things pick up as we head into September, a peak season for bluegrass festivals in the UK. As we all know, fine weather helps to make festivals that bit more special, and campground picking sessions are the best! First off the mark (1 – 3 Sep) is the Didmarton Bluegrass Festival, now in its 29th year and which takes place in the unique surroundings of Kemble Airfield (Cotswold Airport) near Cirencester. It’s hosted by the local Ogri Motorcycle Club which provides a real ale bar and a nightly bonfire, around which many jam sessions take place. This year’s line-up includes a wide range of bands including Ragged Union from Colorado, Canadian duo The Small Glories, and UK favourites including Cardboard Fox and Jaywalkers.
The quirky and welcoming Gower Bluegrass Festival kicks off the following weekend (8-10 Sep) and it too has a unique location – at the Gower Heritage Centre, a rural life museum based around a historic water mill. In a scenic part of South Wales, this friendly event boasts a strong line-up of bands including festival favourites Hot Rock Pilgrims, fine Americana duo Johns & Nowak and talented Cheshire trio Cousin Pearl, as well as workshops and picking sessions. If you can spare the time, it’s definitely worthwhile to explore the glorious natural attractions nearby, including the spectacular Three Cliffs Bay.
Way down south (west), the Cornish Bluegrass Festival takes place on the next weekend (15-17 Sep) at the Hendra holiday park just outside Newquay. The festival always has a strong and varied artist line-up, which in 2017 includes North Carolina flatpicker Jack Lawrence, the popular North-East band Kentucky Cow Tippers and a rare festival outing for The Leon Hunt n-tet. As with the other festivals there will be workshops and jam sessions, and the CBF’s location brings the opportunity to explore the attractions of the North Cornish coast.
Meanwhile in the south-west corner of Scotland, Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival takes place the following weekend (22-24 Sep). Tickets for this small friendly festival almost always sell out ahead of time due to the village hall location of the concerts. It always punches above its weight with a range of quality bands, and this year’s eclectic line-up includes American visitors The Ballinger Family Band with special guest Matt Flinner, transatlantic barnstormers The Horsenecks and soulful bluegrass/Americana six-piece The Reckless Abandoners.
Bluegrass festivals are a great way to spend a weekend, with masses of high quality live music, in friendly surroundings and usually at a very modest cost. We’ve only been able to include brief highlights here, so do check out the links for more information on locations, bands, ticket prices and accommodation options.