2007 Festival Guide
The British bluegrass calendar contains many festivals, picking weekends and one-day events which can range from large-scale festivals featuring top American acts to low-key, quiet gatherings all about the picking.
If you are new to bluegrass or if you haven’t yet been to a festival, then these are the places to meet like-minded people and get involved with the music. Bluegrassers are generally a friendly bunch and you’ll soon start seeing the same faces and get to know people on the scene.
Below are details of some of the events taking place this year – look out for information on others in our news pages.
Bluegrass Plus Club – Two Day Easter Event
April 7th – 8th 2007
This weekend in Coulsdon, London will include picking sessions, an evening concert and an opportunity for scratch bands to perform. The concert on Saturday night will feature Deep River Band, Wood Wire and Words, and The Biggin Hillbillies.
Orwell Bluegrass Festival
April 27th – 29th 2007
This is a new festival for 2007, and will take place at the Orwell Crossing truck stop near Ipswich. This is not your ordinary truck stop however, with facilities including a high-quality restaurant, an excellent bar and 14 private, self-contained showers. There is plenty of room indoors for picking, but sessions may be held outside if the weather permits! Space for caravans and camping is available and is included in the weekend ticket price.
There will be concerts on Friday and Saturday night, a “spontaneous” open mic slot on Saturday afternoon and a gospel session on Sunday morning. There is a big emphasis on picking sessions with jamming encouraged throughout Friday evening and most of Saturday. The jams are open to everybody no matter your level of ability or experience and everyone is welcome to join in and have fun.
Bands confirmed to appear include: Biggin Hillbillies, Buffalo, Buffalo Smoke, Home Territory, Longway, The Mounthoolies, New Essex Bluegrass Band, Ray & Leo Duffy and Roots and Galoots.
Weekend tickets are £22 and include camping. Day tickets and family discounts are also available.
Wharf Inn picking weekend
May 11th – 13th 2007
This picking weekend will be held at The Wharf Inn, Holt Fleet, Ombersley in the Midlands, the same site where Telfest has been hosted in the past. No concerts or workshops are planned, just lots of picking in the pub and around the grounds. Campers must pay direct to the pub, otherwise the weekend is free.
Suffolk Bluegrass & Acoustic Country Music Day
May 20th 2007
Held at The George, Hadleigh, Suffolk, this bluegrass event is now in its 6th year. Special guests will include The New Essex Bluegrass Band.
Hollybush Inn Picking Weekend
June 1st – 3rd 2007
Held at The Hollybush Inn near Hay-on-Wye, this is a small bluegrass picking weekend. The event is organised by local group Black Mountain Bluegrass and everyone is welcome to join in no matter your level of ability. With no concerts, just plenty of jams, this is great way to get involved in the picking for those just starting out.
Admission is free, though there is a small charge for camping which is available on-site. Please book this through the pub. The Inn has a wide range of good beer and proper cider and also serves excellent food. For more details contact email@example.com
Coastline Bluegrass Event
June 8th – 10th 2007
This weekend is geared towards the picking sessions, communal atmosphere and getting people involved. The policy of the event is to have a small number of bands and good workshops to encourage people to get into the music, stimulating the picking sessions. There will also be an open mic session for those who wish to perform to an audience. The event takes place at Plas Uchaf Farm near Llandudno Juntion, Conwy on “a wonderful green field venue with breathtaking panoramic views”. The campsite offers all the facilities you’ll need including showers, catering and a bar.
Bands booked to appear are A Band Like Alice, Roots and Galoots, Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys and Appalachian dance group Feet First.
Weekend tickets are £32, or £36 after May 1st. Discounts are available for those staying off-site. Under 16s will be admitted for free.
East Anglian Bluegrass Festival
June 22nd – 24th 2007
This festival takes place in the village of Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire and offers a mix of picking sessions, workshops and concerts. The “Grand Concert” takes place on the Saturday in the village hall and there is a gospel concert in the village church on the Sunday morning. Camping is available in the grounds of the hall and catering including a barbeque is available over the course of the weekend.
Bands include Roots and Galoots, Chris Moreton and The Duffy Brothers. Weekend tickets cost £23 with day tickets and concessions available.
North Wales Bluegrass Festival
July 6th – 8th 2007
This festival is held within the town of Conwy on the north Wales coast. The campsite is on the town’s cricket ground and has toilets, catering and a bar. Since the venue is right by the town it is only a short walk to pubs, restaurants and shops.
Some concerts and workshops take place on the campsite but most of the gigs are held at the town hall, about 10 minutes walk away. The festival runs a shuttle bus between the campsite and concert venue and also provides transport to a nearby sports centre so festival-goers can shower! Plenty of picking takes place on the campsite late into the night.
An impressive line-up boats Debby McClatchy and Tennessee Hob from the US and Sunny Side from the Czech Republic. British acts include Britannia Band, Chris Moreton, Doghouse Central, The Down County Boys, The Duffy Brothers, Longway, Monroe’s Revenge, The Morris Boys, New Essex Bluegrass Band, Salmagundi and many more.
Weekend tickets are £48 (£46 before 1 June) and £24.50 (£23.50 before 1 June) for under 12s. Discounts are available for those staying offsite. Day tickets are also available.
Yorkshire Dales Picking Weekend
July 20th – 22nd 2007
This event, held at Dales Bank Farm, Silsden, has been running for a number of years, once as a full blown festival but now as a relaxed picking weekend. The main focus is the sessions, but there will be a concert on the Saturday night with a few bands.
Surrey Mini Bluegrass Festival
August 4th – 5th 2007
This is a low-key weekend held in Mickleham near Dorking and is “like a party for a bit of fun, for people who are not away on holiday”. There is picking throughout the weekend with concerts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. There is no camping on-site but there is plenty of accommodation in the local area.
Acts include Pete Stanley, Deep River Band, The Morris Boys, Buffalo and Wood, Wire and Words plus surprise guests. Weekend tickets are £12 and day tickets are £10 each.
Guildtown Bluegrass Festival
August 10th – 12th 2007
The festival takes place in the small village of Guildtown near Perth, Scotland and is held in the village hall. Camping is available on the village green and campers can use the hall for washing, cooking and toilets and the local shop. You can also stay in nearby Perth which has all the facilities you’d expect of a big city. The weekend is sponsored by the local Angler’s Inn which serves good beer and welcomes festival goers.
The line-up has an international flavour and acts booked to appear include Jimmy Gaudreau & Moondi Klein (USA), Craig Duncan & Friends (USA), Deep River Band (England), New Redwing (Scotland) and Goldrush (Scotland). There will be an open mike concert on the Saturday afternoon (contact Ian McMeekin on 01698 300122 to book your spot).
A full weekend ticket (includes camping) is £28 before 31st July and £30 on the gate.
Kentucky to Kent UK Bluegrass Day
August 27th 2007
This one day event takes place each year on the August Bank Holiday at St Julians Club, Sevenoaks, Kent. It involves workshops, a barn dance and a concert, with picking sessions throughout the day. This year the concert will feature Grassroots along with musicians such as Bob Winquist, Joe Locker and Phill Morley. The workshops include various styles of banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and Appalachian clogging.
Entrance for just the picking and barn dance is free, though a fee will be charged for the concerts and workshops. Day tickets are available for £19 and cover all the events.
Didmarton Bluegrass Festival
August 31st – September 2nd 2007
This festival is one of the more large-scale events on the bluegrass calendar and is held at Kemble Airfield, near Cirencester. The site is a large, grassy area with plenty of room for camping or you can stay off-site in one of the local towns or villages. Concerts are held Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday afternoon on two stages.
Whilst the line-up boasts top American and European acts, there is also plenty of picking with many attendees forgoing most of the concerts to play in sessions in the field, in the bar or round the campfire at night. The bar facilities are run by OGRI motorcycle club with real ale and cider a speciality. Several different catering outlets are onsite as well as a range of stalls selling everything from banjos and mandolins to jewellery and clothing.
Top US act Blue Highway are headlining the festival. Americans Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore and Kathy Chiavola are also set to appear as well as a whole host of British and European bands including Baker’s Fabulous Boys, Leon Hunt, Home Territory, Miles Apart, and the Buffalo Gals.
Weekend tickets are £57.50 which includes camping from Thursday to Monday and day tickets are also available. U16s are admitted free.
Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival
August 31st – September 2nd 2007
One of the largest bluegrass festivals in Europe, this event is held at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh in Northern Ireland. It features acts from all across the globe, plus the usual picking sessions and workshops. Bands appearing include The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Lovell Sisters and The Malpass Brothers, all from the US, Sunny Side from the Czech Republic and Red Wine from Italy.
Gower Bluegrass Festival
September 8th 2007
This one day event is held at the Gower Heritage Centre, near Swansea and features picking sessions and workshops throughout the afternoon culminating in a concert during the evening. A slow-jam is usually organised to encourage beginners or those lacking confidence to join in. Local band Roots and Galoots headline.
Cornwall Bluegrass Festival
September 14th – 16th 2007
This festival is now in its fourth year and is developing into one of the major dates on the British bluegrass calendar. The event takes place at Hendra Holiday Park near Newquay, and features concerts on Friday night and Saturday afternoon and evening. Last year the concerts were extended to two stages, with one in the main caberet hall and the other in a marquee outside. On the Sunday morning there is a gospel session as well as a slow-jam to help beginner players join in. There is plenty of picking throughout the weekend plus competitions, workshops for instruments and singing, plus Appalachian dancing displays.
Bands include Four Wheel Drive (voted Best Bluegrass Band by the audience at the 2006 EWOB festival), Sim Daley’s Cages Bend and the Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys, who wowed the crowd at last year’s event.
Tickets for the weekend have been kept at last year’s price of £35, and as usual, the CBA is offering special deals for those wishing to stay in the site’s luxury caravans.
There are many other bluegrass festivals throughout Europe. Those closest to the UK include:
European World of Bluegrass
May 17th – 19th 2007
Held in Voorthuizen, The Netherlands, this festival showcases over 40 top acts from Europe and beyond. The three days also feature “workshops, a childrens programme, a tradeshow and lots of jamming”.
Athy Bluegrass Festival
July 12th – 15th 2007
Held in the small town of Athy, Co. Kildare, with concerts held at the Carlton Abbey Hotel. This year a variety of bands from America, Italy and, of course, Ireland will be performing.
Midlands Music Festival
July 28th – 29th 2007
Hosted at Belvedere House, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, this event promises the “best in traditional, contemporary and World Music”. Bluegrass is represented by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.
August 3rd – 5th 2007
This second EWOB festival moves from country to country and this year will be held in Laroche sur Foron in the French Alps. The whole festival is free.
Guinness International Bluegrass Festival
August 23rd – 25th 2007
The town of Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, Ireland hosts this festival with concerts taking place at six different venues. Top names from all over the world play over the weekend, with no entry fee to any of the gigs.
Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival
September 13th – 16th 2007
This festival takes over the town of Longford, Ireland for several days and is for both traditional Irish music and bluegrass. Big names from the USA often play here and the Nashville Bluegrass Band and Tim O’Brien will be at the 2007 event.