Two of the UK’s best bluegrass festivals are coming up this weekend and next in different parts of England; one relatively new event (Crossover) which has grown quickly to become a beloved part of the scene, and one old favourite(Orwell) which is likely to make 2019 its last hurrah, as the stalwart organisers enter a much deserved retirement. Either (or both!) are highly recommended for a modestly priced and family-friendly weekend break, or day out, featuring top notch concerts, lots of acoustic jam sessions, music workshops and more.
Crossover Festival (3rd-6th May 2019) is now in its third year and has quickly become one of the premier events in the calendar for bluegrass and old-time fans and pickers. The name alludes to the fact that the festival covers both closely related genres of bluegrass and old time music, as well as Cross being the surname of its organising team, Julie Cross and her daughters Emily Cross, and Eleanor Wilkie (née Cross). This highly musical family has put together an event that includes all the elements they love at festivals, and it has proved a big hit so far. The 2019 event kicks off on Friday 3rd May and runs over the Bank Holiday weekend. With an excellent auditorium at the heart of Crossover’s venue at Clonter Opera Theatre, the site is set in beautiful Cheshire countryside near Congleton. This year’s impressive line-up includes US headliners Breaking Grass and banjo & guitar aces Ron Block and Tony Furtado, as well as some of the best in British bluegrass, old time and roots, including IBMA Momentum Award nominees Midnight Skyracer and old time supergroup The Wagon Hoppers. Band performances are just one element of the festival with numerous jam sessions, workshops, an open mic slot, Fiddle Friday tunes session, Sunday kids’ concert and instrument workshops among the diversions on offer! Check out the mini film below for a flavour of Crossover. Online sales are now closed but weekend tickets should be available at the gate – visit Crossover’s Facebook page or website for the latest updates.
Orwell Bluegrass Festival (10th-12th May 2019) has been a fixture on the calendar for many years and word is out that 2019 will be the last one. This event which is set in scenic surroundings near the River Orwell, close to Ipswich, Suffolk has many faithful fans and always puts on an extensive range of bands for lovers of both bluegrass and old-time music. This year’s headliners include top Canada/USA quintet John Reischman and the Jaybirds and lively Chicago band The Henhouse Prowlers, with a quality line-up featuring many excellent UK bands such as festival favourites Thunderbridge Bluegrass Band and Americana/folk trio Alden, Patterson & Dashwood. As with Crossover, the formal concerts are only one element of a varied programme which provides festival goers with an open mic stage, instrument workshops led by talented players, and jam sessions which continue all day and long into the night. A special feature at Orwell is the singing of the nightingales in the woods there, and this combined with the bluebells which are usually blooming at this time of year, has made it particularly beloved of the bluegrass faithful. Visit the festival website for full information and tickets.