Top line-up for Chichester’s Blues On The Farm this summer

It started life as a one-off private party. It’s now the reigning Best British Blues Festival.

And it’s got a programme to match as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Organisers Julian and Kathy Moores have announced a packed line-up for Blues On The Farm 2011, four days of top blues from Thursday, June 16 to Sunday, June 19, just south of Chichester.

Big names will rub shoulders with the stars of the future at Pump Bottom Farm, Birdham Road, at an event now crowned as the best in the country in the British Blues Awards.

It’s been a remarkable success story, as Julian explains.

“It was just a private party, the year previous to the first one. Gary Brooker (Procul Harum) was there, and it was just a nice little Sunday afternoon jaunt. I think it was Gary who said ‘People would pay to come to see this.’

“Without more ado, the following year we put on a little gig at the farm which was just the Saturday night, open to the public. We got several hundred people and for the first year we had three bands. The following year we were slightly more adventurous.

“92 was one day and then 93 we went to two days, Friday night and Saturday night, and that continued for several years.

“In about 2000, we went to three days and then in 2003 we went to Thursday, Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.”

Things are changing slightly this year. The Thursday will be acoustic sessions around the campsite, but the Friday will become a full day of music, with four extra bands added.

Not bad for a piece of farm diversification which has stayed the course: “The early 90s were tough times for farming. We were always looking for forward thinking. Our main stay is the apples and the ciders and the apple juice, but this was diversification really. It has been an essential mechanism of the farm ever since. It’s a good part of the net farm income.”

Within the blues industry, the festival has become a central focus, with Julian being approached by around 150-175 bands a year for the 20-22 slots he has available.

He’s always happy to hear recommendations from festival-goers in the know; he’s also happy to take soundings from the blues music press with whom he has built up a good rapport.

“They might say ‘Give this band another couple of years on the circuit before you book them’ or they might say ‘Book them now while you can afford them!’”

Julian is delighted with the programme that has come together for this year, particularly as it features - appropriately- the man with whom it all began, Gary Brooker and his No Stiletto Shoes outfit to headline Friday night

“An artist we’ve wanted to get to BOTF for years is finally with us on the Saturday. Former Canned Heat guitarist and John Mayall Bluesbreaker Walter Trout is coming to Chichester. A world-renowned bluesman, Walter is named by BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris as ‘the World’s greatest rock guitarist’ so we’re thrilled he will be with us for our 20th anniversary festival.”

As for the rest, Julian is promising something for everyone, with a number of acts new to the Festival, including Never The Bride, Todd Sharpville, Ben Prestage, The Brass Knuckle Blues Band and Midnight Train, alongside many old favourites including King King, Connie Lush, and three-times Blues Harmonica Player of the Year, Errol Linton.

Times: Friday, June 17, 1pm to 12 midnight; Saturday, June 18, 12 noon to 12 midnight;

Sunday, June 19, 11.30am to 10pm. Tickets: www.bluesonthefarm.co.uk or 01243 773828 or 01243 539072.