Get ready for the Southdowns Folk Festival

The revived Southdowns Folk Festival shows it’s here to stay with a great line-up of performers and events to round off September.

Last year, Roger Nash, chairman of the festival committee, put the event back on the map for the first time in more than a quarter of a century. And it hit the ground running, scoring a huge success in its hometown Bognor Regis. Roger is confident of even greater success as he gets ready for the 2014 festival: “Last year was superb. It beat all our expectations. We thought we might get four or five or six thousand people. In fact, we ended up getting more than 15,000. We were delighted. People came from far and wide, and the music was great.”

Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies

Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies

The event, this year and last, comprises a number of ticketed concerts at the Regis Centre, plus a wide range of free events in Hotham Park and around the town. Working with the Hotham Park Heritage Trust and with funding from Bognor Regis Town Council, West Sussex County Council and great support from local business sponsors, Roger and the committee are promising three days of the very best in folk/roots music and dance between September 26 and 28.

Roger believes a fair amount of the initial success was down to curiosity, but also the result of good marketing, plus a hunger for a festival which hadn’t been seen since the mid-1980s. After festival 2013, for this year, Roger has set it all up as a non-profit making company.

Just as last year, the Big Bite Food Festival will be a big part of the package. There will also be a children’s circus, crafts, outside stalls and caterers.

Part of the success is the late-September slot, Roger believes. In fact, this year’s festival is a week later than last year’s: “It extends the season, and there is nothing else going on at that time.”

The heart of the festival will be the ticketed concerts at the Regis centre including Oysterband, Dervish from Ireland, Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies and Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy as a duo.

Past success has certainly helped: “It was a question of going through people we know, going through agents and targeting certain people we wanted to get, such as Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy. Mark Ringwood from WemsFest helped us get Dervish. They have not been doing much in this country for a while. It is really great to welcome them to Bognor Regis.

“There will also be free events at the Regis Centre including afternoon folk clubs, music sessions, a variety of music workshops plus clog, Appalachian and Morris dancing with a superb dance programme taking place around the town on Saturday and Sunday.

“The newly-re-opened William Hardwicke in the High Street will be hosting free music sessions during the weekend as well as presenting the Canadian Band My Sweet Patootie on Saturday evening, September 27.

All of it has been boosted by a grant of £10,000 from Awards for All Big Lottery Fund:

“The funding from the Big Lottery makes all the difference. It’ll mean we can help train a number of local young people in event management as well as put on a superb community festival event in Hotham Park that will include two performance stages hosting folk music and dance as well as craft marquees, outside stalls, food, a real ale bar, children’s entertainment, the Sussex Young Folk Competition, and even better, everything in the park will be free.”