Steve Harley and O’Hooley & Tidow among folk festival headliners

Steve Harley Acoustic Trio
Steve Harley Acoustic Trio

A busy programme ensures this year’s Southdowns Folk Festival in Bognor Regis will be a genuine community event, says festival chairman Roger Nash.

“It is a huge jigsaw and we are putting all the pieces together! We have got 90-plus performances over the four days.”

Now in its sixth year, the festival runs form Thursday, September 20 to Sunday, September 23 across a range of venues. Roger estimates that between 500-600 performers will converge on the town. Top names including Steve Harley and O’Hooley & Tidow are among the headliners at the Regis Centre; elsewhere a wide range of new events will all add to the fun, increasing and widening the community appeal. There will be a bigger, more spectacular dance programme, expanded street markets, additional music workshops, sessions and sing-arounds and extra children’s fun and games.

“We have introduced the South Downs Ukulele Festival this year, running from Friday to Sunday. We have got 12 different ukulele groups coming from West Sussex and east Hampshire, and they will be doing uke jams in and around the town culminating on Sunday with the jam of jams in the performance marquee next to the Regis Centre.”

In the Regis Centre the headline gigs will be: Thursday, September 20 – TRADarrr; Kadia; Friday, September 21 – O’Hooley & Tidow; Merry Hell; Saturday, September 22 – Steve Harley Acoustic Trio; Ed Goodale Band; and Sunday, September 23 – Dervish; Gerry Colvin Band.

In addition, there will be a wide range of workshops: “In the Regis Centre we have got 19 different workshops, and we have got a real ale festival at the William Hardwicke. New for this year is the Big Seaside Sing. We have got eight different choirs coming from the West Sussex area, four on the Saturday and four on the Sunday.”

Each day the four will come together.

“Overall, it is very much more a community festival this year, a lot more different musical styles and a much broader range of singing and music and dance. We have got a very good dance programme with eight different dance groups on Saturday and Sunday coming from London and Surrey and locally.

“The folk side of the festival will appeal to a certain type of audience, but we wanted very much to broaden it out. We wanted to have a lot more workshops, and all the workshops are free so that people can try the ukulele or dance or guitar or fiddle. And the most unusual workshop is the Geordie French singer Flossie Malavialle who is doing a workshop in English idioms from a French viewpoint.”

Last year was the first year the festival expanded to four days, and it did so by accident almost, expanding to the Thursday when the Sunday had seemed unavailable at the Regis Centre and then wasn’t.

“But we are sticking to four days, and I think four days are about right (rather than going longer again). One of the problems would be volunteers, but we have got very good links with the Bognor Regis Lions who provide stewards for the road closures that we have.”

It all adds up to terrific news for Bognor: “The impact on Bognor Regis is very positive. It is about the profile and about bringing more people into the town, and we have got people coming for the first time. Bognor has got an upsurge in good eating places, and it all feeds into each other – people coming along and wanting to eat. It all raises the profile in a very positive way. There is a lot of effort at regeneration in Bognor, and we are very pleased to be part of what is happening.”

For full details of this years Southdowns Folk Festival and all its innovations, see http://southdownsfolkfest.co.uk.

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