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Gate to Southwell festival near Kirklington welcomes more people than ever before





What started as a small pub festival in Upton grows to welcome international and home-grown acts and continues to thrive year after year.

Running for its 17th year, Gate to Southwell saw more than 5,000 in and out of the premises for the four days of music, entertainment and fun.

From Thursday (July 4) until Sunday (July 7), the site near Kirklington, boasted over 60 international artists performing across four stages and sold more tickets than ever before.

The charity festival, which reinvests the money each year to organise a bigger and better festival specialises in Americana roots and acoustic folk music.

This year it welcomed multi-Grammy award-winning Folk Roots and Americana star, Rhiannon Giddens.

One of the biggest names to ever perform at the festival, the star who guested on Beyonce’s recent 400 million streaming ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ single, filled the premises on Saturday evening.

Len Brown, one of the organisers of the festival said: “We are different, we have got a specific sort of niche and there aren’t many folk festivals that survive, which is quite sad.

“This festival is a community thing and great for families, we have plenty of entertainment and people come in from the surrounding area and we want to grow it, we have a very loyal audience.

“People should expect to be part of a great community experience, there will be fantastic music and we are already looking at bigger bands each year.

“We are sticking to our genre because that is what makes us unique, but we might go slightly more country and Western because there is a big demand for it right now.”

Gate to Southwell 24
Gate to Southwell 24
Gate to Southwell 24
Gate to Southwell 24
Campbell/Jensen performing on the Lake Stage
Campbell/Jensen performing on the Lake Stage
Gate to Southwell 24
Gate to Southwell 24
Sarah Herniman of Southwell with Martha Herniman 3 and Evelyn Herniman 6
Sarah Herniman of Southwell with Martha Herniman 3 and Evelyn Herniman 6
L-R Fee Lock of Hastings, Jenny Everett and Mike Everett of Sutton on Trent, Jen Cox of Reading
L-R Fee Lock of Hastings, Jenny Everett and Mike Everett of Sutton on Trent, Jen Cox of Reading
Andrew Parker of Newark and Lesley Jenkinson of Chesterfield
Andrew Parker of Newark and Lesley Jenkinson of Chesterfield
Sarah Brodie of Southwell with Magnus Brodie 6 and Freya Brodie 4
Sarah Brodie of Southwell with Magnus Brodie 6 and Freya Brodie 4
Dan the Hat entertaining visitors on the CHildren's Stage
Dan the Hat entertaining visitors on the CHildren's Stage
Shackleton Trio performing on the Lake Stage
Shackleton Trio performing on the Lake Stage
Liz Dubarry-Gurr and Dave Bradley of Leicester
Liz Dubarry-Gurr and Dave Bradley of Leicester

From toddlers to elders, the festival will see everyone dancing, talking and singing together in the rural environment which is just in between the M1 and A1.

Some of this year’s acts include The Fugitives from Canada, Manran and Blue Rose Code from Scotland, Charm of Finches from Australia, Daoiri Farrell from Ireland, Suntou Susso from Gambia, The Haar from Ireland and Lizzie No from New York.

Len added: “It is quite difficult to get the right acts and make money out of it.

“We want to grow it and it is strange coming out of COVID because we could have gone bust like many other small festivals during the COVID period, but we were lucky.

“Brexit has made it difficult for bands to tour so there are fewer bands coming into the country so we try to take chances on bands and this year we stepped up a bit and hopefully next year will be even better.”

Dan the Hat entertaining visitors on the CHildren's Stage
Dan the Hat entertaining visitors on the CHildren's Stage
Jenny Hosker and John Hosker of Doncaster, with their dogs Berty and Freddy
Jenny Hosker and John Hosker of Doncaster, with their dogs Berty and Freddy
Gillian Foster of Southwell making bubbles with Rowan Foster 5
Gillian Foster of Southwell making bubbles with Rowan Foster 5
Thomas Bradley Project performing on the Boat House Stage
Thomas Bradley Project performing on the Boat House Stage
Hase Waits performing on the Folk Stage
Hase Waits performing on the Folk Stage
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Shackleton Trio performing on the Lake Stage
Shackleton Trio performing on the Lake Stage

With a variety of names across the four stages over the four days, but workshops, comedy, campfire sessions, games, crafts stalls and a variety of food and drink vendors.

Janet Worrell, of East Yorkshire, is visiting the festival for a second year. She said: “I am loving the festival, I think it was really well organised, I love the acts.

“For me and my friend, it was a great thing two years ago and decided to do it again.

“It is just such a safe environment and that is very special.”

Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell. John Marsden with his dog Duke, member of Rattlejag Morris
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell. John Marsden with his dog Duke, member of Rattlejag Morris
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Shackleton Trio performing on the Lake Stage
Shackleton Trio performing on the Lake Stage
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell

Roy Wild, of Beverly, said: “It is my fourth time here and I think it is just a lovely festival with a great feel to it, great for families and varied selection of music, very very good.”

Justin Baker-Smither, who has been going to the festival for 15 years said: “It is a great family festival, I bring my children and it is always an awesome festival with a lot of great music on and very friendly and safe.

“We will definitely keep coming.”

His daughter, Florence Baker-Smith, aged 15, has been visiting the festival since birth and intends to continue to do so for the next few years.

Whilst the majority of people who visit the festival are from the surrounding area, Gate to Southwell sees many people travelling miles to hear the acts and meet up with friends.

The first night of the festival was headlined by Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening from Northumberland and award-winning Dartmoor-based duo Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, but also showcased some of the best acts in the East Midlands including Starscreen, Littlewolf, The Terrible Parents, Julia Waldron, Porterhouse, The Levy Circus and the acclaimed duo Malc Slater and Rhydian Wyn.

Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Morris Dancers processing along King Street in Southwell
Rosie Davis and Stuart Dore of Cheshire
Rosie Davis and Stuart Dore of Cheshire
Cider with Molly performing on the Folk Stage
Cider with Molly performing on the Folk Stage
L-R Sarah and Richard Bilby of Billingborough, Tina Hargrave of Bourne
L-R Sarah and Richard Bilby of Billingborough, Tina Hargrave of Bourne
L-R Rachel Miller, David Crease, Charlie Sutton, Julie Wade, Steve Hickling of Golden Star Morris Dancers, Norfolk
L-R Rachel Miller, David Crease, Charlie Sutton, Julie Wade, Steve Hickling of Golden Star Morris Dancers, Norfolk
Martha Woods performing on the Frontier Satge
Martha Woods performing on the Frontier Satge
Jan and Geoff Noble of Burton Folk Club
Jan and Geoff Noble of Burton Folk Club
Lucy of Nottinghamshire with Milo 4 and Angus 7
Lucy of Nottinghamshire with Milo 4 and Angus 7
L-R Jezrah Giles, Xavier Page 5, Emily Page, Anastasia Page 6 of Selston
L-R Jezrah Giles, Xavier Page 5, Emily Page, Anastasia Page 6 of Selston
Bluerose Code performing on the Folk Stage
Bluerose Code performing on the Folk Stage
L-R Andrew Riley and Ann Wright of Cumbria, Susan Moore and John Moore of Lancashire
L-R Andrew Riley and Ann Wright of Cumbria, Susan Moore and John Moore of Lancashire
Sophie Hodgson of Chesterfield with Kitty Hodgson 3
Sophie Hodgson of Chesterfield with Kitty Hodgson 3
Kit Knight performing on the Frontier Stage
Kit Knight performing on the Frontier Stage

Starscreen headlined The Frontier Stage purveying “good old fashioned dirty rock and roll”, while Rochdale’s Julia Waldron has been branded “the Mae West of Folk and Americana”, with exceptional ‘shoot from the hip’ singer-songwriting skills inspired by the likes of Gretchen Peters, Boo Hewardine, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton.

Leicestershire band Porterhouse returned to the festival following their star turn last year to play original Americana influenced folk-roots material alongside covers, and from even closer to home are Southwell-based cello and acoustic guitar songwriting duo The Terrible Parents.

The festival also provided plenty of family entertainment such as Dan The Hat, Fit Up Street Circus, Becky Bops, Mark Fraser of Walk The Lines, music workshops and ceilidh, family yoga, Festival Fairies, arts and crafts, face painting, multi-sensory activities, outdoor games, and music by Paul Carbuncle.



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