A massive crowd descended on Stratford-upon-Avon last weekend for what was hailed ‘the most successful River Festival ever’ staged in the town. In its 7th year the event had a massive musical line-up of 25 singers and bands, on both main bandstand and acoustic stage.
The glorious weather is thought to have played a part in this year’s success, which has local craft stalls, narrow boats of all types, children’s areas, exhibitors and food and drink stalls. The event, which is free, is organised by Strat>Forward who represent more than 450 shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses. It works in partnership with Avon Navigation Trust, and is grateful for sponsorship from Stratford Town Trust, Stratford Marina, TouchFM and Avon Boating. It is also supported by The Dirty Duck and The Garrick Inn.
The main bandstand stage on Saturday started off with The Amicantus Choir and then Rugby based duo Becki and the Dove (Becki Morgan – vocals and Andy Dove – guitar) came on stage with a selection of songs including “Dancing Queen” and “Sugar on Me”, which had the impassioned singing of Becki and the all action movement of The Dove.
Then next of the main stage was Floot Street with its Folk renderings (Ewan Cameron – recorder, Karen Donnelly – flute, Dan Bones – guitar, Sam Mabbett – melodeon and Luke Jones – bodhran). The band was initially formed when Ewan, Karen and Dan were thrown together at a pub garden session in Warwick at the 2013 folk festival. They have managed to find a wealth of tunes in common and have been playing together ever since, with traditional music from all over Britain and beyond, performing imaginative arrangements.
In front of the main stage, between the acts we had demonstrations from Miramar, Swan Tai Chi, Folk Friendzy, Shuvani and Rozie T Dance Academy.
Moving over to the Acoustic Stage, which Marion Fleetwood was actively involved with, we started off with the Escape Showcase (part of Escape Arts) with a selection of local and young acts including Charlie Mack from Shipston (and singer with soul group Battered Soul) with her strong vocals and accompanying guitar sounds, Beth Ayres and Daisy (a guitar playing duet) and Equinox who were a bit noisier, but with a great sound, with their rock singing style. Their set included “Teenage Dirtbag” and “Salvation Alley”. Next we have Daisy back up on Guitar but this time with singer Rebecca.
Then we moved onto the next section from the Acoustic stage with young Stratford duo Joe and Harry on guitar and beat box and both singing numbers including “Just the Way We Are” and “Pompeii”.
On the main stage we had the rock sound of Rocking Dinosaurs with numbers including “Johnny G Goode”. After the Rhythm Studios Showcase in the Acoustic tent the main stage next listening to the Blues sound of Sons of the Delta, with their Mississippi delta sound singing numbers including “Standing on the Edge”.
Back on the Acoustic stage we had the interesting folk sound of Daniel Nestlerode on electric mandolin and Paul Ballentine on guitar, and his songs included “There was a Time” and finished with the Pink Floyd number “Wish you were Here”
They were followed by folk group Daisy Chain Quartet (Tori Rushton – cello, Linzi Whitting – vocals/guitar, Jon Bird – vocals/guitar and Tony Baylis – Drums) though this time sadly with Jon due to ill-health. They played lots of their folk material that is about to be released as an EP.
Then up on the main stage we had Copperhead Road (Stephen Steinhaus – vocals/kazoo/maracas, Andy Bunn – guitar/mandolin and Rich Watkins – cajon/guitar/vocals)
With guests Pete Hurst – violin and kazoo, Jez Walker on percussion, and Bo on cajon, and various singers filling the stage including Marion Fleetwood with numbers including the finale with the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil”.
Next up we had the headline act Kinky Farnham the 9 piece funk and soul band from the Cotswolds. There line-up is Tom Threadgill – lead vocals, conga, bongo, Mark Hanks -guitar and vocals, Toke Bennett – bass guitar, Teebs Bryan – keyboard and vocals, Leon Ions – drums, Meg Graham – saxophone and harmonica , Ben Bryan – guitar and vocals and Chris Slatter – trumpet.
They wowed the massive dancing audience in front of the bandstand with a selection of numbers including “Dreadlock Holiday”, “Soul Man”, “Knock on Wood”, “Cosmic Girl and “Le Freak” and then for an encore the crowd kept asking for more and so to funk more with “Get up Offa That Thing”, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “I Feel Good” and “Uptown Funk”. Only the impending big small boat parade and fireworks stopped the band doing any more.
The event was again a success with a great platform for local bands to show their stuff, as well as local craft and other businesses to get in front of a large crowd.
The main Flickr set from the event is found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/widerviewphoto/sets/72157655101054659