One thing I did know prior to starting Devizine is there’s more things going on than meets the eye in our considered “sleepy” county, and, in summer when festival season arrives I’d have my work cut out trying to build a comprehensive guide. Still I hadn’t bargained there would be this much.
The popularity explosion of festivals and their social acceptability has resulted in the simple fact you can’t expect me to cover all without cloning myself tenfold, which, if technology permitted, I would, but it’d only incite disputes between us!
So, in respect I attempt to highlight the few which catch my eye, the few which stand out. Not for being the largest, or for booking the Rolling Stones, or selling the best jester’s hats, but for their ingenuity, variances and often, something which attracts touring festival-goers yet Wiltshire Folk may just drive around daily, their location.
Here’s one that is stone related though, festivals of yore have always associated with ancient monuments and heritage sites, till the point of civil wars for the freedom to party on them. Though anarchistic days of The Beanfields expired, the attraction remains.
Our tourist attractions should never to be taken for granted, in veneration for their protection, contemporary festival placement sees them close but not atop enough to use them as barbeque tables for drunken revellers; you have to admire this. I pondered if this was partially the reason why this year’s Avebury Rocks is actually situated a twenty-minute drive from the stone circle, on Warren Farm between Aldbourne and Liddington, or if the festival had outgrown the original site.
Yet Avebury Rocks remains a cosy and friendly event, not near Glasto proportions by far. Genevieve Arney, Events and Community Manager for Swindon’s Prospect Hospice, the charity proceeds go to, explained, “the main reason we move sites occasionally is availability, Avebury is a busy area and we have to fit around different local events, including the pagan calendar.”
My mistake, it’s not the first year it’s elsewhere; Genevieve continued, “it’s actually the second year Avebury Rocks has officially gone on tour, in 2015 the event was held at Marlborough College, and in 2013 a smaller event was held in Devil’s Den.”
“We think each location has its own unique charms and brings something different to the festival,” she explained, “but it really is the people who come along that make Avebury Rocks so special for us. It’s a very friendly, laid back festival, great for families and those loving for a relaxing weekend of great live music.”
Yep, story checks out, I looked at the initial line-up online; Worcestershire’s multi-instrumentalist, singer song/song writer Chloe Mogg, backed by Burbank Swindon’s own prodigy Lottie Jenkins, who Devizine is pre-bonkers about, Natalie Shay, a multi-award-winning North London indie pop/rock artist, one of the top rocking electric ukulele bands in the country, The Ukey D’Ukes and Swindon-based Ministry of Samba. With more acts to be announced, it’s a varied and humble line-up, with a drive to booking upcoming and local talent. I asked Genevieve if this was something they strive towards, and why.
“Yes,” she replied, “we really try to champion new and upcoming artists both locally and nationally. You may not have heard of many of the acts on our line-up but we’re sure you’re bound to find a new favourite if you come along to the festival. We also launched a young artists competition last year, which was such a success we’re running it again this year. It gives performers under the age of 18 a chance to win a space to play at the festival, the closing date for applicants is the 31st May and how to enter is on the website.”
You only need to read the influence of the Avebury Rocks Festival on rising star, George Wilding’s bio to appreciate the organiser’s progressive ethos. Legendary singer-songwriter, son of folk musician Roy Harper, and a past member of Squeeze, Nick Harper, created the event in 2011 as a way to give something back to Prospect Hospice, the local hospice who provided care for his late mother. Nick, with the help of David Uttley and the original organising committee, set out to find a talented and willing group of musicians who would happily perform in a field in Wiltshire, next to the famous standing stones of Avebury.
“It’s been held annually since,” Genevieve said, “in 2013 a smaller event was held called Devil’s Den Rocks. It’s progressed over the years from a single day event with one stage, to a weekend with two.”
I wanted to know if Nick Harper is still actively involved with the festival, and more importantly, will he play?
“Yes Nick is still very much an active member of the organising committee,” she confirmed, “and really has a drive and focus to help raise funds for Prospect Hospice. He’ll be performing on the Saturday night and helps with everything from booking artists to putting up banners!”
So, what you need to know, other than it sounds fantastic; it’s Friday 27th to Sunday 29th July, camping is available on site, children and dog friendly, and tickets are very reasonable: Adult – full weekend with camping – £40, Adult – full weekend without camping – £30, Adult – Friday night only – £10, Adult – Saturday only – £20, Under-16s – full weekend with camping – £20, Under-16s – full weekend without camping – £10, Under-16s – Friday night only – £5, Under-16s – Saturday only – £5, Saturday walk – £10, and a live in vehicle / caravan pass – £10.
Or help out as a volunteer, there’s plenty of different jobs, from helping with car parking, to supporting the bar – email firstname.lastname@example.org. for info.