Owl Fest Revealed; Bromham’s Secret Garden Party Cider Festival

The Westcountry festival circuit is Corky’s bread and butter, in a deja vu moment I uttered the last time we spoke we were in exactly the same place last year, Owlfest! In addition, Corky was attired in the same trademark Harris Tweed suit and flat cap, not the dress of your archetypal rapper. He replied the importance of Owlfest, as the first open-air festival of the year.

In that respect it’s still spring, and a gentle breeze did blow across Bromham’s sports and recreation ground, enough to force Kirsty Clinch to tie her wafting red hair into a makeshift “pineapple” which she’d jest about through her wonderful acoustic set. Yet this gathering was a welcomed occasion for villagers, and warm weather tolerable.

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None of this came before I approached the site to the instantly recognisable sound of Mr Jamie R Hawkins, freed from my short bus journey. With no real plan for getting home again, save Shanks’s pony, I knew my time was limited, perhaps scooting off prior to festivities moving inside for the final two acts, the Gentle Crows and Funked-Up. Alas, this is what I did get for my efforts.

Initial rock covers band, Homer was a well-received newcomer, organiser Adam Dempsey told of his reservations of having a full-band to kick off the afternoon, when acoustic sets would follow, but starting with a boom is never such a bad idea. Jamie did his thing, those wonderfully sentimental originals and sublime covers included his heart-warming new single, “Welcome to the Family,” a ukulele ballad to his toddling daughter. Also, on the set was Big Yellow Taxi, as I sat getting to know Kirsty, who was neither here nor there about it also being in her set. I noted this was a cider fest, they’d never notice!

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Though Owlfest, in its second year after a merger of Bromham’s cider festival, Bromfest circa 2011, and the concept of introducing musical acts who’ve been booked at the Owl prior, is free, there’s an £8 tag for a glass and tokens to explore this fine array of ten local ciders; arm twisted!

With header, Black Rat’s newly introduced Dark Fruits, to reliable Cheddar Valley, the selection was oscillating taste-buds, Lilly’s Cheeky Pig, Dog Dancer from Gwynt Y Ddraig, Sanford Orchards, Purpeck and Harry’s all appeared in conjunction with a bustling barbeque.

As Jamie departed to a support gig at Devizes’ Long Street Blues Club, Kirsty took over the marquee. A Westbury young singer I’ve not heard enough of, for while her celebrated YouTube channel fuses a courteously pop sound, her acoustic set shines brilliance in an acceptability for perhaps, an older crowd. Kirsty has confidence without showiness, there’s no drama nor conceited air to her, just a down-to-earth girl with love for her incredible talent.

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She did cover Big Yellow Taxi too, so suitable to her style, and executed her originals with panache, but most poignant was her take on Cash’s Ring of Fire and most divergent and improvised, Blue Suede Shoes, a witticism directed at the following act, who had arrived in said footwear to tap and us on the shoulder for a chat, George Wilding.

In fact, it was here last year when I really got to know George, as we yakked about gig aftermaths, football and all manner of unexpected tenacious links. Again, he did what he does best, with ease and unique stylishness, George belted out the Arctic’s Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor as way of introduction, and followed with a parade of awesome covers. Often improvised, George plays to the crowd with an aptitude to cover requests, appeasing Kirsty’s call for Day-Dream Believer.

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Knowing my personal favourite being The Ronette’s Be My Baby, which he makes his own, George was keen to chat about the highs and lows of Phil Spector with me afterwards. This approachable and friendly legend of local live music scene, does it every time, despite always searching for a reason not to; a slight hangover being his excuse this time, did not affect his astounding performance.

Sorry to have missed the other acts, my phone battery dying would be my only aid and torch through the Badlands of St Edith’s Marsh’s footpaths back to Rowde, if I’d left it till after dark. Yet Corky I couldn’t miss, tittering in the audience as he took the makeshift lawn stage; Bromham residents know what’s coming, despite it’d be surprising if you haven’t heard this accomplished and extremely witty, self-styled adaptions of hip hop anthems in true West Country fashion and relative themes. Ginster’s Paradise spoofs Gangster’s Paradise, what Goldie Looking Chain did for urban rap in the West Country, Corky takes rural; Your Mrs is a Nutter cover being a prime example.

Anecdotes of rural poverty, red deiseal, and the supermarket’s monopoly of underfunding dairy farmers are among the hilariously satirical themes of these raps. Though Corky’s demeanour is funny, the only yokel who could support either The Wurzzels or Beastie Boys and not look out of place.

That was it for me, an applely taste to my hiccups, I had to depart. But upon arrival I remarked to Adam, the attendance was staggeringly up from last year, and I did talk to some non-villagers. With liberal stance on camping, bringing you children, and other festival FAQ’s, OwlFest really is a promising and brilliantly staged event for any village, and residents, organisers and all should be proud of what they’ve achieved. Ack, you missed it? Never mind, The Owl has regular music nights, as well as a variety of evening’s entertainment from charity quizzes to themed nights such as a Halloween party.

Future events to bookmark; Larkin on 29th June, Drew Bryant on the 27th July, People Like Us 10th August, the Gentle Crows 28th September and those Truzzy Boys on 26th October.

 

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