Ahoy, took a journey across the downs to Honeystreet Saturday, the ol’ stomping ground never looked so good.
Amidst affluent villages of the Marlborough Downs few pockets of counter culture hide. Notably, none more renowned than The Barge at Honeystreet.
With memorable days of yore, the pub, its adjoining wharf and campsite has always thrived with the spirit of a mini festival. If this lively reputation has been dubious recently, with changes of ownership and a community buyout, it’s now confirmed; the once jewel in our live music scene has regained its dynamism and essence.
On adding gigs to our calendar, I’d noticed a consistent drift of local acts adding regular nights at this scenic old mill house, and with our prime sound system attending Saturday, I couldn’t hold back any longer, the desire to investigate was paramount; fetch my tie-dye tee.
Rammed carpark, a straggler sitting on a sarsen stone with a can of Strongbow took it upon himself to police parking, and kindly directed me back towards the sawmill. Sauntering the track on foot, familiar sounds of a gypsy boater’s haven blessed my ears; jolly laughter, dogs barking and the compulsory thunder of bass.
The front lawn was chock-full of revellers upon my arrival, dogs and kids running wild, drinks flowing merrily around a strategically positioned speaker by the door. Struggle to ascend to the bar without smiling greetings, welcoming hugs, and the customary handclasp from Razah heading the controls to a tower of speakers. The bass is positively throbbing inside as merrymakers mingle and skank, I’d expect no less.
I observed, design wise things looked fresh; same ol’ extensive bar, retaining the previous open-plan renovation. Wow, must’ve been my stag do last time I was here; complete with charred sausages from a drunken campsite barbeque, perpetual rounds of tequila and a druid grudgingly cast as the wizard-o-gram.
Speaking to the site manager, who’s name escaped my lobes (Dylan?) due to the sweet reggae vibes of our local purveyors of sound system culture, Razah and Knati P, I’m informed most Fridays and every Saturday is dedicated to live music. Where the crop circle centre of the world identifier perhaps waning with trends, the inescapable music scene is blossoming once again.
This Saturday evening as lively as ever before, if not more, engrained what I’d anticipated, The Barge is back on the circuit and the news is out. With the rotting neighbouring barn replaced by a plush wooden extension with showers and camping washing facilities, upwards there’s a community arts space, which opens up to the rear garden.
Outside table areas are equally as jam-packed as the front, beyond, the fire-lit campsite resembling a free party of days gone by. A basic play area for kids and table tennis balances something for all here, yet the icing on the cake is eternally unchangeable, the stunning surroundings of Alton Barnes and the White Horse on Milk Hill.
What a wonderful setting for a gathering of any sort, but with the inimitable radiance of the inhabitants of the Pewsey vale, and the ethos of bringing the best local live music acts, you know it’s going to go off. Any normal night will cost £8 to camp, and good homecooked food is served, so despite its middle-of-nowhere location, you need not fuss about getting home, even to feed the dog. The site is dog-friendly, if you haven’t got a dog, you’ll be issued with one for the weekend.
From those twisted masters of the dark Somerset blues, The Black Wood Redeemers, to Devizes-own indie-pop People Like Us, and from Swindon’s skanking hip hoppers, The Tribe to Avebury’s star George Wilding, The Barge wasted no time whamming its pin back in the map.
Coming Friday (2nd August,) sees the ferocious and whimsical galloping of gypsy boat folk, with Calico Jack, while reggae vibes return Saturday with both a live set from The Urban Lions, a band who campaigned and fundraised to get this Barge back on waters, and their dub sound system Lionheart Vibration. In contrast, perhaps, I’m equally pleased to see indie-pop upcomers, Daydream Runaways headlining August 17th, with Ben Borrill supporting, and a suburb bank holiday festival line-up.
With Punjabi style Bhangra outfit, RSVP, headlining, The Argy Bargee Weekender on 23rd-26th August, set in a marquee in the camping field, may come at a £12.50 day ticket stub, or £30 for the whole weekend, but also promises People Like Us, Matt Cook, Phil Cooper & Jamie R Hawkins, Panacoustic, Tripolar and The Tribe, with Knati & Razah’s sound system too. And of course, the given notion they’ve got the know-how-to-party t-shirt, it’s more than tempting.
So, topper-most respect t’ Brenden ‘n co, th’ new crew o’ th’ Barge, th’ acts ‘n that crazy crowd; yeâd be a land-lubbin’ mug nah t’ bookmark th’ destination this summer!
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