About Us

Festival Ethos

From its humble beginnings in 2007 as primarily an English folk music and dance festival, Southwell has evolved into one of the leading and most innovative folk events in the country.

Whilst English and Celtic music remain at the core we seriously embrace other roots music forms. Southwell has built a reputation for seeking out exciting new talent and providing something a little different. Quality remains the watchword so whether it’s country or gypsy jazz, ska or rockabilly, bluegrass or punk, traditional or contemporary, it’ll be good.

“pity .. those poor unfortunates who ‘don’t do folk’. They should try a pilgrimage to Southwell. If that doesn’t cure them, then I fear that nothing will” efestivals review 2013


Dance displays remain a popular part of the festival with the emphasis on variety and entertainment. Ceilidhs or other social  folk dances take place each day with a late night silent folk disco introduced in 2014.

Southwell is a family friendly and fun festival with plenty of entertainment for the kids and youths alike.  Many children’s activities are aimed to be educative as well as fun with our own instrument workshops, and various other hands on opportunities. Family entertainment always includes a liberal dose of Street Theatre  and ‘walkabouts’ as well as storytellers and musicians.


The Big Top  is the largest venue with a capacity of around 1700 mainly seated with central standing (or rather dancing) area.


The Folk Stage is an all-seated venue, where you are more likely to find traditional folk and acoustic acts. We used to hold ceilidhs in here but with a new indoor ceilidh area, the seating in here is now permanent throughout the festival . It has a capacity of up to 750.

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The Frontier Stage is our newest band stage and it’s all-standing. It gets lively in here in the evenings and it’s where you’ll find some of the more alternative of the music on offer.


The Barleycorn Stage  within the Barlecorn marquee which houses the main bar serving at least 50 different cask ales and around 20 traditional ciders. It’s a sort of ‘L’ shape with the stage and seated area for around 100, just round the corner,  and a separate annex for ‘sessions’. Lots of up and coming acts are featured here together with one or two of the bigger names. It also houses open mic sessions, tunes workshops and the big ‘all star’ English and Celtic sessions.


Smiffy’s Tent  is a small marquee used exclusively for acoustic performances and workshops

The Children’s Marquee, and area around, houses most of the children’s activities and entertainment, including musical entertainment, craft workshops, comedy and storytelling.

The Outdoor Dance Stage is used for dance displays and Street Theatre shows.

There are a variety of food and drink stalls spread around the site, together with various other non food stalls and a provisions shop near the entrance. The indoor market has a number of smaller stalls mostly of a craft nature.

Toilet provision on the site is generous with plenty of toilets with flushing WCs




The festival also programmes events in the Minster and several of the pubs in town. These come in a variety of guises depending on the venue so might be formal concerts, organised sessions, singabouts, folk club style concerts or open air events. We also organise dance displays at several venues and a procession through the middle of town. Details will be available in the programme.





The  campsite is right next to the event site complete with flushing toilets and free hot showers.



See the links below for reviews of past years.

Folk Radio UK

Spiral Earth


Spiral Earth

Nottingham Post

Photos by kind permission of Phil Richards

Gate to Southwell Festival