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2021 Festival Review

Updated: Nov 13, 2021


Gigspanner Big Band

Last weekend, over three thousand festival goers and record ticket sales celebrated the return of live folk, roots and acoustic music at a beautiful new location in the countryside outside Southwell. Held in rolling farmland, surrounded by woodland and lakes, the delayed fourteenth Gate To Southwell Festival finally took place in Kirklington.

“It was an absolutely brilliant weekend,” said festival director Mike Kirrage. “Everyone loved the new location, there was a wonderful atmosphere and it was so great to see so many new faces in addition to our regular supporters. Lots of great music performances and, after so much hard work, it all came together like a dream.”

From the outset on Thursday - when there were fine performances from Banter, Donegal’s Henry Girls and the great Spanish piper-led Anxo Lorenzo Band plus local talent such as Mansfield rockers Starscreen - it became clear this comeback festival would showcase a typically eclectic mix of music. Friday’s headliners Gigspanner Big Band delivered a classic set of English folk led by fiddler Peter Knight alongside the duo Edgelarks and ex-Bellowhead melodeon virtuoso John Spiers. Elsewhere across the three-stage festival site, Madrid’s excellent Track Dogs, shantyman Tom Lewis and rising stars such as Amelia Coburn, Iona Lane, Rainy Day Woman and Ellie Gowers all delivered extremely well-received performances, while The Maitree Express proved to be one of the most energetic and entertaining roots acts to visit Southwell over the years.

While sunshine threatened to break Saturday’s clouds, and the upbeat festival spirit extended to the streets and pubs of Southwell too, the new location welcomed back The Young’uns with their great harmonies, witty banter and wonderful folk songs. There were fantastic sets from London ska kings Maroon Town, fine performances from singer-songwriter Reg Meuross, the soul rhythms of South Africa’s Stone Jets, brilliant Scottish tunes from Imar, genius guitarwork from Rodney Branigan, intoxicating country blues from The Rogue Embers, plus the future of traditional folk in the guise of Blair Dunlop and his band. Special mention also to the artists who paid emotional tribute to recently-deceased American singer-songwriter John Prine including Alistair Russell and Winter Wilson.

Given the inclement weather that’s dogged several GTSFs in previous years, the full sun on Sunday and Red Arrows flypast seemed to be a seal of approval for the new location. Headlined by the magnificent Spiers & Boden (reunited after 20 years), plus Scottish stars Talisk, one of the nation’s greatest folk singer-songwriters Chris Wood, and the beautiful vocals of Rioghnach Connolly of The Breath, the 14th festival clearly exceeded everyone’s hopeful expectations. The family entertainment, including juggler Dan The Hat and Mark Frazer’s Walk The Lines storytelling, went down a storm, and the festival committee were delighted with the sterling work of all the traders, volunteers and stewards on site and with the support of sponsors and advertisers. So many musical highlights across the three stages – special mention too for Harbottle & Jonas, The Jellyman’s Daughter, Thorpe & Morrison, Banjo Jen and Maniere Des Bohemiens - before this warm, friendly festival reached a climax with the high-energy mayhem of The Activators.

Len Brown September 2021

Spiers & Boden

Stone Jets, Lyric Lounge Review

Track Dogs, photo Lyric Lounge Review

Track Dogs, photo Lyric Lounge Review

The Caisterways, photo Jim Connolly Photography

photo Jim Connolly Photography

photo Alan Beastall

photo Alan Beastall

The Henry Girls, photo Lyric Lounge Review

Dan the Hat, photo Jim Connolly Photography

Blair Dunlop Band, photo Jim Connolly Photography


3rd to 6th July 2025

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