The third Southdowns Folk Festival brings the best of British roots acts to Bognor Regis for one last music-festival fling of the summer (Friday, September 25-Sunday, September 27).
Last year brought a remarkable 25,000 music-lovers to the town: festival chairman Roger Nash sees no reason why the event shouldn’t do even better this year. He is delighted with the way the festival has re-cemented its place on the calendar after many years away, before its revival two years ago: “It has been a revelation to see how quickly a quality music festival that incorporates all sorts of different acts, a food fair, workshops, craft stalls, the whole gamut in fact, can come together in one place in Bognor Regis. Over the three-year period we have been working on it, it has been really heartening to see how people have responded.”
The success comes down to the fact, Roger believes, that it offers something for everyone and always high quality: “The mixture of folk and food and various events seems to go down extremely well. We have got five really top-quality concerts in the Alexandra Theatre which are ticketed. Everything going on in the park and the town centre is free.
“The reason we didn’t do it years ago was that these things need money, but in 2013 when we did the first one back, we were helped by the regeneration fund. We have also had good support from Bognor Town Council and West Sussex. It gave us the financial basis to be able to branch out. We have also had good support from Bognor Regis and Chichester area businesses that come up with sponsorship money, plus really good support from traders locally and also quite a few from outside the area.
“The festival will cost about £40,000 to put on. We have got to raise that sort of money to make it work. We raise it through grant aid and sponsorship and also stall bookings and tickets for the concerts. Tickets sales are probably about 25 to 30 per cent of the total.”
Clearly they have got the format right, with three main areas to the festival: the town centre including the William Hardwicke; Hotham Park; and the Regis Centre. The South Downs Food Fair will run for the whole weekend; on the Sunday, among the innovations, is BOB (Buskers of Bognor).
Last year’s excellent visitor numbers reflected superb weather, Roger said. Clearly you can’t go beyond capacity with the ticketed concerts, but there is certainly scope for even more people around the town and in Hotham Park.
“I think it has helped people see the town in a different light. It has brought a lot of new people into Bognor that might not necessarily come, and it has given people another really popular event right at the end of the season.”
As for the Alexandra Theatre concerts: “Show of Hands, the multi award-winning musicians Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes, will top the bill on Sunday night while Celtic music will be firing on all cylinders as lively Celtic cousins Breabach and Craobh Rua square up as respective Friday and Saturday night headliners. Other leading acts will include the north-east’s irrepressible The Young ‘Uns.”
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