See Beth Orton, The Hosts and Scroobius Pip for £10 At Essex Festival The Village Green

Wilko Johnson at 2013's Village Green Festival

Wilko Johnson at 2013’s Village Green Festival

As summer approaches, thoughts turn to the summer season. Whilst for the landed gentry this means the quiet civility of Ascot, Henley and The Hurlingham Club, for the rest of us it can only mean the sheer joy of mud, rain, noise, plastic cups filled with various unidentified warm bodily fluids, chemical toilets and the sheer thrill of Music Festivals. Glasto? Isle of Wight? Reading / Leeds? They’re a a wonderful thing…if you can get a ticket.

But there is an alternative to the scramble. For the last few years a not-for-profit arts community organisation called Metal has been quietly putting on their own music festival in Essex.

Just a 45 minute train journey from London, this annual one-day festival in Chalkwell, near Southend-on-Sea is family friendly (young kids go free) and is growing all the time. Among last year’s headliners were Wilko Johnson, Ed Harcourt and Sweet Billy Pilgrim. This year features Eddi Reader (formerly from Fairground Attraction), Beth Orton, Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, rising stars The Hosts and many others.

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Intriguingly this year will also see the appearance of the mysterious “Longy”. This anonymous busker released his debut EP last year which had been apparently recorded in a shed whilst he was homeless in East London, sofa-surfing and sleeping rough. The CD was picked up immediately and awarded XFM Demo of the Year, resulting in not only a swathe of celebrity fans but a string of packed-out gigs.

On the 1st April this year The Daily Telegraph reported that Longy might be headlining the main stage at Glastonbury. While this later proved (perhaps unsurprisingly) to be an April Fool’s joke, that’s the sort of publicity that money can’t buy…

Like graffiti artist, Banksy, Longy has closely guarded his real identity. In the run up to the release of his single, Love Schizophrenia, and his new EP, the British press have been speculating wildly as to the name of the man behind the name and there is now a twitter hashtag dedicated to the mystery – #whoislongy. Tweeters have so far ventured that Longy may be a cover for Kasabian, Kanye West, Chris Helme from the Seahorses and many many more. I’m off to Twitter now to suggest he’s really Liam Gallagher….

Whilst this suggests more than anything that Longy has some decent PR people behind him, he’s another reason to come and see what all the fuss is about. Here’s a YouTube clip – it sounds pretty good:

I mentioned the festival is family friendly, so it is interesting that, in the week that Glastonbury announced it would ban legal highs, along with the usual list of banned substances that one might come across at a family festival (illegal drugs, concealed weapons, open fires, members of parliament, Radio 1 DJs from the seventies etc etc) there are two more slightly unusual Banned Items that Village Green is cracking down on.

They are, respectively, Bouncy Castles and Face Painting.

Well done Village Green for taking a lead and stamping on these scourges of society! The last thing anyone wants to see is a kid with a butterfly painted on their face… (Actually I believe the rather laudable aim is to find more arts-led (and FREE) activities to keep the kids entertained. As such it can only be a good thing!).

The Village Green is held in Chalkwell Park, near Southend on Sea on the 12th July, and you can apply for tickets at their website.

It’s just a tenner a ticket. What reason could you have for not going?

Further information from the Village Website:

VILLAGE GREEN

Village Green is a multi-art form and music festival, produced by Metal. Sited in the picturesque grounds of a beautiful Victorian park in Chalkwell, Village Green bursts with energy. Eight different stages, green spaces, rose gardens, cricket pitches, pathways and marketplaces offer up a pot-pourri of international music acts, theatre, spoken word, poetry, lindy-hop/ fox trot lessons and displays, outdoor arts, circus and cabaret, vintage acts, musical theatre, visual arts, comedy, improvisation, film, workshops and games all set against the backdrop of the enigmatic Thames Estuary. Only six years ago Village Green was a small scale celebration of the arts and music of Southend attracting 8000 visitors. Now, it regularly attracts over 30 000 festival goers.

A key to the success of the festival is the calibre of acts and the diversity of performances. It’s strength is its family centred ethos  – where children, teenagers, pensioners and adults can all have fun in the same space on the same day.  With something to do whatever age you are – and strictly NO face painting or bouncy castles – every activity is arts-led and once inside the festival – everything is FREE.



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  1. Check out: The Hosts « Every record tells a story

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