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review of the Pensford Festival, featuring Acker Bilk
& his Paramount Jazz Band, Fred Wedlock, The Wurzels,
The Blue Note Jazz Band with Hannah Wedlock, Lisa
Morgan, and Matt Baker & Ben Lowery, at Pensford
Memorial Playing Field, Publow Lane, Pensford in Somerset (29th
June 2002) by Paul Gunningham
In The Playing Field
Gunningham thought he must be dreaming - all that lot on the
Imagine: not one - not two - but three of the greatest legends of
West Country music on the same bill. Not only that, but one of Bristol's
- indeed Britain's - best jazz bands, a rock band and a future pop
star added for good measure. And on top of all that - a beer tent
selling Thatchers scrumpy straight from the cask! Either I've died
and gone to heaven, or I'm dreaming again.
Better pinch myself... ouch! No, that was no dream - it was real,
all right. This was the Penford Festival 2002, which not only featured
jazz legend Acker Bilk, but 'Oldest Swinger' Fred Wedlock and -
for the first time ever - Scrumpy & Western heroes The Wurzels.
Fred's daughter Hannah showed up with Roger Bennett's Blue Note
Jazz Band, and we were treated to sets from Lisa Morgan and local
budding rock stars Matt Baker and Ben Lowery. Now where else could
you see a varied bill like that?
Ably and amusingly compered (how else?) by the inimitable Mr Wedlock,
the evening of varied musical delights was attended by most of the
villagers and others who'd made the trip for this momentous occasion.
The audience ranged from young 'uns scarcely out of nappies to pensioners
- and in spite of the variety of music, everyone there seemed to
enjoy it all! As usual, the crowds started to arrive when the gates
opened early in the evening - some by car, some on foot from the
village. We arrived in the afternoon and had a pint of cider at
the Rising Sun down by the river while we waited for the gates to
Arriving early at the field in front
of the massive stage, we could see the Wurzels' roadie setting
up their gear on an adjacent truck. We pitched our chairs between
the two stages so we could get a good view of both. Settling down
for a picnic, washed down with a pint of scrumpy from the bar, we
didn't have to wait long before Fred announced the first act - Lisa
Morgan, who had appeared on TV's Stars In Their Eyes.
She did a set of mainly covers with her accomplished band and went
down well with the crowds, finishing with one of her own songs.
I reckon we might be hearing more of her in the future. Move over,
As you might expect, Fred kept everyone entertained with his easy-going
humour during the gaps while equipment was set up between acts,
and also found time to talk to me more than once during the (for
him) busy evening. The atmosphere was friendly as all the crowds
were in a good mood in spite of the rain in the early part of the
evening, which caused a forest of brollies to pop up like mushrooms
around us. The event was well organised in every respect and a credit
to all concerned, with food and drink readily available for those
who hadn't brought their own - or in my case, for greedy b*gg*rs
who had! There was some concern among the organisers that the men's
open air urinals would fill up with rain before the end of the evening,
but these proved ill-founded.
Fred's next job was to introduce his daughter Hannah Wedlock,
fronting the famous Bristol Blue Note Jazz Band, led by Roger
Bennett of BBC Radio Bristol's Morning West fame.
As you would expect from this experienced band, their set was superb
and Ms Wedlock was a revelation for those who hadn't heard
her before, with her strong and expressive vocals. There were some
superb solos from Mr Bennett (on soprano sax and clarinet) and Chris
Pearce and Ron Brown, with the capable accompaniment
of the two Geoffs on piano and bass, with drummer John Watson
holding it all together. It would have been well worth going just
to see the Blue Notes on their own!
Time In Zummerzet
there was more to come! By now the rain had mercifully eased off
and it was now Fred Wedlock's turn to do a turn. For around
half an hour he entertained everyone with his jokes and hilarious
songs - including old favourites like Side By Side,
and a variation on the Hippies & the Hairies,
aptly reworded as the Jazzers & the Boozers for
the occasion! As always, Fred went down well - particularly funny
was his song about Spanish holidays of the Club 18-30 type (IQ,
that is, explained Fred!) which raised a lot of laughs - as did
his Swing Low, Sweet Charlie Dimmock - but as this is a family
website I'd better not go into that...
Straight after Fred's own spot he introduced The Wurzels
who were on their own stage, to protect the other posh one from
any fallout from their dung-encrusted boots! They did their usual
storming set with the Wurzels' fan club dancing in front of them
throughout. It was good to see the boys doing a few different numbers
- including Dorset Is Beautiful and Wurzel Rock,
both of which went down a storm. Let's hope we can see the lads
gradually adding some more new material to the live shows from now
on. By the end of their set, which as usual was about an hour long,
the crowds had all moved forward and the atmosphere in front of
their stage was frantic as the frenzied young 'uns (and some not
so young!) danced, clapped along and joined in with all the words
- I plead guilty, yer honour! As usual they left the stage with
the audience yelling for more and then spent the next hour or so
signing CDs, hats, scarves and T-shirts for their army of fans -
most of whom seemed to have turned up tonight!
Ain't Over Till Old Acker Plays
the evening still wasn't over! Now it was the turn of the grand
old man of Pensford jazz to take the stage. Acker Bilk
and his Paramount Jazz Band kept everyone in a good mood
with their professional and entertaining performance, with Acker's
usual West Country patter and jokes between numbers keeping everybody
laughing. What can be said about Acker that hasn't been said before?
Suffice it to say that the performance was just what you'd expect,
It's not easy following a bill such as this, but local rock band
fronted by vocalist Matt Baker and guitarist Ben Lowery
came on, to the accompaniment of a laser light show. Matt can belt
out a song like a good 'un and Ben's fretboard wizardry got plenty
of applause from the crowd.
All that remained was the impressive firework display and the dream
evening had come to an end. For us, it was back to Pensford Hill
to sleep off the scrumpy and dream some more. Waking next morning
and looking across to the festival site, you could see the carpet
of empty glasses and bottles glinting in the sun and the cars abandoned
in the field where some drivers who might have accidentally overdosed
on the cider had sensibly decided to leave them.
An unforgettable evening and congatulations to all concerned in
organising it, and of course to the acts for giving us all so much
pleasure over the years gone by and hopefully for many more years
to come. And special thanks to Fred for being such a real nice friendly
bloke! Never mind the Party in the Park or the Palace - give I the
Party in Pensford Playing Field any time! I'm already looking
forward to next year...
© Paul Gunningham 2002
For some pictures of the event see the Official
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