Now its third year, Stockport’s Blackthorn Festival continues to grow in both ambition and size.
Though it seems more and more festivals are leaving behind the traditional bucolic locales in favour of a more urban environment, Stockport’s Blackthorn Festival is keeping the flag flying for those who like their live music accompanied by a bit of greenery. Spread over three days in the lush South Manchester suburb of Compstall, Blackthorn’s now in its third year, and is fast making a name for itself as a truly independent event that supports not just its local music scene, but also the local community.
Arriving a little before 4pm on Friday to a festival site bathed in warm sun, there’s been a reshuffle of stages since last year, with the location of the campsite, and the stalls and stages swapping places. It’s a decision that works in the site’s favour; allowing for a steady stream of traffic between stages that never feels overbearing, even as the punters begin to descend on the site for its first evening.
Much like last year, Friday’s music doesn’t start until 7pm, giving those who arrive early plenty of time to familiarise themselves with the various drinks on offer at the bar; a fast-forming Blackthorn tradition. For us things kick off an hour later over at The Meadow Stage, with local lads The Bright Black whose infectious and frenetic blend of soul and funk leaves a lasting impression. With vocalist Travis Yates stalking the stage like a young Mick Jagger, you know they’re on to a winner.
Remaining in the shade of the Meadow Stage, we hang around for Leeds’ Happy Daggers a band who prove to be the perfect follow up. Relishing in their own brand of self-styled indie rock’ ‘n’ disco soul, not even a brief powercut can dampen their energy and spirits; frontman Sinclair Belle keeps the rhyhm going with some handclaps, while he proves his vocal chops entirely, going completely a capella. Tech issues quickly resolved, the band finish their set in excellent form.
In true Blackthorn tradition, the Main Stage once again played host to a trio of tribute acts on its opening night, including Antartic Monkeys, Kazabian. We opt instead to head back to the Meadow Stage following a swift bar run in order to catch Craig Charles’ now-legendary Funk & Soul Club. Bringing his trademark hat and beats by the bucketload, it’s an energetic set, and one which harbours plenty of cross-generational appeal, with what looks like whole families cutting shapes in various pockets of the crowd.
It’s a set that was over too soon seems to be the general consensus, as punters stumble half blindly down the park’s various path towards their waiting cars and taxis. It might have been over too soon, but there’s still two days stretched out before us and for some bizarre reason, our own bed seems much more preferable to that of an inflatable.