The unique, picturesque, family friendly festival on the doorstep of Manchester affectionately known as ‘Rammyfest’ has been going from strength to strength since it started, & despite the rather miserable summer this year was no exception. Andrew Allcock was there for us with his camera, & below is his report.

The last time I saw a huge puff of smoke go up behind a stage I was watching Oasis at Heaton Park having problems with a generator. This time it was the East Lancs steam railway bringing punters to the Ramsbottom festival.

This is its second year and those who discovered it last year realised they had found a little gem of a festival. Now let’s get the name thing out of the way,it has nothing to do with a sheep’s ass, bottom means valley and it is a beautiful location in a fairly well to do part of the Manchester commuter belt.

The driving force behind this event is David Agnew and his team at the Bury Met, an arts charity and performance venue in Bury. The Festival is a not-for-profit project managed by The Met. .

This is a very small festival catering for up to 2,500 people around a cricket pitch. No parking on site and no dedicated camping but people seem to cope although it hasn’t yet sold its full allocation of tickets.

The pricing makes this festival highly accessible. A full ticket for the weekend is just £50, (£10 if you are 7-16) for 25 hours of music and entertainment across 3 stages. Daily tickets are available for those who only want to sample some of the weekend activities.

The music is an eclectic mix of established veterans to fresh new bands across any number of genres including the hard to define but with an indie, folk & acoustic bias. You get the impression that the line-up was picked by a connoisseur who didn’t go by the name or reputation and as a result provided a constant feast of superb music. The quality and energy never waned, there was never a feel of bands doing the rounds, every band gave the impression that they were glad to be there and their performances reflected this.

This is helped by the relaxed atmosphere of the event, activities and a fairground for kids made it especially attractive for families during the day. The real ale tent serving pints for under £3 was very popular and a silent disco a major hit. The food stalls are a cut above the normal levels of festival food and the toilets work well compared to the normal festival facilities. The sound was very good on all stages too.

Black Lights. Photo copyright Andrew Allcock

Friday kicked off in the Ladybird stage with the superb Black Lights open the proceedings. A voice to die for and a performance to match. My highlights “In the dark” and their recent single “The Enemy”. Louis Barabbas & the Bedlam Six were manic. On the main stage Air Cav produce epic sounds of a style which reminds me of Arcade Fire especially when listening to “A call to arms”. Janice Graham band returned for a second year with a bigger following and a more established confident approach. It is very hard not to be affected by their brand of ska/funk and the crowd was dancing. Inspiral Carpets produce a set which for me eclipsed the performance at Kendall calling earlier in the year. Old and new tunes which show performed in a way that you know this a real and current and is building on a legacy rather than living off it. Their last outing of the year finalised with 96 tears and Saturn 5. The crowd go home buzzing.

Saturday had a greater folk bias and a gentle start with main stage performances from Magic arm, Liz Green and Roddy Womble. Session A9, named after the road, performed an infectious combination of toe tapping and hand clapping jigs and beautiful ballads. Local celebrity Dancing Dave AKA stripey man entertained the crowd and roared his approval. Session A9 announced that after the performance they would be signing CDs in the merchandising tent, but changed this for Dancing Dave’s benefit to the inflatable slide at the other end of the arena.

Erica Nockalls. Photo © Andrew Allcock

Miles Hunt and the stunning Erica Nockalls, who also form part of the Wonderstuff, also chatted to and had a great rapport with the crowd which may have been why they ran out of time as their set ended abruptly. Highlight “Mission Drive”.

Superb performances followed from the Leisure Society and Admiral Fallow and many of the younger members of the festival returned to the main stage from the silent disco.

I Am Kloot. Photo © Andrew Allcock

Headlining were I am Klootand I must admit I had not heard their music before. A three piece from Manchester led by John Bramwell who has a distinctive and emotional voice. He chats to the crowd and complies with a request for a shout out for the Prestwich Massive, whoever they are. Peter Dobson’s lyrical bass playing is accompanied by chain smoking and movements that give all the impressions of a tortured soul. It was a performance that drew you in, played with your emotions, lifted you up and let go. Highlight “I believe”. And I am totally and completely converted.

The crowd left quiet and contented.

Sunday was billed as a quieter day but Met graduates Hollywood or Bust and The Rocket on the Ladybird stage blew away any pretence of a slowing of pace. The Lazy Maybees were first up on the main stage, another Manchester band playing acoustic rock. I leave the stage thinking that bands on first on a Sunday aren’t supposed to be that good.

In Fear of Olive produce an atmospheric set in a week when they are nearing the end of recording for their first album. Biederbeck follow before Rachel Sermanni takes stage with a voice of striking purity.

After a clear Friday and sunny Saturday the 2012 festival rain curse briefly struck and puddles started to form on the outfield. Festival goers retired to the indoor stages and tents. Impromptu acoustic sessions seemed to appear in various places. The Tristan Mackay Band played in the worst of the weather but still attracted a hardy group while others watched from tents that were visually and audibly in range. Dancing Dave took advantage, stripped down to his shorts and dived in the puddles.

Folk group Kan attracted a large crowd and by the end of their set the rain had gone and there was a red sunset over the main stage.

Thea Gilmore. Photo © Andrew Allcock

Thea Gilmore was joined onset by her 5 year old son who played second violin on one song. Her rendition of Sweet child of Mine was so beautiful it has now replaced Guns and Roses version in my head. Seth Lakeman attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd before Roddy Frame rounded off the evening with a lively set of both solo and Aztec Camera numbers with the audience signing along – and I admit even I joined in with “How men are”.

Reading this review back it sounds a bit too good so I checked what other people are saying in case I was going over the top but yes, the reviews are consistent, it really was that good. There were a few things to improve but they are minor. What I can’t understand is why half of Manchester wasn’t there. But then again if the festival hit capacity would the facilities cope and would they be able to keep others out? The organisation and feel of the festival makes me believe that the organisers clearly know what they are doing and have got this one right. Interestingly the hope has always been talk of getting Elbow to play, but when you think aboutt it that would mean ticket prices going up, a different crowd, security issues etc. So maybe it would be better if, rather than Elbow we had Guy with a mate on acoustic guitar? That might be something.

So how do I sum this up, I won’t, I will use the words of John Bramwell, “a F”¦.ing Beautiful Little Festival”.

All words & photo’s © Andrew Allcock.

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