Category Archives: Monmouth Festival Stories
So, it all seems a dim and distant memory now but below is a little reminder of what an amazing Festival we had this summer. Thanks to our fantastic audiences and bands who created an amazing atmosphere, and supported the Festival in many ways. Thanks also to everyone who commented, shared, tweeted, retweeted, and generally spread the love.
If you’re interested in getting involved next year, come and have a drink and a chat with us at the Three Horseshoes on Thurs 22 November – pop in anytime from 6pm – 8pm and meet some of the current team, pick up a leaflet (or you can download the leaflet here) about possible ways you can help, and chat to us about what you might be interested in doing.
In the meantime, here’s what you said …
The Secret Police: “You wonderful people of Monmouth – a big thank you for having us at your festival, it was a pleasure and an honour to be part of it in 2012 – all the very best for years to come and long may it continue. Cheers to you all”
Penny Evans: “What a fabulous festival, we made all 9 nights, look forward to next years”
Wakefield Turner: “Really good, quality of music very high. Well done all.”
Mick Clutton: “Another massive success for Monmouth Festival – it has to be one of the very best around !! Will be there to help 2013 ;-)”
Robert Mark Smith: “A really magnificent effort once again to you people of Monmouth that put so much hard work into what has to be one of the absolute best free festivals in this country.:) …”
Alan ‘Pastiemuncher’ Cox: “We came back for the fest and to see family, you done montown proud, some really good bands, see you next year :)”
Sharon Jones: “See you next year Monmouth your wicked!! x”
Blue Humphries: “AMEN CORNER, a brilliant finish to a great festival”
Paul Saunders: “mts wishbone ash were brill never been to the festival before but i will try it again thanks monmouth”
Philip Ghostwatchersinc Jones: “What a top nite 🙂 well done all for a fantastic festival :)”
Blue Humphries: “I absolutely think this is by far one of the best festivals yet.Well done to all who have worked so hard and all the crews to make this happen.You should all be very,very proud of what you have achieved.Hope you will do it all again for next year.Thank you”
Chris Aylmer, Red River Blues: “Red River Blues had a great time at the Monmouth Festival last night. Thanks to everyone who came – and for being so enthusiastic, makes it all worthwhile! Also thanks to the wonderful Festival Staff and Crew who made us so welcome and were so friendly and efficient throughout the whole evening.”
Mikey Cooling, Red River Blues: “Brilliant to play Monmouth Festival again, last time was in Agincourt square mid 90’s, loved it!!”
Hugh McParland: “We had a great night last night. Thanks for organising such a great event. Pandemick were brilliant, enjoyed Between the Lines and Words of course. But for loud hard charging Rock Pandemick took the night away”
Adam Ward, Pandemick: “On behalf of Pandemick, I’d just like to thank monmouth festival for giving us the chance to play, the boys thoroughly enjoyed the night, the atmosphere and crowd were amazing and the crew were spot on”
Graeme Stuart Smith: “Just like to say myself and The Words had a unreal time playing last night. The staff were great, the atmosphere of the crowd was amazing, what a night. Hope everyone enjoyed it :D.. See you again soon :D.”
Tony Mange Eade, Toadstool (POSTED WITH PHOTO): “Toadstool rocking Monmouth Festival on Saturday night, awesome! Hope you all enjoyed it as much as me and the guys did!”
Leeson O’Keeffe, Neck (POSTED WITH PHOTO): “NECK rocking the bejaysus out of Monmouth on Friday night! Thanks again – mighty craic was had by all!”
Lounging About: “Really enjoyed playing the Festival’s Carnival Chill Out yesterday. – many thanks to all. Looking forward to the rest of the festival.”
Jackie Martin (POSTED WITH PHOTO): “Bourgeoisie playing in the showcase this afternoon. Apparently, today was the first time they have played together in front of an audience. I would never have known. They were good enough to have had night time set. You never know, maybe next year….”
Jackie Martin: “A great festival so far and thank you to everyone for all the hard work that has gone into making it a success. No-one gets paid; it is literally a labour of love. I hope anyone who has enjoyed themselve digs deep into their pockets to help it continue. Without donations there is no festival.”
Toadstool: “Thank you for inviting us to play we had a ball! Really appreciate all the great comments and feedback we have had, awesome! Big thanks to all the volunteers and crew fantastic job!”
Leeson O’Keeffe, Neck: “A huge thanks to all of youse that braved the weather & came out on Friday – it was a great night & fair play to yiz: we knew you’d get what we do, being fellow Celts, & you didn’t let us down – cheering & dancing & having a rare ould hooley! We had a brilliant time! Go raibh mile maith agaibh / Diolch yn fawr iawn! from those feckers in Neck”
Sally Ann Evans: “Just wanted to say a huge thank you for the gig last night. Brilliant night, fantastic people in the audience and great crew. Happy 30th Festival love from The Good Times. X”
Guido McFister: “Just wanted ta say a big thanx ta everyone involved an all those who danced n sang in tha rain last night….had a blast playin what else can I say? Special thanx ta Angela, Andy an those whose name I can’t remember fer sortin out tha room fer me an Lucy an tha lift there 🙂 Guido aka Guy, Wispy McCracken etc. lol Sláinte”
Helen Richards: “ What a brill nite me and my boy really injoyed it all and the last nite. Fireworks where great. Cant wait for next yr”
Julie Lawrence: “We had a great night watching the Ronaldos, well worth seeing, even in the pouring rain.”
Robert Mark Smith: “cracking set last nioght from TOADSTOOL ..wish I could have stayed for Hells Bells but…ah well !.keep it going Monmouth Festival is awesome !”
Neville Turner: “had abs brills nite watchin toadstool n hells bells .best nite in ages .thanx guys …….”
Alison Mckenzie: “although it was extremely wet, last night was fabulous!! ;D”
David Ibbitson: “Fantastic show, my first visit, definatlley will be returning next year”
Subject: Sadly, The festival is over for another year
To All Those Involved,
Well, you’ve done it again, what a great festival and thankyou so much. Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers, superb line up of bands, and a very smoothely run event. I really do appreciate the punctuality…..always starting on time etc. Although it was held 3 weeks later this year, (much to my disapointment, as I always work my short breaks away around the festival, but because of the change of date I missed the first 3 nights!!), the weather still did it’s best to interupt the event. But in spite of the fact I got soaked, it was well worth it and the “show went on.”
How you manage to put together such a fantastic line up of talent, I do not know, but I lift my hat to you all. Please accept a pat on the back all of you, and once again thankyou from the bottom of my heart.
See you next year!!, Best wishes from John, Coleford.
@megdavies4: “Lovely night at #MonFest listening to country music + watching random people line dancing…made me think of @JKCorden and @RobBrydon in G+S”
@alysha_moore: “i went to Monmouth festival for one night, i met & spent the night with some amazing people aw”
@BMX_FIEND: “Monmouth is going to be sooooooo f**ing boring now the festival is over… Well time to stay inside for a year until it comes back”
@landdodger: “Saw the New Amen Corner at 30th Monmouth Festival tonight -forgot the pleasure of yelling to ‘If paradise was twice as nice as you? ‘is it?”
@ChloeBlomfield: “Lush week at monmouth festival, met some amazing people!<3”
@SarahESmith95: “Monmouth festival was amazing”
@BreezyDaHero_3: “Monmouth festival you do me proud 😉 #rockandroll bitches.”
We came last weekend for the carnival which was brilliant and came back yesterday for the last night, oh my goodness what a fantastic evening and the fireworks were amazing, well done everyone , can’t wait for next year, kind regards Karen n john, wolverhampton 🙂
Paul Rimmer (The Clay Cuisine Company): “Please pass on our thanks to all of the team that assisted us this year at the Monmouth Festival this year… Hope the Saturday night night went well !”
Subject: Wishbone Ash Sound
just a brief note to congratulate the sound crew for the fabulous sound on Friday night at Wishbone Ash. From the very first note all was spot on: clear vocals on all mikes, all the small drums and cymbals sharp and clear, guitars just right, and absolutely rock solid tuneful bass. Quite an achievement on such an awful night. A really excellent gig. Thank you.
Kevin, Welsh Newton.
You could have been … playing Pacman or Rubik’s cube, watching Dallas or the Young Ones, painting a white stripe across your nose Adam Ant-style, listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Combat Rock by the Clash, crying at ET, wearing big t-shirts with big slogans across them, ra-ra skirts and legwarmers …
If you weren’t even a twinkle in your parents eyes, then ask them about the tracks at the bottom of this post (they’ll either go all misty-eyed or roll their eyes in disgust). If you were around, enjoy the memories!
But while the rest of Monmouth was listening to all that wonderful music, a group of music fans in Monmouth were busy hatching plans to put on a FREE music festival in Monmouth …. Read David’s story to find out about the start of the Festival. And come along to celebrate our thirtieth year – check out the line-up and make sure you’re there!
It’s incredible that Monmouth Festival has been running, continuously, for thirty years, and even more so that it’s continued as a free, independent festival, organised totally by volunteers. Please help us to keep it this way, and enable next year’s Festival to be even better by remembering to dig deep when you’re approached by a smiling person with a bucket. Thank you!
1983 number ones
The Flying Pickets – Only You
Billy Joel – Uptown Girl
Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
UB40 – Red Red Wine
KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up
Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat
Rod Stewart – Baby Jane
The Police – Every Breath You Take
New Edition – Candy Girl
Spandau Ballet – TRUE
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
Men At Work – Down Under
Phil Collins – You Cant Hurry Love
Yes, time does really prove that the most popular music is generally the most embarrassing in retrospect. If you want to be reminded of some of the best albums and singles as far as NME are concerned, check out rocklistmusic for 1983:
1983 Top 20 NME albums
1. Punch The Clock – Elvis Costello
2. Swordfishtrombones – Tom Waits
3. Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy – Billy Bragg
4. The Art Of Falling Apart – Soft Cell
5. Thriller – Michael Jackson
6. You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess – Yellow
7. Colour By Numbers – Culture Club
8. Think Of One – Wynton Marsalis
9. Duck Rock – Malcolm Mclaren
10. Synchro System – King Sunny Ade
11. The Crackdown – Cabaret Voltaire
12. High Land Hard Rain – Aztec Camera
13. Let’s Dance – David Bowie
14. One From The Heart – Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle
15. Cold-Blooded – Rick James
16. Power Corruption & Lies – New Order
17. Subterranean Jungle – The Remones
18. Trouble In Paradise – Randy Newman
19. Classified – James Booker
20. Alive She Cried – The Doors
Looking for the line-up announcement? See blog below.
I was involved in the Festival of Castles in 1983 – the Wales-wide event that inspired the Monmouth Festival – and stayed involved in one way or another for the next 10 years. Initially, it was as part of the entertainment, mostly as a member of Centre Players (now Off Centre Theatre) when we staged plays in the Square, shouting our lines against the passing traffic. In 1986, I became Chairman (the first Chair was John Hamilton, who owned what is now the Riverside Hotel) and carried on in that post for another seven years, with a small but incredibly hard-working committee who were truly responsible for ensuring a strong foundation to the annual events that followed.
Daily stage-building and chairs in the square
Initially, the 15” high stage had to be constructed from scratch every evening so we would congregate straight from work to fulfil the task in about an hour and a half. Although the nightly show didn’t go up until 7.30pm it became quite the thing for audiences to turn up at 6.45pm just for the fun of watching the build-up! Two years into its life, the Festival benefited from the very generous gift of 100+ wooden chairs, courtesy of John Wills, who then owned and ran The Punch House. When not in use, they lived in the ‘dungeons’ beneath the Shire Hall and had to be dusted down and carried up for the commencement of the Festival and then, during its run, stacked and stored every night at the bottom of the Shire Hall staircase. They proved invaluable to an audience of mixed ages and variable stamina.
For the first two or three years, the programme ran over 8 nights – Saturday to Saturday – but it gradually grew until, in its 10th year it covered a massive 15 nights. Coincidentally, 1993 was the first time we had complete closure of the Square to through traffic. Prior to that, we operated a single lane regime controlled by traffic lights, which the committee had to assemble and remove each evening.
Local talent – and the birth of The Cliveden Set and The Mighty Pledge
Half the acts comprised local talent and the Festival gave birth to The Cliveden Set and The Mighty Pledge. Monmouth School of Dance were regular favourites, as was the Music Hall group Moss Empire. Monmouth Band played bravely against all the elements and Centre Players continued to perform memorable works such as Murder in The Red Barn and Bad Day at Blackfrog Creek. As the Festival’s popularity increased we became more ambitious and expanded the programme by booking professional theatre companies, bands, musicians and storytellers. The eclectic mix covered Commedia del Arte, Bavarian Oompah (always a big hit), Barbershop Harmony, classical piano recitals, jazz, Punch & Judy and much, much more. The design of our staging became more sophisticated and permission was finally granted for it to remain in place for the entire fortnight. Then, as now, visitors arranged their holidays to coincide with the Festival.
Candlight procession and a giant birthday cake
It was always an ambition to operate a fringe festival, but the idea was slow in catching on. Nonetheless, there were exciting and ambitious additions to the standard evening fare, such as the building of a giant birthday cake to celebrate the 600th birthday of Henry V. Since Bordertown was being performed in St Mary’s Church we were able to coerce the cast into participating in a magical candlelit procession which made its way through Monnow Street to Monmouth Castle, where more than 450 candles, in jam jars, were positioned around the cake – manufactured from Tri-Wall. Other events over the first ten years included an archery demonstration contest and a display by the Ermin Street Roman Guard, on Vauxhall.
Monmouth Festival became a showcase of the town’s diverse talent and a superb example of what community collaboration can achieve: it was a privilege to be part of it.
David Evans June 2012
Do you have any festival photos or memories you’d like to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post on this page or the Your festival stories page.