Blog Archives

Next year’s festival …

Hello … it’s been a while! Image

We may have been quiet on this blog and on social networks but it doesn’t mean we’ve had our feet up! We’ve been busy planning next year’s festival which will be on (drum roll) … Fri 26 July – Sat 3 August, with Carnival Sunday on Sunday 28 July. So, put that date in your diary/on your iCalendar, Outlook or Google Calendar, and watch out for more news over the coming months.

You can be among the first to know by subscribing to our e-news at our website http://www.monmouthfestival.co.uk (e-news subscribers tend to get the news first) or by subscribing to this blog, or following us on Facebook or Twitter.

A view from backstage – Ruby Tuesday – Paul’s day 5 blog

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This was day 5 of the Festival but we aren’t done yet. As the sun faded and the evening took its hold on Blestium Street we were starting to warm up. If you chanced a glance at the night sky you may have noticed the threatening doom of rain or possibly lightning, something we take very seriously backstage. For if it rains we can hide ourselves beneath umbrellas, but if lightning falls on our fair stage it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Thank God that the weather held out and we could keep dry whilst enjoying the soul sounds of our Tuesday night entertainment.

The Bandits were back stage and really excited about the gig, they have wanted to play the festival for a while and this year their time had come. A mix of soul and rock n roll tunes meant that we could sing along until our heart’s content. I certainly enjoyed my view from the front row whilst slowly sipping my spiced rum and coke. Overall a fun set with a good time feel. They did a grand job.

Of course the Festival simply couldn’t be without the adjoining soul-defining sounds of the Mighty Pledge. Originally formed in 1990 for one reason, to play Monmouth festival, these guys have stuck around and built their own epic following. You may have recognized a few faces on stage and that’s what makes the Pledge. Great tunes, expertly performed, by people we know. A legendary band for a legendary festival. My personal favourite was the newest member of the band Lyndon (a long-standing festival volunteer and committee member too!) on lead guitar who I felt gave the tunes the edge they needed.

Thank you to all who attended, never before have I seen such enthusiasm on a Tuesday night. With the red wine and spiced rum, it turned out to be one hell of a ruby Tuesday.

Paul Roberts

Paul’s day three blog – Sunday

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Sunday night and Sunday Carnival photos thanks to: Des Pugh, Hannah McGregor and Paul Bond of Pura Bellezza Photography, Emma Cheshire-Jones of ECJ photography and festival volunteers. Video (below this blog) thanks to David Ibbitson of www.goherefordshire.co.uk

Normally Sunday is considered the official day of rest, but not at Monmouth Festival. Following a noisy, colourful and spectacular Carnival day, in the evening Blestium Street car park was alive with jivers from across our fair county all enjoying the sounds of The Jiveoholics, our first band to hit the stage. I’ve known the boys from the band about five years and seen them play a myriad of gigs, but this year with their new line up I was looking forward to see how their sound might have changed. If you missed it then I can confirm that they still know how to party. The crowd were dancing their socks off and those who weren’t enjoyed a gentle sway in place of all out leg shaking. A fun, frollicky and energetic start to Sunday night’s line up.

Then something completely different with the Secret Police, one of the best tribute bands in seen in a long time, excellent covers and smashing vocals. We all enjoyed an hour or crackin’ tunes and because the bands renditions were so close to the original, most of the crowd were spotted singing along to more than one hit.

Overall a superb evening and a perfect ending to the week. Hold onto your hats though because Monday night is coming. And sees us launch into day four of Monmouth’s Festival.

So close, it’s … HERE! Monmouth Festival starts TONIGHT

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After all these months and weeks of preparations it’s finally here!!! Monmouth Festival kicks off tonight with classical diva Sarah Ann-Cromwell at St Mary’s Church, local favourites The Good Times and psycho-ceilidh rockers Neck on the main stage, and singer Andy M at the Green Dragon.

The festival fever continues on Saturday with AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Bells and Bristol based festival favourites Yes Sir Boss on the main stage, Monmouth’s new festival orchestra performing at Wyastone Concert Hall – a festival first! – and singer Lee Lloyd at the Green Dragon.

** STOP PRESS: Yes Sir Boss’s lead singer has a severe throat infection so they will be replaced tonight (Sat 18 Aug) by Toadstool, from Mon nights line-up **

A FOCUS ON: Monmouth’s new orchestra – and a new venue! Sat 18th August 7pm
A very special concert, this is a double-first for the Festival: the first ever performance of the new Monmouth Festival Orchestra (MFO), and the first time we’ve presented a concert at the world-class Wyastone Concert Hall, located just outside Monmouth. The programme will include the much-loved Brahms Symphony No. 3 and the tuneful Slavonic Dances by Dvořák. There will also be a premiere of a composition written by our own Monmouth-bred composer and conductor Chris Petrie, who will also conduct the concert. Chris Petrie studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and has worked with some of Europe’s leading ensembles including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Tonkuenstler Orchetsra (Vienna), London Sinfonietta and Chroma. Yet another example of Monmouth’s amazing musical talent.

A FOCUS ON: Carnival day, this Sunday!
The Carnival procession – including LeMans style racing cars, Severnside Silver Dragons Marching Band, Forest of Dean Morris Dancers and local people/organisations – will start at 2pm at the top of Priory Street and wend its way to the Festival stage at Blestium Street car park. There will be stalls, entertainers and workshops in Monnow Street from 10-6pm, a funfair from 1-5pm, and zorbs, archery and clay pigeon shooting on Chippenham Fields. A special Sunday Worship on the main stage at 11am will be led by Nia Price, Monmouth Band will be playing from 1pm in Agincourt Square, and there will be music from 3pm at the Robin Hood (Carnival Chillout with Angharad and Lounging About) and on the main stage in Blestium Street (local bands showcase).

On Sunday evening, rising star Harry Jones is at the Green Dragon, and the Jiveoholics and The Secret Police will be on the main stage.If you haven’t already checked out the line-up then you can do so here, and if you haven’t picked up your brochure, keep an eye out, they’re going fast.

In the meantime, checkout our Facebook and Twitter pages which are the best place to follow all the action.

Please remember …

… it really is important that you dig deep this year when approached by a friendly person holding a donations bucket.

Please think about the value for money you’re getting and donate as much as you feel you can.

We understand times are hard, so we appreciate anything you can give to make sure the Festival survives and be even bigger and better next year.

ALL donations go directly to the costs of the Festival – there are no staff, no offices, no costly admin re-charges, as everything is done by volunteers – so you can be assured that your money is being used to bring YOU a great Festival.
THANK YOU for your generosity past, present, and future!
Thanks also to our fantastic business supporters.

If you’re feeling generous as you read this, you can even donate via PayPal button top right or by clicking here.

So close you can almost taste it …


Four days to go – after all these months and weeks of preparations we’ll be ready to quite literally, rock and roll. As the anticipation builds, so will the main/outdoor stage – you’ll see it rising from the car park on Blestium Street from Wednesday.

If you haven’t already checked out the line-up then you can do so here, and if you haven’t picked up your brochure, keep an eye out, they’re going fast.

In the meantime, checkout our previous blog about the 80s or our Facebook and Twitter pages which are the best place to follow all the action.

Please remember …

… it really is important that you dig deep this year when approached by a friendly person holding a donations bucket.

Please think about the value for money you’re getting and donate as much as you feel you can.

We understand times are hard, so we appreciate anything you can give to make sure the Festival survives and be even bigger and better next year.

ALL donations go directly to the costs of the Festival – there are no staff, no offices, no costly admin re-charges, as everything is done by volunteers – so you can be assured that your money is being used to bring YOU a great Festival.THANK YOU for your generosity past, present, and future! Thanks also to our fantastic business supporters.

If you’re feeling generous as you read this, you can even donate via PayPal button top right or by clicking here.

What were you doing in 1983?

I love the 80sYou 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

The first decade – by David Evans (Chair, ’86-’93)

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

See photos of the festival from the Bavarian Oompah band to Monmouth School of dance.

Do you have any festival photos or memories you’d like to share? Email us at festivalmonmouth@gmail.com or post on this page or the Your festival stories page.

Festival dates confirmed! Fri 17 – Sat 25 August

Thanks to: Emma Cheshire-Jones at ECJ Photography

… and we’re off! The festival dates are confirmed and it’s all systems go for the team.

We’ll be announcing more news as it happens, but in the meantime, put the dates in your diary and make sure to sign up for updates on the main website, on Facebook or Twitter (@monfestiv).

Grab your Monmouth Festival wristbands and help the festival raise funds!

The team have been busy negotiating with bands, sorting out lighting, staging, stalls, licences and all the many other things that go into making the festival happen.

There’ll be more news on their progress here soon – in the meantime, you can grab yourself a (or more than one) smart looking festival wristband. They’ll be available at an outlet near you SOON for the bargain price of £1, so please buy one – or buy many!

Find out why it’s so important that you help the festival survive.

Get involved: share your festival stories

Tis year’s we’re celebrating our 30th festival, so we’d like to involve YOU in sharing your stories about the festival. Can you remember the very first festival in 1983? Have any of its most famous performers ever made a surprise visit to your shop? Do you hae any ‘behind-the-scenes’ stories?  Do you travel each year from far away just to come to the festival?

You can share your stories/photos and get involved in the conversations, by leaving a comment on this blog, by emailing festivalmonmouth@gmail.com or by joining us on www.facebook.com/monmouthfestival or www.twitter.com/monfestiv (@monfestiv).

Download the press release announcement here.

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