IT MAY only be three years old but the Shepley Spring Festival is growing up fast.
And the best part of it is that musicians and performers of all ages are growing up with the festival’s ethos too.
As well as main acts, world music performers from as near and as far afield as France and South Africa, and the more traditional dancers and mummers – the festival has worked hard on promoting workshops that allow everyone who wants to be involved being involved.
Overseeing the workshops was Alan Lee and he was delighted with the response and said: “All the workshops have been well attended.
“We are just looking to help youngsters develop an interest and it has been great to see how young musicians have been eager to merge and play along with one another.”
Festival director Nikki Hampson summed up just how far Shepley has come in short space by highlighting the path of West Yorkshire band Jiggawatt.
“They turned up the other year and wanted to play the open mic stage,” explained Nikki.
“Last night we put them on as the opening act on the main stage – so it shows just how quickly young bands can come through.”
Among the main acts there were very strong reports of Edward II’s set on Friday night, while Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow and Show of Hands were the Saturday night openers and headliners.
Other eye-catching acts were the Frumtarn Guggenband – how could any miss an entire band dressed as Beefeaters? – and the Mighty Zulu Nation, who left a packed audience in the dance tent spellbound by their music, rhythms and acrobatic performance.
However, it is almost impossible not to mention the weather.
Cloudbursts blighted Saturday to be replaced yesterday by rain that eventually became so persistent that in the end concert-goers accepted that they were wet and things were going to stay that way.
However, festival director Mac McKinley revealed that the weather had not been a big worry.
“I think the festival has panned out really well, while the weather has been interesting to say the least,” he said.
“But people have been happy to put up their umbrellas and have continued to enjoy the concerts and the dancing.
“In fact the number of day visitors to the festival was up again on last year’s totals.
“The big bonus is that a lot of people have travelled a long way to perform or watch and the concert and dance tents have been full.”
And the fact that the festival has been able to showcase music and dance both homespun and, at varying levels, more exotic for an expanding audience was a real plus for him.
“The interest from local performers has been very good.
“We even had a Shepley band called Flintz performing,” he added.
“It is only our third year but it feels in some ways as though we have been here a lot longer. The whole idea is that the festival will grow and with that we hope that we can include more local bands and also bring more young musicians through.
“But the great thing is the number of people who have said to us that there is a real sense of community about the festival.”
There was no better example of that than festival patron Roy Bailey’s stirring performance yesterday afternoon.
Bailey’s set, among a number that were being broadcast by Radio Leeds, was played to a packed main tent and sparked a spontaneous outbreak of community singing – not even instigated by the artist – as he played Tom Paxton’s How Beautiful On The Mountain.
The message coming out of Shepley is: ‘Weather? Who cares about the weather. We are here for a good time!’