Line up: The Kings Of The South Sea / False Lights / Billy Bragg / CC Smugglers
Venue: Butlins Resort (Skegness)
Date: Dec 4/5/6
Review By: Sarah Houben
Photos By: Ian S. Russell (MORE HERE)
So, unlike the vast majority of festivals, and events we cover here at Scorpio, as this event takes place in a nice little holiday camp, our team have decided to cover a few addtional elements as-well as the music – it’s all part of the nice festival package offered by the Butlins team after all! Feel free to skip the next few headlines if your simply interested in the music!
Taking place at Butlin’s in Skegness, the Great British Festival was one of those rare festivals, where one sleeps in a proper bed. We had the good luck of being giving gold accommodation, which means an apartment with a kitchenette including microwave and dishwasher and a spacious living room with TV and DVD player. Certainly enjoyable but not really necessary, considering that most of the time was spent at the actual festival, not in front of the TV (even if we do admit to having watched a bit of TV, just for the sake of using it).
Would it be worthwhile paying for the dining plan at Butlins? After testing the food options during the festival, we decided yes. Even if self-catering is pretty easy due to the kitchenettes in the accommodations, the breakfast and dinner options (about £ 10 respectively £ 20 per person if not booked as part of a plan) are worth tryinf. For breakfast there were several buffet options ranging from fruits and cereals to rolls and different toppings as well as several counters, where one could choose from different hot breakfast options or ask for breakfast butties. Several coffee, tea and juice-dispensing machines helped quench thirst and delivered the first caffeine shot of the day.
At dinnertime, the sandwich grill was turned into a burger or steak grill – of which both can be recommended. Further along one could try different curries, have a roast dinner or indulge in fish and chips – vegetarian options were available too. Special notice should be given to the pasta bar, where one could choose from a variety of pasta and sauces, which were prepared on the spot and served with as much parmesan as one could wish for. If there still was enough space left over after dinner, one could fill up on warm desserts such as crumble, gooey toffee cake or opt for cold options such as ice cream or cake.
The few hours of the day, during which no live acts were performing, were easily filled.
A large indoor pool (Open Saturday & Sunday) with several water slides and different swimming pools could be used. Water features such as a wave pool, water fountains and a current pool provided entertainment. Drowning in the pool was impossible, as at times more life-guards than visitors were present in the pool area. Merely the water temperature was a bit too cold, which made staying in the water for an extended period of time a bit complicated. Warmer rooms could probably be found in the spa – spa treatments and entry to the spa however had to be book additionally.
Time could also be quite leisurely spent in the arcade hall. The 2p-machines had to surrender several dinosaur-, lolly- and rubber duck-prices to us during the 4 days. Another place to spend money was the market in the Skyline tent. Vendors sold clothing, wooden carvings, teddy bears, jewellery, CDs and much more.
A different experience in the Skyline was the South American Wine Tasing. This wine tasting was hosted on Saturday by Pete Kelly from the wine brand “Concha Y Toro”. Pete’s expertise in the Chilean wine meant that even the people, who did not necessarily like wine, found something after their taste – As our editor can attest to, Knowing nothing much about wine but having Pete pick out a very enjoyable sample for him.
The Live Music! – Day 1
Kings of the South Seas – Introducing Stage – http://kingsofthesouthseas.com/
The Great British Folk Festival started off with nautical folk sounds for us. Kings of the South Seas performed songs of their eponymous debut album on the Introducing stage. Their music is inspired by the British Whalers in the 19th Century, thus telling stories of 2 mile long sea snakes, cannibal kings and the daily life on a whaling ship. Each song was accompanied by a detailed explanation of its background and what old music it was based on. The trio, baritone voiced singer Ben Nicholls, guitarist Richard Warren and percussionist Evan Jenkins brought the sea ballades to life again, whilst the audience sat and listened carefully. The last song – the romping shanty “King of the Cannibal Islands” – ended the set with more lively tones, making it impossible not to romp along.
False Lights – Centre Stage – http://falselights.co.uk/
After Kings Of The South Seas, It was time to check out another stage, so the team headed to check out the False Lights featuring Jim Moray and Sam Carter. The Centre stage area was already packed, when we got there and the band obviously already had a solid fan base in the audience. The Radiohead to Fairport convention inspired folk rock band had people dancing and clapping along from the beginning of the set. Guitars, percussions and violin where mainly used, whilst during the “Wife of Ushers Well” keyboard and sample backing tracks provided a slightly more modern touch. The performed songs came from their album “Salvor” and most of them, despite having rock tunes, were actually older hymns or poems. “Oh Death” was the fastest song, sort of merging blues elements into the rock song based on a Tennyson poem.
People were soon dancing and singing along “Oh death, spare me up for another year”. The set calmed down when a purely acoustic, PA-free piece, “How can I keep from singing” was performed, during which the 5 band members managed to fill the concert hall using merely their voices and an accordion – something which sounded like a folly idea when announced but which worked out amazingly well. The set ended with a quick and more traditional dancing song, which had everyone on their feet dancing again. The amount of applause afterwards was more than well earned.
Billy Bragg – Reds – http://www.billybragg.co.uk/
Next up was the festival’s headliner – singer-songwriter, punk rocker and folk musician Billy Bragg. His appearance on the Reds stage was enough to get the crowd cheering and people were singing along and dancing from the first song. Between the songs Billy alternated between talking pleasantries and politics. Thus after “The Milkman of Human Kindness” he chatted about how he liked folk music audience, as they know how to keep topical songs alive. From there, after a slightly alternated version of the folk ballade “John Barleycorn (must die)”, he started speaking about the tragic events at the Bataclan in Paris. Due to the British victim and merchandise person at the Bataclan, Nick Alexander, he put special emphasis on the importance of merchandise people at concerts. Donations were collected towards a memorial fund and the Red Cross.
Before performing “Distant Shore” Billy spoke about the current refugee crisis and how help is needed, ere he moved on to the definition of a hipster beard. . Despite Billy talking about serious topics, the atmosphere at the concert stayed positive and seemed to become more energetic from song to song, with people singing louder each time. For the fifth song of his set, Billy welcomed CJ Hillman to the stage, who accompanied Billy and his guitar by playing the pedal steel guitar. Even if usually associated with country music, the instrument proved to be a great accompaniment of punk folk, as we could hear in for example “The Warmest Room”.
Afterwards Billy explained that Americana music is “folk for people who like the Smiths”, before immediately moved on to talking about the 2nd death of a transgender woman in jail last week and how “jail is the punishment, not what happens in there”. This lead to him performing the song “Sexuality”. He followed up by singing “Why we build the Wall” by Anais Mitchell, which linked perfectly to him talking about Donald Trump’s ideas of building a border along Mexico.
The rest of the set was filled with banter about Billy’s new book “A Lover Sings: Selected Lyrics”, DIY men (accompanied by the “Handyman Blues”) as well as talk about current British politics and the doings of Jeremy Corbyn. Fittingly his set ended with an energetic version of “New England”, which had people singing along with their fists in the air and left many a person from the audience (amongst others the photographer) still singing that song hours later. The subsequent cheering of the audience was nearly unnecessary to show greatly Billy Bragg’s performance had been enjoyed.
CC Smugglers – Reds – http://www.ccsmugglers.co.uk/
It was certain that the next band on Reds would have to work hard to live up to the high standards of the Billy Bragg set. The CC Smugglers succeeded. The 6-piece band from Bedfordshire kept the high spirits of their audience up by performing their good times “New Roots” music, to which one simply had to dance. Inspired by Americana, Western Swing and Folk it was mainly built up of guitar bass, percussions, piano, fiddle and vocals, with the occasional addition of harmonica, banjo and accordion. In addition to the music, inviting the audience to the band’s post-set Christmas party certainly also didn’t hurt the good mood.
Singer Richie Prynne new how to use his charm to keep the audience captivated in between songs, cleverly promoting their album “Write What You Know”. During their lively songs he and the band showed their impressive dance skills and choreos and with their song “Lydia” for a “gorgeous drunken girl” in the audience, they had the audience singing along. The set ended with “Working Man”, after which the band had the audience shouting for more. Thus, thanks to the CC Smugglers, the evening ended with more lively tunes and a lot of dancing.