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Farmer Phil's Festival, Shropshire - review

By Juliet Hounam | Music | Published:

Despite a soggy start, Farmer Phil's festival was one of his best yet.

While the UK was battered by unrelenting rain and blustery winds last week causing events such as Cornwall’s Boardmasters to cancel at last minute, even the most hardcore of the festival stalwarts will have been watching forecasts with trepidation.

Festival goers enjoying the last moments of sun.

Indeed the optimism so present during the early weeks of summer (no doubt sparked by last year’s unusually long dry spell), makes the recent weather warnings an even more bitter pill to swallow, especially for organisers of the smaller festivals for whom a wet weekend can mean financial ruin.

Fortunately for Farmer Phil's, Shropshire folk are made of tougher stuff, braving the elements to make this 21st anniversary one for the record books.

Costumes and hats are a big part of the event

Festival regulars seem to regard the event as a sort of large family gathering - one where children and dogs are welcomed and the beer is cheap. While organisers are keen to keep the festival small, this community of music lovers continues to grow every year under the watchful eye of the much loved Farmer Phil Harding, and his merry bunch of loyal volunteers.

Revellers basked in last minute sunshine

Set in the rural hamlet of Ratlinghope, once famously known as the dwelling of the last Sin Eater in Britain, a very different form of ritual was taking place from that of yore. A diverse and welcoming celebration of music and friendship for people of all ages all set against the sleepy backdrop of picturesque countryside.

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Regulars of the festival

Clearly the team are doing something right. The site was well laid out with accessibility seemingly high on the agenda this year and an eclectic line up of musicians on the bill. It's no wonder that spirits weren't dampened by the mixed bag of weather and pockets of flooding that threatened early proceedings.

Just like the old adage says, 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue', - fitting for a popular wedding location the festival site catered for the tastes of all revellers, young and old.

Children's entertainment included a pyrotechnic display

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Highlights of the weekend included a dose of nostalgia from Lindesfarne, who launched early festivities with songs from their extensive back catalogue including the chart topping 'Fog on the Tyne'.

Bristol based band The Undercover Hippy returned to the main stage for a second time with their enthralling mix of provocative lyrics and infectious reggae rhythms.

Newcomers the Mighty Vipers enjoyed the benefit of a 3pm downpour on Saturday, as legions of music fans took refuge under the canopy of the second stage. The roaring crowds made their debut extra special, even drowning out the sound from the main stage.

The Mighty Vipers raised the roof at the Woodland Stage

Cover and tribute bands filled some of the prime spots at Farmer Phil's, playing the hits of yesteryear and making them their own. BC/DC and Jilted Generation were two stand-out performances. But it was also great to see the commitment to original music and a nod to some local artists.

Lastly, something blue: the sky. As the wind died down and the sun emerged through the clouds to make a welcome last minute appearance before dipping behind the sweeping hills, a thousand or so people gathered together at the main stage where Prodigy tribute band Jilted Generation gave a spectacular performance that had the whole crowd going wild - young and old all raving it up in an emotional conclusion to the festival.

Prodigy tribute band, Jilted Generation, closed the festival

While cover-band heavy, the line up had something for everyone and the intimate nature of the stages offered a personal element that is unique to this festival. Farmer Phil's clearly brings an extended community of people together and long may it continue to do so. Perhaps a little more emphasis on original song writing and Shropshire music would be nice to consider for future years but on the whole it was a fantastic mix of performances.

A wide range of music was celebrated during the weekend

Despite a stormy, muddy start and a few soggy tents, Farmer Phil and his jolly crew kept the show on the road ensuring a good old Shropshire knees-up. The final throes of sunshine on the last day were a welcome reward for all those who persevered through the worst of the storms, although not quite enough to dry out the car park for home time.

Thankfully Phil and team were on hand to tow people out - with a smile and a wave of course.

WATCH: Farmer Phil prepares for festival

Exclusive look around Farmer Phil's festival site

Video and pictures: Juliet Hounam

Juliet Hounam

By Juliet Hounam
Video Journalist

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