Rock’n’Bowls Tenth Anniversary
It’s the tenth anniversary of the ‘biggest, smallest festival’ around. Whilst many visit Manchester to experience music, art and culture, a short journey away is where one of the most unlikely settings for a festival can be found.
With quaint Tudor buildings and charming independent businesses, the small countryside town of Market Drayton is home to a very remarkable music festival – considering it originated in the rear-end of an old pub.
When the phrase ‘local music festival’ is heard, most presume there will be a selection of dingy pubs, promoting their local ale and mediocre live music with cheap BBQ grub. Rock’n’Bowl could not be further from that conception.
Imagine V festival or Glastonbury except on a smaller scale. Although Rock’n’Bowl stays true to its hometown community roots, the impressive festival stages, beer tents, and masses of food selections all offer an open-air, livewire atmosphere beyond its size. The only difference being the famous artists.
However, the genre of artists on show are very varied and promote a wide range of talent. There are combinations of jazz, blues, disco and indie. The main acts are usually a mixture of popular rock and pop styles, accommodating the tastes of the young and old.
The first Rock’n’Bowl took place in 2009 in the Coach and Horses pub at the back of a beer garden in the centre of Market Drayton. A handful of bands were set up on a small wooden stage to bring live music back to the community and to support local charities.
By 2012, the annual festival had generated an abundant amount of interest. Subsequently, the directors decided to move locations to the towns largest green. It quickly went from a purely charitable event to a potentially profitable commercial business with good causes at its heart.
I have attended Rock’n’Bowl when it was established behind that small, town centre pub. It’s now unrecognisable due to its vigorous growth over ten consecutive years. It has been astonishing to witness a small community pull together to offer such a big scale event.
From around only 100 attendees in the first year, 2017 saw over 6,000 festivalgoers. 2018 is expected to be greater, with ticket sales already having surpassed last year’s sales.
Laurence Payne, original director of R’n’B said, “we cannot believe how well the festival has done. It went from a trivial fun hobby to something folks are waiting and looking forward to attending each year. It is truly remarkable.
“The festival has been generously supported by local and national businesses which has allowed for its fast-paced growth.”
Laurence invested a massive £50,000 into 2012s first big scale event seeing most profits go to charity. In recent years more directors have joined and a considerable amount of profit is made with mass charity donations.
Between the 26th and 28th May, 33 talented artists will entertain from 2pm – 11pm everyday. The Saturday and Sunday headliners have recently been announced. Of those headliners, four are very popular tribute acts including The Clone Roses, The Karpets, Think Floyd and ‘Doctor and The Medics’ (who had a hit single with ‘Spirit In The Sky’ in the 80s which sold over 24million copies worldwide). Another headliner playing on the opening day are the Rews who played at Glastonbury in 2017 and have been described as the ‘female Royal Blood’ by Mark Radcliffe from Radio 6 Music.
Dan Owen is another notable headliner playing on Sunday. He is expected to attract hundreds to the event. He has recently been on tour supporting Bryan Adams and Birdy. His single ‘Made To Love You’ was announced as Radio One’s song of the week at the start of 2018 and featured on the new series of ITV’s The Voice.
Payne said “It’s hard selecting musicians to play at the festival. We always want to incorporate local acts but we do have to expand further afield to keep the music fresh and exciting.
“I always feel very confident with the artist choices we finalise. I choose music which makes me feel exhilarated and creates energetic vibes. If an artist expresses this, it gives me confidence that they will nail Rock’n’Bowl.
“As this is our tenth year we are bringing back some classic acts who have played for us previously. We also find tribute acts are very popular which is why we mainly choose them for our headline slots.”
There are now three directors of Rock’n’Bowl; Laurence Payne, Jeremy Blandford and Andrew Richards. They all stand by the same terms that the festival is ‘not for profit’.
“Around 2000 hours are put into planning and preparing for the event. We are so lucky to have industry professionals who are happy to give their time for free and help organise such an incredible festival. Every year the profits go towards next years’ festival.
“I don’t think people actually realise how much work goes into it. I know I was surprised when we first started the event. After all the hard work, its so rewarding seeing it come together for the weekend.” Payne added.
A significant contribution to the festival is Tom Wiggans. Wiggans has travelled the world working as a sound engineer for dozens of famous artists including The Cranberries, Arctic Monkeys and David Gray. He generously organises the sound engineering for the entire weekend, for free. Payne previously said the festival would lack in quality if it was not for his participation.
Deva Booth attended the festival last year and said, “It’s unmissable. I look forward to it each year. I live in Manchester and travel across for the weekend.
“It’s a professional music festival. You cannot fault it. It’s just on a smaller scale and feels more welcoming and relatable. The music is captivating as well. I just hope the weather is enjoyable. It really adds to the atmosphere.
“It’s a great place to go with your friends and socialise. It’s an unforgettable weekend.”
Everyone has to travel to festivals. This one is just a short train journey from Manchester and 11 miles from the nearest train station. It is considerably closer than Leeds and V Festival and is an experience you will never forget – one which is praiseworthy and guaranteed to tempt a revisit next year. It has a very down-to-earth appeal which is relaxing and charming.
The success of Rock’n’Bowl is clearly down to its unique place in the market and the hardworking individuals involved. There is no festival on the same scale that can compare. The festival signifies the importance of music, art and culture and how it can bring communities together. It also highlights how putting time and effort into something that seems impossible at first can be made into something remarkable.
The ticket prices, beverages and cuisine are very reasonable and much cheaper than the average festival which tends to end with mud baths, bad views and missing your favourite artist, not to mention a small fortune blown in a few days.
Full price tickets on the day range from £55 weekend and £30 day tickets for adults and £40 weekend and £26 day tickets for children. It is essentially the price of a night out which is great value for money and far from basic.
After all the fresh air and ecstatic atmosphere, most end up walking back to The Sandbrook Vaults to enjoy a few late night beverages which usually evolves into an entertaining, late-night after party for Rock’n’Bowl.
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