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Moonbeams 2016

Wold Top Brewery, Hunmanby, East Yorkshire
Friday 8 - Saturday 9 July 2016

Despite heavy rainfall through the previous night, Friday afternoon saw the Wolds bathed in sunlight once again as the gates opened for the start of the eighth Moonbeams Festival. This small, unique and compact festival site within the grounds of the Wold Top Brewery on the Yorkshire Wolds saw a steady influx of festival goers of all ages to the sound of the Treacherous Orchestra's pipes ringing out over the main stage PA, as Ross Ainslie acquainted himself with the sound system during the latter stages of the band's sound check.

There was a proverbial calm before the storm just prior to the opening of those gates, as Leila Cooper surveyed the site, dressed in white from head to foot, calling "five minutes to go folks" just before the start. To those who've visited this festival since it began eight years ago, the presence of Leila is a reliable one, as reliable as the standard of the beer; the festival never runs out of beer throughout the weekend and the festival's first lady never runs out of energy.

Between the Main Stage and the Garden Stage, the communal outdoor area soon filled with Moonbeams friends, busily catching up on what's happened since last year's event, comparing notes of which bands they are all looking forward to seeing over the weekend and each competing with one another over who has the most colourful festival hat on. The comradeship is almost tangible as the first few pints of Wold Top bitter are poured, whilst the two stages continue to be set up.

The most immediate sensation you feel when you finally settle in to the swing of things, is just how peaceful and remote the brewery is. Friday's blue skies and rolling green meadows stretching out for miles in each direction perfectly complemented the atmosphere of the first afternoon before a single note of music was played.

Opening the festival once again was Barnsley's utterly reliable Nick Rooke who promptly took to the Garden Stage with his new band, which now includes local musicians Rachel and Phil, known for their work together in the band Under the Bridge. Once the Nick Rooke Band finished their opening set, the rest of Friday night's action concentrated on the Main Stage with sets by festival favourites Moore Moss Rutter, Leeds-based Hope and Social, who paid homage to Moonbeams during a chorus of Smokey Robinson's My Girl and finally the towering force that is Treacherous Orchestra, who brought the concert to a close, delivering a high octane set on the Main Stage.

Saturday opened its bleary eyes to the sound of raindrops on canvas as the festival came back to life after some late nightcaps in the Big Sky acoustic sessions. The ramblers had already set off for their five mile walk across the Wolds before the rain started. Kids were playing ball beneath the fluttering rainbow flags undeterred as the Driffield-based singer and Moonbeams regular Edwina Hayes ran through her short sound check. Her Main Stage set which effectively started the day included a selection of her own songs as well as one or two more familiar songs such as Nanci Griffith's I Wish it Would Rain, Richard Thompson's Down Where the Drunkards Roll and Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat.

Whilst Roisin Ban brought a taste of an Irish session to the Garden Stage, Richard Digance prepared for his afternoon set at the festival. No stranger to Moonbeams, Richard confessed that if he didn't love the festival so much he probably wouldn't make the trip up from Salisbury as often as he does. Most are now familiar with the format at Moonbeams, which is geared so that it's virtually impossible to miss anything with two main stages running alternately rather than simultaneously. The mass exodus from one stage to the other throughout the day was well orchestrated with every opportunity for people to stop by Steve's record shop or maybe kit themselves out with a festival t shirt or woolly hat. A few smart 'Moonbeamers' kids could be seen selling loom band bracelets for charity, raising £52 to go towards other fund-raising objectives for the Bloodwise charity. There were also plenty of food choices at the festival with Field and Forage, The Hunmanby Pantry as well as refreshing coffee at Espresso Van-Gogh. The Yorkshire Pizza Kitchen promoted positivity with their sign 'If you want to see the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain.'

There are two Andys that make Moonbeams what it is; firstly there's Andy Atkinson, the Main Stage compere who is equally at home with a microphone or in some cases a megaphone, keeping Moonbeams up to date. Then there's local singer-songwriter Andy Stones whose appearances always seem to set a family atmosphere whenever he performs, with children running around in front of the stage with their bubble guns. Andy is a Moonbeams treasure, whose songs should be more widely known.

Andy Atkinson, on a couple of occasions, read out Anne Duerden's poem written in celebration of the event:

Moonbeams time is here again,
The weekend of the year,
When everybody wears a smile
And dons their festival gear.

We leave the hustle bustle of our usual hectic day,
And head off up to Wold Top,
To hear our fave bands play.

We don't have muddy camping fields,
We don't have any litter.
We just have skies so full of stars
The whole world seems to glitter

The music is fantastic,
The beer is second to none,
But it's the people all around us,
Full of happiness, full of fun.

It's time for Moonbeams once again,
To welcome young and old.
Everything you need is here
Our heaven on the Wolds!

Saturday continued with one fine act after the other including the Sam Kelly Trio, who performed a delightfully swinging Sultans of Swing, Tom Townsend who returned to the festival with a band that included a three-piece brass section who in turn filled the Garden Stage marquee with a distinctively bluesy and soulful sound. The Young'uns attracted a full house in the Big Top marquee, which bristled with song throughout their set, where a set of traditional folk songs and shanties was interspersed with some of Sean Cooney's best known self-penned songs.

As foreseen by the Yorkshire Pizza Kitchen's sign, a rainbow did appear over Moonbeams, which seemed to wrap itself around the festival site as the evening concerts continued. Jess Gardham, a wonderful singer-songwriter, who until recently led the band Barcode Zebra, proved her credentials as a free solo agent once again with a set of engaging self-penned songs and one or two well-chosen non-originals.

For their first visit to Moonbeams, the award-winning Scots band RURA stormed through their Saturday evening set winning over the Moonbeams audience as Leila knew only too well they would. From one side of the British Isles to the other then as Kent's Gentlemen of Few finished things off on the Garden Stage, this time cleared of seats for a standing finale.

After a brief appearance by some trolls and the Mona Lisa (don't ask), the climax of this year's Moonbeams was left in the more than capable hands of the infectious CoCo and the Butterfields, whose mixture of village fete folk and contemporary beat boxing was just the thing to complete what turned out to be yet another superb Moonbeams programme.

Alan Wilkinson
Northern Sky