Bringing live music back to Swanage, the Legion hosts first gig since lockdown

The Royal British Legion in Swanage takes its first step back into regular live music, providing the perfect opportunity to cheer away that Covid gloom, with a night of uplifting rhythm and blues with Hugh Budden and Andy Stone.

The blues duo will be performing a mixture of blues, country, 50s, 60s rock and soul from 8.30 pm on Saturday 5th September 2020.

They last took to the stage, when they opened the Swanage Blues Festival back in March 2020 – the last event to take place at the Legion due to lockdown, so it’s appropriate that they’re the first to take to the stage this evening.

In order for the first live music gig to take place, the Legion will be enforcing strict COVID-19 measures including no dancing, low volume music and groups sitting in two households only.

Audience watching the Blues Festival at the legion

The Swanage Blues Festival at the Legion, pre-coronavirus in March 2020. Coronavirus government guidance now means that only two households will be able to sit together

One of the South Coast’s best harmonists

Hugh, who is widely recognised as one of the South Coast’s best harmonists, having played with or supported Ray Charles, Jethro Tull, and Van Morrison. He’s also gigged tirelessly across Europe and the UK, and cites mouth harpists Kim Wilson, Norton Buffalo and Howard Levy as key influences.

The pair will be performing classics from Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash’s back catalogue, as well as Canned Heat’s seminal, On The Road Again.

“Music for grown-ups”, jokes Hugh. “We don’t do the Blur and Oasis set that everyone does. Our oldest song is from 1928 but we appeal to all age ranges and the younger generation love it too.”

Asked how the outbreak has affected his profession, Hugh reveals:

“As a self-employed musician I’ve got 80% of my self-employed government grant, which finishes at the end of August, whereas others are in furlough till October. I shouldn’t be discriminated against because I’m self-employed… but as a full time professional musician, I’ve managed to keep my head above water, just.”

Reflecting on how the outbreak has affected Swanage he added:

“Well the whole point of seaside towns is to make hay while the sun shines, to get you through the winter. But this isn’t just a local news story – this is a national news story, and the day of reckoning is fast approaching.”

Exterior of Royal British Legion in Swanage

“This year has been pretty tough”

Dave ‘Elmo’ Elms, Club Steward at the Royal British Legion said:

“I’m not going to lie, this year has been pretty tough, but with ventilation of the main stage, and all the rules in place, we’re hoping this will be the event to bring live music back into Swanage. The Legion has a great atmosphere and a lovely community feel so I’d book in advance as numbers are going to be limited due to social distancing.. But no, people won’t have to wear masks.”

The event is promoted by Swanage musician, Steve Darrington, who has worked with the Everly Brothers, Lonnie Donegan and played at Wembley with rock royalty, Queen. Steve is well known for organising the two Swanage Blues Festivals, usually held in March and October each year. He holds fond feelings towards the seaside town:

“Ah, Swanage. I came here for two days in August 2000 and was so well received that I just never went back to Buckinghamshire…”

How has lockdown been for Steve?

“A wilderness of nothingness.” Steve laughs but then laments: “It’s the skills I weep for. Some of these old musicians I know are 70 odd… will we ever get these skills back? I have a friend who plays classical piano at the Albert Hall; normally he would spend five hours a day practicing to perform.”

Front cover of Swanage Blues Festival programme March 2020

Swanage Blues Festivals to return next year

This October’s Swanage Blues Festival 2020 had to be cancelled due to the government’s coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings and live performances, but Steve is aiming for the festivals to return next year:

“The problem is nobody knows what the rules are going to be next year. I can’t plan anything if we don’t know what to comply with… The beauty of the festival was it was indoors, for the weather in March and October. It’s going to be tricky with some of these new rules.”.

“Traditionally we would pay our performers from the takings with the wristbands from last year… It’ll be tight booking performers but I’m sure we’ll survive.”

Steve remains resilient, despite being severely disabled as a result of Polio on his sixth birthday:

“My parents were told to forget about me and put me in a home – thank God they didn’t, but instead gave me a huge amount of help and support at great cost to their own lives.”

The Swanage Blues Festivals are planned to return in 2021; from 4th to the 7th of March, and 30th September to the 3rd October.

Hugh and Andy will be playing The Royal British Legion, 150 High Street, Swanage BH19 2PA, from 8.30 pm. Admission is free but it will be on a first-come-first-served basis. The restaurant is open from 6 pm to 9 pm. To book call 01929 422722.

Further information

  • The Legion is a social club that welcomes club members and the public, located in the High Street in Swanage.
  • Musician, Hugh Budden is one of the South’s best harmonica players.
  • There are two Swanage Blues Festivals – one held in March and the second one in October.

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