Swanage festival is best value in UK as entrance fee stays at 2012 price

The best-value entrance ticket in live music events anywhere in the UK has just gone on sale in Swanage – and it hasn’t risen in cost since 2012.

Worried by the cost of living crisis, legendary local musician Steve Darrington has held the price of a weekend wristband to the Swanage Blues Festival at £10 yet again, giving music lovers access to 50 gigs at the biggest 21st birthday party bash ever.

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Steve Darrington and Nico Johnson keep the festival’s party atmosphere going

1,000+ visitors for a riotous weekend

From Thursday 6th October to Sunday 9th October 2022, 30 acts will be playing at 14 venues in and around Swanage, expecting to draw more than 1,000 visitors into the town for a riotous weekend.

Steve had been encouraged to raise the price of a weekend wristband from £10 to £15, which would have been the first increase in price since 2012, but said that as the financial crisis deepened he decided not to ask people for more money for fear it would end the festival.

True to the original ethos of the festival, which was first held in 2001, Steve doesn’t like to describe the wristband as a ticket and won’t make it compulsory to buy one, even though there are people who attend gigs without giving anything back to the festival.

Paul Dubbelman

Pete Harris and Ray Drury will be singing the blues at the festival

You don’t sell tickets to a 21st birthday party

It’s partly pragmatic, as directly charging festival-goers for entrance to a venue would mean the not for profit charity would then have to foot the expense of staffing the gigs, stage and sound management and PA and hall hire.

But Steve does also say that the festival is essentially one long party, and you don’t sell tickets to a party – especially not to a 21st birthday party in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

Paul Dubbelman

Bluesmaster and Global Groover Robert Hokum will perform blues across the spectrum

Wristband is a sign that you support live blues bands

Steve said:

“Apart from that, the wristband quickly established itself as the sign that you were supporting live blues bands in Swanage, and fans recognised each other in the streets, striking up friendships with each other – we’ve even had some who have gone on to get married!

“Before Covid, it was looking really good for the festival and we were about to build on the success with bigger venues and bigger names, selling about 1,000 wristbands and with estimates that about 2,000 people attended the events.

“Although we did manage to get a festival in just before lockdown in March 2020, the next two had to be cancelled and since then it has been a bit of a struggle with numbers falling by a half.

Paul Dubbelman

Mark Harrison – each song is a snapshot of life or has a story to tell

People started to ask if they could afford it

Steve continued:

“I had very high hopes for this coming festival in October 2022, but then the cost of living crisis got worse and worse through summer and the chances of success began to look more uncertain.

“I had planned to put the price of wristbands up to £15 for the weekend in October, but people were beginning to ask whether they could afford it.

“If the festival is going down, I didn’t want the reason to be that I had put up the cost of attending. We need as many people to support us as possible – it is our 21st year, after all – and then hopefully next year we will still be here and able to expand.”

The event will be the 36th Swanage Blues Festival, as the party has been held twice a year since 2007 and has made a name for itself throughout Dorset, Britain and even further afield.

Their furthest travelled party goer so far has been the brother of a regular visitor who worked on an oil rig off the coast of Brazil and heard so much about the event that he hired a helicopter to take him to Rio de Janeiro and caught a flight to London.

Paul Dubbelman

Robin Bibi has played at every Swanage Blues Festival since 2007

“The star of the show is Swanage itself”

Steve added:

“I am always delighted that we have managed to keep the party atmosphere going from our very first festival in 2001 right up to now, despite all the problems of the last few years.

“It’s great that we have so many visitors who come back time after time, as well as those who come down to Swanage for their very first taste of the blues. There really is something for everyone.

“But the star of the show is Swanage itself and I am so proud that we have brought thousands of visitors into the town over the years. My deepest wish is that we get as much support as possible and stay here for many years to come.”

Paul Dubbelman

Legendary harmonica player Hugh Budden plays with the Blue Chords

Some of the best acoustics in Dorset

There will be 14 festival venues this October, including Swanage Conservative Club for the first time and a welcome return for The Centre, which has some of the best acoustics in Dorset.

Other host venues include the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club, the Greyhound pub at Corfe Castle, Swanage Youth Hostel Association, the Grand Hotel and old favourites such as the Black Swan, the White Horse and the Red Lion.

The list of venues is completed by the Globe Inn, Herston Caravan and Camp Site, the Legion, Tawny’s and the White Swan, and Steve is hoping that The Mowlem will join the list of party hosts at some point in the future.

Artists include bands who have played Glastonbury

The list of artists taking part in the festival is even more exhaustive, including the Robin Bibi Band, who have played every Swanage Blues Festival since 2007, newcomers to the town Vince Lee and the Big Combo, and bands who have played Glastonbury Festival including The Mustangs and Stompin’ Dave.

Further information

  • A full list of artists, venues and gig times are on the Swanage Blues Festival website

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