We’ve all got the blues as another Swanage festival is cancelled

With the Swanage Blues Festival not until October 2020, there was a glimmer of hope that it may still go ahead as coronavirus started to subside, but now it too has been cancelled.

Steve Darrington who founded the festival in 2001, has announced that after looking at all the possibilities that it can’t go ahead.


With all the coronavirus restrictions still in place and no reassurance that things would change quick enough for the festival scheduled from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th October 2020, Steve Darrington posted on social media:

“Here is my understanding of the situation:

“Government tests are going on to assess the viability of resuming live performances in some ‘grassroots’ venues, defined as buildings / spaces where the primary use is live entertainment, therefore specifically not pubs, clubs or restaurants.

“Depending on the results of these tests, some grassroots venues (not pubs etc) may be allowed to trial some live entertainment from Saturday 1st August 2020 but only under specific conditions.

“These include registration of attendees to enable contact in future, provision of sanitising equipment, table servicing only and tables not to exceed six people who conform with the rules regarding social ‘bubbles’. General social distancing rules apply as well to the audience but performers must maintain a distance from the audience and each other of at least three metres.

“At which point I realised that our October Festival was doomed.”

Fortunately, he says that suppliers have kindly allowed him to transfer any expenses paid in advance to the next Blues Festival, scheduled for 4th to 7th March 2021, so any financial loss to the festival organisation will be minimised.

Front cover of Swanage Blues Festival programme March 2020

The programme for the last Blues Festival to take place

Those who will really lose out are the musicians

However, those who will really lose out are the musical acts who rely on performing to make a living, as well as the people who enjoy coming to Swanage for the festival and the hospitality sector who benefit from their business.

Steve Darrington added:

“I do appreciate those of you who offered Swanage Blues financial assistance but there are others who need it more. I refer of course to The Musicians, those who give so much of themselves for our entertainment.

“Many are suffering from a lack of income during these difficult times, so if you can afford it, please check out their websites, and buy a CD or something to help keep them afloat. Details of artists who appeared at the last festival can be found on the Swanage Blues website.

Marky Dawson at the Swanage Blues Festival

Keyboard player and singer, Marky Dawson performing at the Legion on the opening night of the Swanage Blues Festival in March 2020

Just before lockdown, the last Blues Festival was lucky to go ahead in March 2020

The last Blues Festival was a great success and was fortunate to take place at the beginning of March 2020, just before lockdown. Performers on the opening night included harmonica player, Hugh Budden, guitarist, Andy Stone and keyboard player and singer, Marky Dawson.

Also appearing throughout the weekend were other well known Blues musicians including Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion, established Blues musician and founder of the Ealing Blues Festival, Robert Hokum, the powerful five piece Blues unit, Backwater Roll Blues Band and also Eric Ranzoni, the entertaining pianist who’s played all the major Blues festivals in Europe and appeared on the BBC2’s ‘Later with Jools Holland’.

Steve Darrington started the Swanage Blues Festival 19 years ago, initially as a birthday party in a Swanage nightclub for local blues fan, George Crane. It quickly grew to become a regular event with other venues like pubs and restaurants joining in.

It’s now grown to be a popular bi-annual festival and Steve is now planning for the next one scheduled for 4th to 7th March 2021. He says he’s keen to look to the future:

“Personally, in accordance with the original guidance for vulnerable people like myself, I’ve not been out of my bedsit bungalow and nobody’s been allowed in for nearly 5 months now, so I’m certainly looking forward to Better Times!”

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