OUR BRIEF HISTORY IN TIME
So as you already know the idea for the first Upton Blues Festival was formed on the balcony of Ye Older Anchor Inn by the then landlord Stewart McEwan and friend Richard (Dick) Tippen, whilst watching the annual Upton Jazz Festival parade pass by. They commented on the average age of the people in the jazz parade and both said we need to start a festival that appeals to a younger audience. Why not start a Blues Festival in Upton they both said?
The plan was formulated in the “Ye Olde Anchor Inn” pub and a gang of seven people got together over a beer or two and each invested a crisp £10 note (not the horrible new plastic ones) to get the festival off the ground. The seven were Stewart McEwan, Richard Tippen, Cliff (Nobby) Dawe, Tina Marshall, Fred Symes, Robin Staite, Rachel Willoughby.
Stewart McEwan and Richard Tippen have the conversation at the June Jazz Festival. To give you a perspective of how long ago this is and what you were doing at the time, this is the year the twin Towers in New York are brought down in a terrorist attack on Sept 11th or 9/11 as it is known.
Festival starts here with 7 people putting in a tenner to get it off the ground – Merchandise is sold – County Building Supplies become sponsors – 19 Bands are Booked!
Under the bridge stage used for the first time. – Claude Bourbon opens it.
Arts council grant awarded for 1st time, first workshops – Paul O’rourke joins committee – Our first ever website is launched at last, looked after by Tom Fugel.
52 performances – 40 bands – first Lottery fund grant – first international act (The Wiyos, from New York City, USA) – Daryl Dickson joins committee – We have some big names for the first time, King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, Mike Sanchez & Ian Siegal all play.
60 performances – the patron scheme is up to 60+ – sponsors include MHDC – Worcester County Council – our biggest audience to date.
The River Severn adorns the front cover of this years programme, was this tempting fate or an omen? 75 performances booked, including world famous ‘The Blues band’ which garners BBC radio 2 advertising. Devastating flooding of the Severn, the worst since the floods of 1947 in the middle of July, wipes out the whole festival. Though upteen musicians from various outfits join up to entertain the many that made it, with the Memorial Hall utilised for the first time. Quite understandably the committee throws in the towel after financial commitments devastate the accounts, thats it no more Upton Blues Festival.
Renaissance….Group of six decide to try to save the festival with five months to get it sorted. Robin Staite & Clifford (Nobby) Dawe AGAIN! With Mostyn Chadd, Rowan Thomas, Grahame Bunn, Colin Biggs – 68 performances put on – They make mistakes but pull it off, it is a very sharp learning curve. Founder Richard Tippen passes away. First performer & committee member, Joe Nourse Passes away.
61 performances put on – Main sponsors Bosch Worcester – The main stage moves from under the bridge to the main riverside area.
Grahame Bunn comes up with the idea and the Sports Field stage set up for the first time, opening act is John Crampton – Oliver Carpenter joins committee – Steve Steinhaus involved in youth boost with raural development programme – 75 performances – We use the “Under the Bridge Stage” for the last time, finishing off with Bex Marshall.
Our fantastic relationship with Hobsons brewery & John Wright starts – 90 performances – Busking stage organised – Acoustic stage held – Sports field is a growing success.
Acoustic Stage moves to Memorial Hall – The Blues Festival becomes a registered charity – 96 performances – The new 4.6 million pound flood defences enhance riverside stage area and protect the town from future flooding.
First Late Night Jam – Over 1000 campers first time – World famous Benny Gallagher of Gallagher & Lyle fame heads a singer song writing workshop – over 100 performances for the 1st time – Our very own “Blues Brew” real ale from Hobsons is available – Blues in Britain sponsor – Original member Clifford (Nobby) Dawe steps down.
Winners of Visit Worcestershire Award “Best Festival & Events Award” – 15 venues for the first time – record camping & pre-book numbers – founder Robin Staite, treasurer steps down from the committee.
We open the campsite a day earlier on Thursday for the first time – First new music commissioned – Winners of the British Blues Award, “Blues Festival of the Year” – Independent research shows our festival weekend contributes to the town and local area over £800k, WOW! – Performance arts network development agency sponsors – We launch our schools workshops initiative with Jay Riley, taking blues music into local schools – Benny Gallagher becomes festival Patron – Amanda Stone joins the committee as our new treasurer.
2016– First FM live radio broadcast from the festival – Winners of the British Blues Award “Blues Festival of the Year” again! – Pledge to go watch live music was launched – Our first big charitable donation is to give the town of Upton £40k to rebuild their run down tennis courts into a Multi Use Play Area (MUPA) – Oliver Carpenter steps down from the chair & committee – Schools workshop programme by Steve Steinhaus & Jay Riley.
First year we set up an exclusive campsite stage and small bar catering for the campers only, it was set up as a jamming type setup with campers booking times and slots that they wanted to play. Even with the rain it was a massive success and will become a permanent feature of the campsite – Also another first was the street entertainers juggling & wandering around on very long stilts at Meadow Stage – We launched our “Donate an Instrument” scheme, trying get donations of those musical instruments we all have lying around the house and into the hands of disadvantaged kids – We have also been shortlisted in the UK blues Awards in the category of “Blues Based Festival of the Year”
We use a Big Top Marquee on the Meadow stage and we close the streets of Upton from the Riverside through the whole town. It created a fabulous atmosphere where shops and bars could open and people could mingle without fear of traffic. One big party atmosphere.