Blues Festivals Past

If you are a regular reader of my blog you are a) a rare and wonderful person and b) well aware of my love of the annual Gloucester Rhythm & Blues Festival.

This year’s festival will soon be upon us, running from the 25th July to 2nd August. Already there seems to be a good deal of momentum building around the event with The Fountain, The Dick Whittington and, of course, Cafe Rene taking the lead in announcing exciting and extensive line ups for the nine days of the festival. I am sure that many others will be joining them before too long.

The inspiration for this blog, however, is thinking of Blues Festivals past.

This bout of nostalgia was brought on by an article by Bryn Williams on the Gloucester News Centre website. This gives a fascinating insight from two of the people involved in the early days of the festival: Linda Fisher and Mark Cole.

Apparently, the festival was originally run over the Easter weekend and was managed by the Guildhall. The date of the first event is unclear, but seems to have been around the late 1980s/ early 1990s. By 1997 it was replaced by a weekend trail during the summer, more like the current event, although now it is stretched out over two weekends and nine whole days.

According to the official website, the latest unbroken run of festivals started in 2000, and looking back over my photos that is the first time I have any pictures of it. In those days it was held in King’s Square with no facilities and no license. You could therefore sit outside Chambers and have a drink but not see the band, or go thirsty. Toilets were the top floor of Debenhams.

I wasn’t as dedicated to the cause in those days and it seems I didn’t attend in 2001 – or at least I didn’t take any pictures. My next pictures come from 2002, when it was again in King’s Square and the signs herald it as the International Gloucester Blues and Heritage Festival.

I am sadly bereft of photos for the following years, but seem to remember it moving about to the Docks and outside Greyfriars – although I’m not sure if in those days that was the doing of Cafe Rene or not.

Obviously we owe a big debt to these early festival pioneers as the event goes from strength to strength. My mission this year, with scant regard to my health or what’s left of my sanity, is to attend all nine days.

Last year I only managed seven days – if you want to whet your appetite you can read about it here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

Meanwhile, here’s a few of those historic pictures – hopefully someone can help me with the names of the two artists I’ve forgotten!


About Darrel Kirby

I am what I am.
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