Dereham Blues Festival ready to take centre stage this weekend
- Credit: IAN BURT
Hundreds of gig-goers and musicians will invoke the spirit of the blues this weekend during a new three-day festival which organisers hope will put Dereham at the very heart of Norfolk's music scene.
The inaugural Dereham Blues Festival – spanning a mix of styles ranging from the Mississippi swamps to the fringes of jazz – begins tomorrow and will continue on Saturday and Sunday, bringing 20 bands to play in ten venues around the town.
It is the result of six months of planning by members of the Norfolk Blues Society, which is seeking to extend the resurgence of the genre beyond the successful jam sessions which it already hosts at North Elmham.
With the acts booked and the venues primed, the organisers want audiences to turn up, discover new bands and enjoy the show – and they have urged local businesses to cash in on the expected influx of people to the town centre.
Two people at the forefront of organising the festival are Doreen and Stewart Aitken from Gressenhall, who are respectively the treasurer and secretary of the Norfolk Blues Society.
Mrs Aitken said: 'Dereham always seems to be the Cinderella town compared to places like King's Lynn or Norwich, but this is the chance for it to be the belle of the ball for a weekend.
'The venues are really excited about it. The pubs are going to be busy, but it should be a great opportunity for a lot of the businesses here, especially the independents. The Bombay restaurant told us they already have 85 people booked for dinner on Friday night.'
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Although the majority of the performers are from Norfolk, the festival has also attracted Devlin Blue from Guildford and the Creole Brothers from London. Ticket sales for headline act Ron Sayer Jr have come from as far afield as London, Wales and Newcastle.
Mr Aitken will be playing bass guitar in the festival with Against The Grain and house band The Shunters Blues Band.
He said the event had been organised in a way which would allow local businesses to capitalise on the incoming visitors.
'Dereham has this nickname of 'Drearham', and people get the idea that nothing ever happens here,' he said. 'But this is the first Blues Festival that Norfolk has had and it could really kick Dereham into the 21st century.
'We have had caterers wanting to put up burger vans, but we have said no – we want Dereham to benefit. Some of the pubs are putting on barbecues, and if people want to buy a gift or a memento then it should be Dereham shops selling it to them. We want to keep it in the family, so it will have an effect across the whole community, and people will come here and say: 'What a great town'.'
One of the businesses which have already got involved in the event is Katz Kollection, on Wellington Road, which produced festival T-shirts.
Owner Katrina Groom said: 'Having a blues festival hosted here in Dereham, the heart of Norfolk, is an exciting and much-needed event. It will bring the community together and the great entertainment will bring back life to the area.'
Pubs and hotels which will be hosting gigs for the Dereham Blues Festival are The King's Head, The Plough and Furrow, The Bull, The Royal Standard, The Cherry Tree, The Gemini, The Railway Tavern, The George, The Red Lion, and Dereham Railway Station.
The acts taking part include Ron Sayer Jnr, Dove and Boweevil, Dave Thomas, Stone Pony, Paul Tinkler's Part Time Blues Band, Against the Grain, Luke Arnold and Co, Creole Brothers, Mojo Preachers, Cruiser Blues Band, Outathablues, Space Eagle, After Hours Blues Band, A13 Allstars, Daniels and Morrison, Devlin Blue, Dennis Ellsworth, Dwight Pereria, Yve Mary B, Adenland and Shunters Blues Band.
Headline act Ron Sayer Jr, the award-winning guitarist, vocalist and songwriter from North Walsham, will be playing at the Plough and Furrow on Saturday night – the Quebec Street building which once famously hosted six-string maestro Jimi Hendrix in 1967.
Although he plays to packed venues all over the UK, Ron said he jumped at the chance to play in his home county.
'Having lived in Norfolk all my life it makes me feel warm all over to be invited to play at the first ever Dereham Blues Festival,' he said.
Ron Sayer's performance is ticket-only – online tickets have sold out, but there are some left on the door.
For full information, see www.derehambluesfestival.org.uk and www.norfolkbluessociety.org.uk.
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