Photo Gallery: Dereham Blues Festival unites town’s music scene

Scenes from the 2014 Dereham Blues Festival - Dove and Boweevil play at the Bull. Picture: Matthew U

Scenes from the 2014 Dereham Blues Festival - Dove and Boweevil play at the Bull. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The streets of Dereham came alive with the sounds of the blues this weekend during an entertainment festival which united the town's live music scene.

Throughout the second annual Dereham Blues Festival, musicians and fans could be found in marquees and function rooms in 10 venues including pubs, bars and hotels – even the platform at the railway station became a concert stage.

Hundreds of gig-goers moved from bar to bar in Saturday's sunshine, with locals mixing with those who had travelled to the town to see some of the reputations on show among more than 20 blues bands and duos who came to strut their stuff in the town.

The standard was set by headline act Paul Jones, the Manfred Mann frontman, BBC radio presenter and blues harp maestro who enthralled a sell-out crowd at the Dereham Memorial Hall on Friday night.

Organiser Doreen Aitken, treasurer of the Norfolk Blues Society (NBS), said she had met people who had travelled from as far afield as Kent and Carlisle to enjoy the festival.

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'They have all been staying in the B&Bs and eating in the restaurants,' she said. 'It was such a total mixture of people. We had grandmas and their grandchildren standing next to Hell's Angels and girls in high heels. We had all kinds of people, but there was a lovely atmosphere everywhere, so we are pretty pleased.'

Although the organisers' pre-festival goal was to make Dereham the 'Nashville of Norfolk', Paul Sandford, landlord at the Railway Tavern, said the event reminded him of another of America's famous musical cities.

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He said: 'To sit here in the sunshine watching a band is just like sitting in New Orleans.

'I cannot think of anything better wandering around pubs listening to live music. There must be 70 or 80 people here this afternoon (Saturday), and they are all people we have not seen before. I met someone who came from Cornwall, so that has got to be good for the hotels and guest houses.'

Morgana Hale, who owns and runs the Cherry Tree with her sister Sarah Godsoe, said: 'It brings in a lot of trade but, more than that, it brings credibility to Dereham and it puts Dereham on the map. And, if people enjoy themselves at this venue they will come back for other entertainment throughout the year. It brings a lot of people together, and the bands have been brilliant.'

Morgana's father Gordon, who used to work in the music industry, said the festival was the most important cultural occasion in Dereham since guitar legend Jimi Hendrix visited in 1967 to play in the building which is now the Plough and Furrow pub.

He said: 'It is not just good for Dereham, it is good for Norfolk to get this exposure. We have got some of the best musicians in the world, and it is important for the spirit of live music to continue.

'It is a very strange thing in modern Britain to get this level of co-operation from all the landlords, the bands and the press. Everyone is working together and to get that in a town like this is very rare.'

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