Sunny spirit of Strummer of Love shines through
On a rain-lashed, isolated and muddy site in the heart of the Blackdown Hills on Thursday afternoon, Strummer of Love, the festival organised to celebrate the life of punk pioneer Joe Strummer, kicked off in inauspicious style.
Camper vans were directed to a field halfway round the site and some distinctly nervous VW pilots parked themselves gingerly along the back fence, wondering if they would ever make it out.
Tent dwellers made a point of pitching at the top of the hilly site.
The site near Churchstanton is already the home of the alcohol-free Buddhafield festival and early in the planning local councils had been concerned about the sale of drink on site.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
They need not have worried – the crowd imbibed with gusto, but a sweeter-natured group of old punks and new disciples could not have been wished for; and they were helped by a line-up comprised solely of friends of The Clash frontman Strummer and those he influenced.
The clouds broke on Friday afternoon as Frank Turner spectacularly opened the main stage, bringing sought-after sunshine to the soggy site.
The singer-songwriter put in a high-spirited performance and lit up The Clash City Rockers stage with his unique brand of rousing folk-punk.
Speaking after Turner’s set, festival organiser Trish Whelan said: “It’s been an incredible start to the festival with the atmosphere buzzing and everyone getting into the true festival spirit.”
That spirit – something the West does so well – was a recurring theme and everyone had a smile on their face.
Comparisons with the festival’s much bigger brother, Glastonbury, were inevitable.
“It’s all the best Glastonburys you’ve been to, all wrapped up in a big muddy ball,” said one happy camper.
“It’s like Glastonbury in 1982”, said one long-term visitor, “Who cares about a bit of mud? I’ve been running round Manchester all week getting stressed, but now I’m here, none of that matters anymore.”
Reverend and the Makers kept everything going on Friday, while Billy Bragg – the festival scene’s conscience – dedicated his set to all-girl punk band Pussy Riot, jailed that same day in Moscow, and gave a stand-out show
Seasick Steve, the 70-year-old swamp rocker then took the stage, having enjoyed Bragg’s set by joining the crowd at the front and polishing off most of a bottle of red wine in the company of two young assistants old enough to be his grand-daughters.
His set blew away not just the clouds, but the entire site.
With the main show over by 11pm, most of the action moved up to the Strummerville campfire until dawn and beyond.
On Saturday, top billing was taken by The Pogues, with whom Joe guested on many occasions.
The Pogues were and are The Clash’s natural heirs – and despite the hard-living ways of their lead singer and presiding genius Shane McGowan, they were as tight an act as they had been in their 1980s heyday; the quality of their songs saw 50-year-old punks singing along with 16-year-olds.
An outspoken champion of the underdog, and an oft-quoted fount of congenital heart condition.
Lucinda Garland, the singer’s widow, helped set up Strummerville but now takes a back seat, crediting Ms Whelan as the guiding light behind the organisation and the festival.
“Its been a triumph over adversity,” she said: With the weather there were times when we really thought it wasn’t going to happen.
“There were all sorts of health-and-safety considerations – for a moment we thought were just going to have a few hundred people stuck in a muddy field.
“But it’s worked and it’s been fantastic.”
Sunday night’s closing headliner was old compadre Mick Jones with his all-star Justice Tonight Band, made up of himself, Pete Wylie and The Farm who were joined by Clash drummer Topper Headon – almost as close as fans could get to a reunion of The Clash.
All profits from the festival will go towards the ongoing support and development of Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Music Foundation, which was set up by his friends and family following his untimely death.