“Whilst it is fully understood that there has to be a realistic, ultimate limit to perceived excellence, this year’s festival still managed to raise the bar”
“Following the first Carlisle Blues & Rock Festival in 2007, each subsequent event has been acclaimed as better than the one before”
Nice comments. Who could argue with that sentiment?
The highly acclaimed Carlisle Blues Festival began in 2007 and celebrated five incredibly exciting and successful years with a weekend event in November 2011 which many regarded as the best UK blues festival of the year. 2012 even surpassed that, lifting the event into the top three of its kind in the country. Incredibly 2013 saw the festival leap to an even higher level and cemented it as one of the premier blues events on UK calendar. That 2013 festival was widely regarded as one of the country’s best ever blues events with the Royal Southern Brotherhood, Bernard Allison and Ian Siegal with The Mississippi Mudbloods headlining each of three monumental days.
In 2014 the event was forced to endure a last minute change of location when the Hilltop Hotel, the venue of 6 years, closed it’s doors*. Organiser Nick Westgarth managed to secure suitable venues and alternative hotels for the audience and moved the festival. It was, as ever, a big success but it came at a price. Nick, the sole organiser (committee of one), was unable to run the event in 2015 and 2016.
*(Update 2022: The Hilltop re-opened after a couple of years. Under a Government scheme it is now fully occupied by asylum seekers)
Looking back, the key to the success of the Carlisle Blues (& Rock) Festival had always been the strength of the line up and its refusal to be restricted within a genre. Never shy to include acts leaning towards Soul or Americana, or Rockabilly or Jazz, it couldn’t guarantee to please all of the people all of the time but it did manage to please the most part of its audience for most part of the time. That ethos continued when the festival re-launched in 2017. For a couple of years the festival used duel venues but settled for having it all under one roof at the Crown & Mitre Hotel in 2019. That enabled the production to develop and grow into the slick, professional event that it is today. In 2022 the Carlisle Blues/Rock Festival was recognised at the UK Blues Federation. At the Awards held in London the event picked up the Blues Based Festival of the Year.
For the record 2012 saw a name change when ‘Rock’ was introduced into the title. The April 2012 edition of the Classic Rock magazine devoted several pages to blues referring to it as, ‘the new rock revolution’ and stated, ‘It would appear that blues is on a roll, the signs are there, the genre most certainly has a new energy but it’s not the old purist blues, which has always failed to attract or inspire the masses, it’s the high-voltage blues that’s giving the rock and blues scene a massive shot in the arm’. ‘It’s a great time for a blues boom, 2012 looks like being the year for it to happen.’
That was several years ago, the ‘BOOM’ didn’t exactly happen, more a ‘slow burner’ but the important thing is that there is now even more real talent on the blues scene and in a time of economic and government turmoil it appears there’s a growing dissatisfaction with the consumerism and commerciality in the likes of X Factor and The Voice. It seems there is a dissatisfaction pouring into the entertainment world which has been sucking the life out of real music for too long. We can only dream about sweeping changes with blues becoming the next big thing when it is, in fact, the perfect antidote to everything fake or hyped.
Carlisle Blues Festival is, and always will be REAL MUSIC played by REAL MUSICIANS for REAL PEOPLE.
NO fake, NO hype.
AND WHAT THEY’VE SAID IN THE PAST …
“Hi Nick, I wanted to say that this festival rates as one of the top 3 events I have ever been to – the other two being the New Orleans Jazz and Blues Festival and the 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony! Seriously, I loved it – fantastic acts, intimate venue, great value. The jamming session was fantastic. Thanks once again”.
“What to say about Carlisle Blues Rock Festival hats off to Nick Westgarth for pulling off such an amazing festival. He knows his audience so well that he asked me to perform Lipstick & Cocaine (not a blues song) during my set and organised the talented Fraser Clark from Redfish to join me on stage to play piano for me. We had never played together, or even met until the festival and we performed a special rendition for the crowd who took my breath away with a standing ovation – thanks Fraser. The backstage/onstage/front of house crews/volunteers were just beyond amazing. Thanks to all of them for the work they do. Highlight for me was the outstanding Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado who ARE the band to see people if you get the chance and just all round lovely guys. Then all the bands jammed out in the basement, it was a special one #Carlisle you rocked it!”
– Kaz Hawkins
“I have been going to Festivals since the 60’s, (yes I really am that old!) and I can honestly say it was one of the most professionally run and friendly I have been too”.
– Del Taylor (UnitedProducersGroup) for KING MOB in 2011 with Chris Spedding, Glen Matlock, Martin Chambers, Snips and Sixteen
“Just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you and how much I enjoyed being part of the festival this year. It’s certainly come a long way since the first time I played it a few years back! I’ve lost count of how many festivals I’ve played over the years but I can honestly say that Carlisle 2013 was one of the best organised and friendliest I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. From the minute we arrived to the minute we left your team (and the hotel staff) were courteous, helpful, efficient and above all, friendly. Everyone knew their role and more importantly, let us know their role and because of this it left nothing for us layabout musicians to mess up! Anyway, bottom line for me is that we’d be hard pushed to find a better run festival anywhere in Europe”.
All the best
“Evening Nick. Just thought I’d drop you a line to say thank you to you and your team. I’ve been in this biz a long time and I can honestly say Carlisle Blues Fest was one of the best. We all had a good day and the audience were really good too. Thanks once again”.
– Del (Del Bromham)