When I first moved to Nantwich about 5 years ago, I admit to a certain ‘reverse-snobbery’ in my mind, which dates back to my early years.
As a ‘dyed in the wool’ socialist/egalitarian; I’ve always been rather ashamed of my privileged upbringing in Knutsford, a small wealthy town in Cheshire. I’m certainly not ashamed of my parents for moving there. My dad comes from a working class council estate in Wolverhampton and ‘worked his way up’ from leaving school without any qualifications at 15 to managing an insurance company in Manchester. My parents were doing their best to make life as easy for us as kids as they could.
My point is that he ‘earned’ the right to live in such a nice place as Knutsford, whereas I was just lucky to be born there.
Since then I’ve tried to ‘atone’ for the ‘sin’ of being born lucky; by teaching people from many different backgrounds and hopefully putting something back into society.
But I always felt more comfortable in myself living in ‘good working class towns’ like Macclesfield and Crewe and feeling that I wasn’t being privileged or given any advantage (at least in my location).
My wife however comes from a very different standpoint. Born in Crewe into a working class family, she has always scoffed at my middle class background, but has also always wanted to move to the more ‘upmarket’ town of Nantwich nearby.
So when we decided to move in together, we sold each of our houses so we could afford one in Nantwich. It wasn’t/isn’t anything fancy (here comes the shame again!), but it was a comfortable terrace in a friendly estate in walking distance of the town and we’ve been happy there since we moved in.
Maybe I’ve softened since that time, but my feelings towards Nantwich have improved a lot since I moved in. It’s a gorgeous little market town with historical significance and a real character to it, how could I be ashamed to live here?!
Musically, I’d been mostly gigging in Manchester before moving here, and another worry I’d had was whether there would be anywhere to play live in a small town like this.
I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve learned (especially since starting my local music show) since that Nantwich and the surrounding area has a rich and varied music scene. There are several festivals throughout the year, gigs and open mic nights every night of the week. Just check out the Crewe Gigs website if you don’t believe me!
which brings me stumbling awkwardly towards my main point of this blog.
Possibly the most famous of all these festivals is the Nantwich Jazz, Blues and Music Festival, which takes place over Easter Weekend.
Started 23 years ago by founder Philip Martin who sadly passed away last year, the legacy of Philip’s festival lives on through his daughter Abbigail; who has taken on responsibility for organising the event for the first time this year.
I was lucky enough to chat to Abbigail on my recent episode of the Doorstep Mixtape which previewed the festival. It’s well worth a listen…which you can do here.
My own experience of the Jazz Festival has been a little ‘piece-meal’ over the last number of years. I don’t tend to be able to afford to go to any of the ‘big gigs,’ but if I can sample some of the many gigs around the town’s many pubs, I definitely try. It’s not often you get such varied and interesting music in walking distance of your house, so I want to see at least something if I can!
And through my radio show I’ve met and interviewed so many fascinating musicians from the local area who are playing this year’s show, so I wanted to show as much support as I could.
Here is my little snapshot of some of the music I got to hear over the first half of the festival. I hope you enjoy reading it and watching some of the footage I took, and if you visited the festival yourself I’d love to hear your personal highlights in the comments below!
I started my Nantwich Jazz Fest 2019 experience early on the morning of Good Friday. My disabled stepson had his support worker around at the house, so I needed to make myself scarce and walked into town to enjoy writing the beginning of this blog in the beautiful spring sunshine.
I also took the chance to shoot some pictures of some of my favourite bars and venues in Nantwich for prosperity:
I’ve heard somewhere that Nantwich holds the record for the most amount of pubs per square mile? Whilst I’m not sure how true this is, there is certainly a great variety to choose from, which makes a festival like this so fitted to this town.
The town square ‘official’ music was just setting up, but I was very lucky to catch one of my favourite local guitarists Angus McTwangstick busking in the town square; entertaining the town goers with his infectious one-man blues arrangements.
When the calibre of even the ‘buskers’ are this good, you know you’re onto a good thing!
Here are some snippets of their beautiful set, definitely worth a watch!
All in all a lovely way to start the festival; listening to some sumptuous jazz and blues in the gorgeous spring sunshine.
Easter Saturday started in the same way as Friday; with a need to vacate the house early meaning I had the chance to walk into town and watch the town centre music stage set up and get myself a ‘cheeky’ mocha and croissant (damn I’m so Rock n roll it hurts sometimes haha!)
I just had enough time to then watch a stonking couple of numbers from a lively and super-fun rock n roll/soul combo Zoot Serious and a Bellyful of Bop on the town square stage.
The atmosphere was electric and it was great to see a group of dancers breaking through the barriers and dancing their hearts out in front of the stage!
Later on in the afternoon I was visited by my mum, dad and brother, so myself and my wife Lucy took them for a wander into town to soak up the Jazz Festival atmosphere. Unfortunately the town square stage had finished, but the sunshine was still beaming down and we enjoyed a drink at the lovely Nantwich Bookshop Cafe in the town centre whilst people-watching revellers walk around the festival.
Here is a clip of the wonderful Zoot Serious and a Bellyful if Bop entertaining people in the town square.
Easter Saturday was definitely the day I got to experience the most of the festival; as I also got chance to check out more in the evening.
My wife was on a girl’s night out and the kids were at their dad’s; so I decided to arrange to go to a pub or two for the night.
In particular, I planned to go and see one of my favourite local bands, The King’s Pistol for their launch of new album Evil Spirits at my local The Oddfellows Arms.
I’d been looking forward to going to this particular gig all week; but alas 5 minutes before going out my social anxiety decided to kick in; heart pounding, body shaking etc..
But I didn’t want to let this spoil my evening and thankfully my good friends Dave and Jon from the BlueYellows were on hand to take away any nervousness I had and I ended up having a fantastic night!
As luck would have it, my other good friend Josh was at the same pub; working on his Halloumination food stall; so as well as catching up with him before the gig I had chance to have some yummy halloumi fries for my tea! And you could never ask for a nicer pre-gig meal! Wonderful friendly service, gorgeous halloumi fries, and I would definitely recommend Halloumination if you are ever lucky enough to see the stall at a festival or food show on your travels!
And so it was on to the main event – The King’s Pistol launching their amazing new album ‘Evil Spirits’ to an enraptured crowd!
They totally nailed the performance with a high energy and excitement in their music that the audience (including me) really enjoyed.
There was also a fair amount of ‘friendly heckling,’ which anyone who’s been in a punk band will tell you is fan’s way of showing affection to the band.
My friend Dave who came along with me hadn’t heard the band before and said he was suitably impressed with the set.
A raucous, high octane set that was great to see and I’m chuffed I got over my original social hissy fit to see/hear it!
And as a ‘Brucie bonus’ I also grabbed myself a copy of the new album on special edition black and red splattered coloured vinyl! Here I am doing my best cheesy grin with the awesome bass player from the band!
After the gig, we carried on with a pub crawl into the night and had chance to hear some more great sounds from Just Tom & Pete.
It’s fair to say the drinks were flowing throughout the evening, and I have to say a HUGE thank you to the best friends a boy could ask for, Dave and Jon for putting up with my drunken idiocy on the night!
Here is some footage of some musical highlights from a great night!:
For several reasons I wanted to slow it down on Easter Sunday.
First and foremost, it was Easter Sunday so wanted to spend it with my family.
Secondly, I admit I was ‘hanging’ (Northerner for very hungover!) after the night before!
And thirdly Easter Sunday is well known as the busiest and most raucous day of the festival, often seeing a lot of drunken incidents (I know, I’m one to talk haha) and police involvement etc..
Look at this line for just one of the pubs at the START of the festival on the Sunday!
We instead had a lovely meal around at my in-laws, with a homemade tapas menu that was absolutely gorgeous!
The kids had a great day, and didn’t get off to bed till 10pm….then it was time to gorge ourselves on OUR Easter eggs we’d completely forgot about haha!
Easter Monday was mostly a no-go for the festival too. I had hoped to go and see my good friend Jen with her blues/folk duo Pete Latham and Jen Ogle, but was vetoed by my wife who understandably wanted a quieter afternoon after a crazy few days.
I also had hoped to go see my friend Jon in his covers band Rickety Wireless, but this time I was vetoed by my own covers band The Educators, who could only meet this week on the Monday from 4-6pm…
However, with practise finishing early I managed to rush back and sneakily catch the last hour of Rickety Wireless at the Crown! A fairly new band; made up of some of the best musicians and songwriters on the local scene, Dayve Dean, Jonathan Tarplee and Dan Logan; Rickety Wireless plays a mixture of covers from the 60’s to now, and had the audience captivated throughout.
As the festival was drawing to a close, I expected that the pub would be quiet, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. At first it was busy with people packed in to listen, but as the atmosphere got more pandemoniac, I left early and drove back. I’ve been meaning to see the band for ages and really glad I caught them, but I wasn’t in the party mood after a long weekend and made my excuses. Still, it was a great way to end the weekend, watching some of my best friends and most inspirational musicians doing what they do best. Thanks guys!
I’ve rarely felt I ‘belonged’ or fitted in anywhere, and I don’t tend to think of myself as coming from anywhere in particular. But if I had to put my roots down anywhere, I’m glad it’s in a place like Nantwich. Not only is it a beautiful, fascinating and historic town, but it has a wealth of varied culture, music, art and performance. It ‘punches above it’s weight’ and manages to attract artists you would never expect to appear in such a small market town. I’ve had a really nice weekend getting back in touch with the music and the people of Nantwich, and I hope you have enjoyed sharing this with me.
Thanks for reading.