Almost accidentally holidaying on the Somerset coast I was a little surprised to find that the sleepy harbor town of Watchet was hosting it's own festival. Unexpectedly, a short walk down the esplanade provided me with a little more insight. Overlooking the harbour are two bronze statues. Firstly, The Ancient Mariner, subject of Coleridge's epic poem. Coleridge stayed in the area and was inspired by the town that had been a harbour since ancient times, to write his tale of the doomed seafarer. The poet, a rock star of his day, was a man who could probably out excess any of today’s hedonistic stars. His narcotic visions are an acknowledged influenced on artists and musicians to this day. Secondly, a statue of Watchet seaman Yankee Jack Short, lesser know than Coleridge but arguably a greater influence on the music we listen to. Jack a sea captain and shanty man travelled to America bringing back songs and creating a trans-Atlantic musical exchange three quarters of a century before rock n roll reached our shores. The sea shanties that he and others sang, an important evolutionary step towards modern song writing. It seems that music and poetry are as much in the blood of the Watchet people as rocket fuel Scrumpy. But that's enough of the history lesson.
The festival itself took place on a hill overlooking the town providing the finest view I have ever seen from any event. The clear blue Bristol Channel, Bridgewater Bay and South Wales with the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm breaking up the expanse of water. At night you could see a bright moon and a winding coastline of tiny lights across the black water.
The festival site was quite small, about the size of three or four football fields and by my experience, the smaller the venue, the better the experience. I wasn't disappointed. I watched some great performances over the weekend. Mostly acts seemed to be from around the West Country and rightly so. Drone Rebels, Shadows Burn, Penthouse Shed, Zoltar Speaks and The Surfin Turnips to name a few, appeared over 3 days and two stages. Friday night's headliners were tribute act The Stones. Saturday saw The Beat headline the main stage and Sunday Ade Edmondson’s folk-punk act The Bad Sheppard’s. Metal, punky and western (Surfin Turnips), folk, ska, ska-folk, folk-ska. The list of genres seemed as endless as the varieties of cider on sale. There were the usual craft/clothes stalls, food drink and children’s entertainment. There was always a good natured and friendly atmosphere. The best of the festival for me was The Something Else Tea Tent, run by Watchet musicians and friends, it kept us warm from the occasional cold winds, kids occupied, fuelled up with caffeine and charmed by the hospitality. Their open mic sessions were brilliant!