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Review: The British Country Music Festival at The Winter Gardens, Blackpool.

As I start to write this review I still have no clue as to what I am going to say having not really seen any of the festival personally but I can only write this review from my perspective.

We arrived in Blackpool fairly early, parked the car for the weekend and caught the tram up to the north pier for a bit of shopping. We got a 3 day travel pass so it works out a bit cheaper but apparently if you buy them online they work out even cheaper still. It wasn't long before we got a text to say we could book into our B&B so we popped back down to the pleasure beach where it was situated. I must admit it was a real treat to have a nice place to stay in Blackpool. We have previously stayed in some shocking accommodation.

Anyway, a quick freshen up and a change of t-shirts and we were catching the tram back up to the north pier where we were meeting the rest of #teamfbc for a Chinese buffet before the festival started. It was lovely to get us all together and a really nice start to what was going to be a really hectic weekend.

After lunch we went to the Winter Gardens box office to pick up our press passes and made our way to the employees entrance. Once inside I could hear Emily Lockett sound checking in the Gillows bar so we popped in to say hello. Then we were shown to the artists green room where they had tea and coffee making facilities. We were shown an area where there was a leather couch and this was where they wanted us to conduct our interviews and sessions.

We did our first session with Simon James. A song then an interview which was great. We timed it well but it soon became apparent that this area was going to be too noisy for us to film in. There was an area behind the green room which was like a very large garage type storage space, very industrial in feel so we thought it would be nice to conduct an interview there so artist Joe Martin agreed to an interview. He also sang us a song which sounded fantastic in that space. Unfortunately we were not allowed to stay in that area so we were moved to the foyer at the entrance of The Empress Ballroom.

This venue would have been better earlier in the day we think as everything was just starting in the ballroom. Trying to interview Molly-Anne was difficult because there was just too much noise from the ballroom to contend with. Luckily Marina was able to take us to another location in the Horseshoe bar where we were allowed to use the stage as a backdrop. The Winter Garden staff very kindly turned the stage lights on for us to make it a really nice setting. This is where we interviewed Laura Oakes and Gary Quinn.

Having been up since 5:30am Ian and I decided that we would like to go back to our B&B at this point. My arthritis pain was quite severe and things were not going quite as we had envisaged, so we said our goodbyes and took the tram back down to the pleasure beach.

Friday Round-up Video by DC Brown Live

Song - Good Girl by Emma Moore

Saturday morning arrived and we took the tram up to The Velvet Coaster for breakfast. We hadn't actually eaten anything at all since having the Chinese buffet at lunchtime the day before so I was starving. After breakfast we made our way up to The Winter Gardens on the tram, let ourselves in the staff entrance and met the team in the green room. We had scheduled Emily Lockett in for an interview and as the sofa was still down in the storage area we decided to grab the opportunity and interview her then and there. Just before we were about to start Ward Thomas and their little dogs came through looking for their dressing room. We had a brief chat and off they went.

Emily's interview went well and she sang us a song too. We then went back to the green room where we were chatting to Karl Hancock who offered to find a security person with regard to a room for filming in. We followed him through the arena stage area and bumped into Martin Bloor one of the organisers who said they had found a room for us. He gave us directions and we found it easily. It was perfect for what we had in mind. Texting the rest of the filming team it didn't take us long to set up the camera and start filming our Winter Garden Sessions.

Some were just interviews and some artists sang a song acoustically to go with it. We threw the schedule out of the window and just asked artists to come when they were ready. At one point we even had quite a queue lol. We did get a 15 minute break where we went down to Gillows Bar and watched part of the Songwriters Carousel with Twinnie, The Luck, Jake Morrell and hosted by the one guy who eluded us all weekend Tim Prottey-Jones.

We managed to catch up and eventually interviewed 17 artists in one day. A record even for us but not sure it is one I want to try and break. I did feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of Saturday. I was definitely in a very positive frame of mind knowing Anthony had managed to get Forever British Country an interview with one of the top artists of the weekend. Luckily for us, Anthony knows Twinnie and has filmed for her before so he asked her if she would mind coming for an interview and she agreed. We managed to catch a bit of her second set and only having seen her once before I was very impressed. She really knows how to make the most of a performance and gave it 100%.

We actually managed to get a bite to eat on Saturday too. We had 2 jumbo sausages with chips and the best gravy I think I have ever tasted and at £6-50 it seemed fairly good value for money.

I think Ward Thomas were on their second song when we decided to leave. By this time of the evening I was in quite a lot of pain and was really tired. I had some painkillers before we caught the tram and it made a huge difference. Slightly more of a walk and less of a hobble haha.

Saturday Round-up Video by DC Brown Live

Song - Matter of Love by The Blue Highways

Sunday started with packing for the trip home. Ian took the suitcase to the car and the wheel fell off. Luckily it was by the car and not the pleasure beach otherwise he would have had to carry it for half a mile. Once back at the B&B we checked out and made our way the The Velvet Coaster for breakfast.

When we got to The Winter Gardens we let ourselves in and made our way to our room. We only had 3 interviews on the schedule for that day but we ended up doing 7. We managed to grab a coffee and a slice of cake in the cafe late afternoon. Back upstairs to do 2 more interviews then we packed away our equipment and headed down to the ballroom just in time to see Catherine McGrath's final song then we headed to the arena stage and caught nearly all of Tennessee Waltz's set. These guys did a lovely session with us just half an hour before their performance.

Wow what a weekend, the team worked so hard and I felt this last act was our reward and it was the only set the whole weekend that we saw in its entirety. Gareth Nugent and his band nearly rocked the roof off the Winter Garden. They were superb.

Once we said our goodbyes we caught up with festival organisers Marina and Martin for a final interview. I think they were pleased with how the weekend turned out. They are now major players in the British country music festival stakes.

We made our way down to Wetherspoons and had our last meal in Blackpool with our photographer and Scottish correspondent Doddie Munro.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ian, Anthony, Ed, Doddie, John and Danny of #teamfbc for all their hard work over the weekend.

Sunday Round-up Video by DC Brown Live

Song - Good Love by Megan O'Neill

Rounding up the weekend - Most of the festivals we have attended this year are like a big family reunion and although there were some members of our country family in attendance, this festival I feel, has reached a whole new section of people who will very soon become part of our country family. So many new faces which is fantastic.

I loved the venue. It was stunning and perfectly complimented The British Country Music Festival artists, and the fact that we didn't have to camp made me very happy.

I think Martin & Marina's vision was to give our British artists a festival just for them proving that we don't necessarily need the american artists to pull in a crowd and their vision was realised ten fold.

We are already looking forward to the 4th - 6th September 2020 when we will have to do it all over again.

See you all there.

Artist photos - Keren Morrall (which is why they are so bad)

Empress Ballroom photo - Doddies Chromedome Photography

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