WHILE May is still well and truly spring, it’s traditionally the start of the summer festival season (although you wouldn’t believe it given last week’s cold snap!).
The outdoor events are mounting up now, so let’s hope we didn’t use up all our good weather that one weekend in April.
The impending Bank Holidays make it one of the best months to enjoy a weekend in the Lakes, so it’s a good job that there’s so much going on across the county over the next four weeks.
We’ve picked out the best of the fests to make it a memorable May:
1. Keswick Jazz and Blues Festival
Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th May
This one nearly didn’t make the list; after last year’s event, the organisers declared that it would be no more. Rescued by a group of local enthusiasts, the name has been changed to reflect the inclusion of blues music as the festival enters a brave new era.
The venues, all in Keswick, are within walking distance of each other, including the Alhambra Cinema, Skiddaw Hotel, Masonic Hall, Conservative Club and Keswick Methodist Church, and will see renowned British performers and a handful of overseas guests, playing everything from swing, jive, boogie, New Orleans, gipsy jazz, 20s jazz and more.
Key names to look out for on the programme are, unsurprisingly, the headline acts, such as Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra, Andy Dickens, John Maddocks, the TJ Johnson Band, Vitality Three, Baby Jools and the Jazzaholics, Reeds United, the Remi Harris Band, Mumbo-Jumbo, and Stomp Off, Let’s Go – but there is plenty to be found earlier on each day, with music generally starting in the late morning.
2. Moonfest, Kendal
Kendal Rugby Club, Friday 12th and 13th May
It’s a wonder that Cumbria can sustain so many music festivals, with 2017’s calendar shaping up to be easily the most jam-packed yet, but Moonfest is one of the success stories.
Founded to raise money for former rugby player Wayne Broadley, who was paralysed during a match in 2005, it was probably only intended as a one-off – but 10 years later, and we’ve got another event going from strength to strength.
It’s the last-ever event at the Mint Bridge ground, as Moonfest heads for pastures new, so what a send-off it will be: barnstorming Manchester rock act Jeramiah Ferrari and Lakes DJ star-in-the-making Father Funk are among the ones to watch, in a line-up that includes Cumbrian rock acts Colt 45, Youth Salute and Serene, some visiting acts, and plenty of solo performers and DJs.
3. Freerange Comedy Festival, Kendal
Brewery Arts, Wednesday 17th to Sunday 21st May
It’s the only comedy festival in Cumbria, which is a big surprise, because there are a staggering amount of venues welcoming stand-ups each and every weekend. The Brewery is one of the best though, and Freerange is its way of drawing attention to the fantastic array of names on its programme.
This time around, there’s a fine list of instantly-recognisable TV faces, a few performers that you’ll think you recognise from TV, and one or two destined for TV in the near future.
Jenny Eclair and Katy Brand are perhaps the best-established, both bringing their latest touring shows, but surrealist Canadian comic Tony Law is a must-see, and acclaimed Edinburgh Festival acts Scott Gibson and Kieran Hodgson shouldn’t be missed either.
There are a few rumours too that Devvo is coming out of retirement for one night only – a generation raised by YouTube rejoice!
4. Ireby Festival
Friday 26th and Saturday 27th May
A tiny festival, there are only ever a small number of tickets kicking about as loyal followers snap them up at the earliest opportunity. But if folk music is your thing, then you can’t miss out.
It’s not just folk, but that’s where the bulk of the line-up is drawn from, with plenty of award-winners and stars of the scene heading to this miniscule North Cumbrian village.
Arguably one of Britain’s finest folk performers, Jon Boden, and Scottish five-piece Admiral Fallow are the headliners, and established singer-songwriter Fay Hield, along with her band the Hurricane Party, will be among the highlights for sure.
5. Taste Cumbria, Ulverston
Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th May
This is the fourth year that Ulverston has hosted the festival, and nearly 60 food and drink businesses from across the county will be doing a roaring trade, with an estimated 15,000 people heading to the market town.
There’s family fun and a veritable feast of live demonstrations from some inspiring chefs and experts, but if you’re just there to browse, maybe to pick something up for lunch, there’s pretty much everything you could want somewhere among the stalls.
It’s also a good chance to enjoy a little tipple, as you’ll discover that Cumbria does that rather well too.
6. The Festival of Fools, Muncaster Castle
Sunday 28th to Tuesday 30th May
It’s unlikely you’ll have seen anything like this before, unless you’ve been in pprevious years. The first two days are brilliant family days out, with all manner of circus acts and street performances popping up around the castle grounds, as well as climbing walls, archery and lots and lots of musical troupes.
But everything builds towards Tuesday’s International Jesters Tournament – the culmination of the festival. This year’s hopefuls, The Fire Man Dave, Dizzy O’Dare and The Jon Hicks go head-to-head, showing off and attempting to impress the judges, battling it out to win the prestigious title of Fool of Muncaster 2017.
by Karl Steel, Cumbria Live