The Willowman Music Festival in North Yorkshire is attracting as much attention for its top class real ales as it is for its live acts.
Over the last five years the four-day festival at Knayton near Thirsk has attracted the likes of The Wailers and New Model Army and this year Echo and the Bunnymen will take the headlining slot.
But some festival-goers would say the real star of the show is the range of real ales at pub prices that guarantee a great atmosphere before a note has even been played.
Festival director Steve Williams said: “Since day one we have endeavoured to have top quality ale at the festival. To me great beer and great music go hand in hand.
“When I planned the first festival I looked at it from the perspective of what I as a musician and music fan would want. Festival goers are fed up of being ripped off paying high prices for sub-standard beer.”
For the past three years Steve has successfully linked up with Northallerton-based Walls Brewing Company which has brewed a number of bespoke beers for the festival and sourced some excellent complimentary ales and ciders from niche breweries.
The cornerstone of the bar tent is the specially brewed Willow Wobbly ale which year after year has proven a festival favourite. Walls Brewery also supplies the festival with several of its own real ales like Summer Gold, Gun Dog and IPA.
To coincide with last year’s festival head brewer and brewery owner David Wall sourced the special brew Swords of a 1000 Men from the Revolution Brewery in Castleford in honour of singer Eddie Tudor Pole who appeared at Willowman and gave us a hit of the same name back in the 80s.
Last summer Revolution Brewery also brewed an ale called Uprising after the late reggae legend Bob Marley to mark the appearance of his band The Wailers at Willowman. To continue the music theme last summer the brewery also supplied beers brewed at strengths of 3.3, 4.5 and 7.8 to mark the playing speeds of vinyl records.
This year will see a special London Porter on sale called Clash with a gravity of 4.5
This dark ale is made with five different malts and hopped with legendary US hops for a smooth rounded finish.
Revolution is also reviving its Unknown Pleasures ale in honour of Peter Hook and the Light’s appearance at Willowman Festival 2015 who will perform songs from the Joy Division classic debut album of the same name.
Head brewer and brewery owner David Wall said: “Willowman Festival is building a great reputation as a rock music event but also for its beer. We brew Willow Wobbly every year which is a firm favourite and a sturdy, strong but quaffable ale.
“This year we are also introducing a session Willow Pale Ale as some festival goers peak too early on the Wobbly so we thought we would offer an alternative!
“At the end of the day festival goers bring a lot of their own drink for back at the tent and pre-festival drinks, but if you keep the quality of the ales high in the bar and the prices right more people are happy to enjoy a full festival experience and forgo the delights of a warm flat can of lager.
“When the music is right you can’t beat a good pint of ale in your hand and at Willowman that is exactly what is on offer.”
As well as a range of ale Willowman will have several craft ciders, a range of red and white wine and a selection of sprits again all at sensible prices.
This year’s festival takes place over Solstice weekend from June 18-21 and joining Echo and the Bunnymen on the bill is ex-Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook and his band The Light, 80s songstress Hazel O’Connor and Dreadzone.
Flying the flag for the North East are Frankie and the Heartstrings, Bessie and the Zincbuckets and Lindisfarne members Dave Hull-Denholm and Ian Thomson who perform as The Alan Hull Songbook.
Willowman will also play host to a rare UK performance by classic New York-based ska band The Toasters, veteran punk band Goldblade, legendary DJ and former Old Grey Whistle Test host Andy Kershaw, reggae favourites Talisman, Pearl Handled Revolver, The Jeff Green Project, Ferocious Dog, Neck, Astralasia, New Groove Formation, The White Negroes, Charlotte Yanni Band, Louise Petit, Big Red and the Grinners and the fantastically named The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican.
Festival director Steve Williams said: “I thought last year’s line-up was going to be hard to beat but 2015 has come together really nicely. The headliners speak for themselves and have already had a major positive effect on tickets sales.
“But a great festival is about more than the headline acts. We have put together an entertaining and lively line-up that will really get the place rocking all weekend long with a bar tent packed with the best ales, wines and spirits.”
Now in its sixth year, The Willowman Festival has gained a national reputation for offering an eclectic line up of both new and established artists, while keeping ticket prices rock bottom.
The four-day family friendly festival takes place at the Hillside Rural Activities Park in Knayton, near Thirsk, over the Solstice weekend between June 18 and 21.
Spring special tickets are now on sale for a budget-busting £75 (which includes four nights camping and free parking) at www.willowmanfestival.co.uk Full price tickets for the festival will be £85, children 11 and under go free, while young people tickets (ages 12 to 16) are priced at £40.
Willowman Festival was nominated in four categories in the UK Festival Awards 2014. Best Small, Best Roots and Best Family Festival as well as Best Toilets!