Bella Hardy heads for Exmouth Festival

18:30 04 February 2015

Bella Hardy and her band live. Photo: Alan Cole.

Bella Hardy and her band live. Photo: Alan Cole.

Alan Cole Music Festival Photos (C) 2013

Bella Hardy – who won the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Singer of the Year – is to headline the 2015 Exmouth Festival.

Hardy, who’s at the vanguard of a new generation of folk revivalists and has garnered great critical acclaim, is one of the biggest musical stars ever to appear at the town’s annual arts and music festival.

Her appearance – described as ‘a real coup’ – could indicate the festival’s future trajectory, attracting bigger national touring acts as the event’s profile continues to climb. However, the festival organiser is keen to stress that the Exmouth community remains ‘at the heart of the festival’, with a wide mix of local musicians, arts and drama groups well to the fore throughout the week.

Dates for this year’s Exmouth Festival – the 19th event – have been confirmed as Friday, May 22, to Thursday, May 28, in the Manor Gardens. There will also be fringe events in pubs, plus art and ceramic exhibitions, a month’s theatre programme, and an arts project to create Edwardian railway posters to promote the event.

This year’s festival programme has been organised by Tim Bland, who worked for the Arts Council for five years, including the Olympiad at Weymouth. He’s standing in for Exmouth Arts Manager Carla Hiley, who is on maternity leave.

“The strengths of the Exmouth Festival are that it remains a free festival, working across a number of art forms, with a number of high-quality national and regional acts, combined with a community focus,” said Tim. A musician himself, he was keen to flag up ‘the pedigree’ of some of this year’s acts.

“We’ve got Radio 2 Folk Award winner Bella Hardy on the Friday night. She’s a real coup. One of the bigger acts we’ve had, we’re lucky that this opportunity has come along. If we continue on the same trajectory it won’t be a one-off. We will find bigger national acts because the profile of the festival is at that point where people want to come and play, which makes it easy to find ways to book them,” said Tim.

Other acts include The Mostar Diving Club, an experimental band of multi-instrumentalists from London, The Penny Black Remedy, an Americana, punk, folk and ska band from London, and Amida, an indie pop band from Manchester. Local acts include up-and-coming Mod covers band The Real Me.

“We’re attracting bigger acts,” said Tim, “but we’re also still ensuring that the Exmouth community is at the heart of the festival. We’re offering opportunities for new performers and for more seasoned performers to move up the bill, and so on.”

Although this year’s music programme is 75 per cent booked, there are still some slots. Anyone who wishes to be considered should email: artsmanager@exmouth.gov.uk

“I’m trying to build on what Carla’s done, but bring things from my own background and experiences,” said Tim. “So while we’ve got a strong musical programme, we’re going to be working with the Blackmore Theatre and the Bike Shed in Exeter to produce a festival theatre programme during May.”

The festival finale is a joint concert with the Exmouth Kite Festival at the Rec Ground on May 29, featuring The Wurzels.

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