Festivals South: Art Today’s Summer Tour (Part 1)

This year, Art Today have spent their annual Summer Tour travelling around the UK’s Southern Festivals. Find out in our 3-part feature about the individual atmospheres, quirks and typical line-ups of some of the most important festivals out there…

This year, Art Today focussed on festivals in the UK’s South for its Summer Tour.  From UpFest – Bristol’s world-famous Street Art Festival, to Sidmouth’s renowned Folk Week, the Art Today travelling crew were in attendance to catch the festival vibe…


‘Arctic Scream’ by Andrew Burns Colwill. Part of UpFest 17, at The Coopers Arms.

This particular urban paint festival graced a vast area of Bristol’s streets for the ninth season this year.  Preparations for large-scale street art began to appear in mid-July for this major artworld event.  Tens of Thousands of viewers took to the streets to immerse themselves in an eclectic mix of contemporary art, from abstract to landscape.  Winding through the city centre, Bedminster and even Ashton Gate stadium, over 300 artists brightened the cityscape with their works.  Some pieces were also extant from previous UpFests.

It is easy to see how this particular genre has become a medium beloved by so many layers of society.  The potential to voice a protest, insouciance, a witty setting or a talented artist’s desire to be seen, are appreciated by an ever-hungry audience.  An advantage of the exhibition setting being an entire city, means that even though there are enough visitors to fill Wembley Stadium, the festival never feels crammed.

The new UpFest II book is out now featuring key works from this year’s festival.  To celebrate Take Art character Morph’s 40th Birthday, Aardman (Wallace & Gromit) have teamed up with Bristol street artist CHEO to create a new caricature.  This was sprayed live at this year’s festival.

Sidmouth’s Folk Week:-

Folk Dancers from Sidmouth Folk Week 2017.

The usual typical seaside town of Sidmouth in East Devon dances to a different tune during its annual Folk Week.  Set at the beginning of August each year, this creative event has been drawing music-lovers, artists and performers for decades.  In its previous guise as the Sidmouth Folk Festival, it was a recognised international draw, attracting performers from all over the world.  They would strike up a tune on the esplanade, in the market square or cliff gardens, whether a Chilean pipe group; Morris dancers; mime artists or skiffle band.

Nowadays, a more condensed homage to folk occurs so as not to detract too much from Sidmouth’s seaside charm.  A discreet number of performance marquees are pitched alongside artisanal businesses and individual buskers.  The locals are keen to preserve the local customs attached to the Festival, with pirates and St George arriving with half-sized canon in white transit vans on the first night.  The Anchor Pub in particular, seems to draw a lively crowd due to its centrally-situated garden and dynamic country-dance events attracting curiosity from the street outside.

This year’s main act line-up included such greats as Michael Morpurgo, Barbara Dixon, Martin Carthy, and Ralph McTell.

Curious Arts Festival, Hampshire:-

Crowds at the already-popular Curious Arts Festival, Lymington, Hampshire. Still in its infancy, 2017 marked the festival’s 3rd year, yet its attraction is undeniable.

At the end of July each year, country house Pylewell Park (Lymington) becomes host to poet laureates, historians, novelists and musicians.  Quintessentially English, this Festival brings the eccentric gentleman to Hampshire’s South Coast.  Even without the festival crowd, Lymington is a stunningly quaint and charming seaside town.  Picture Victorian Salt Water Baths; high-brow yachting marina and club; competing tea shops with bulls-eye windows – a small-scale Guildford meets one of the UK’s greenest garden-counties, with a sprinkling of coast on top.  Taking a moment to peruse the ever-growing list of sponsors for this event gives an idea of its priorities: The Botanist (Islay Dry Gin) + New Forest Safari Campers + Waterstones = ‘Bibliotheraphy’.  A ‘dreamy, eccentric, fun and ultimately, irresistible’ literary summer festival with bells on.  Art Today was particularly taken with the yurt accommodation, kick-your-shoes-off atmosphere, ad-hoc side events (snail racing!), and intelligent conversation.

This year’s line-up included: Tom Odell, Ibibio Sound Machine, Martha Gunn and Benedict Benjamin.

Womad, Wiltshire:-

Womad Festival billing, 2017. Drawing big players from all over the world to produce an eclectic, tribal, world-music feel.

A family-friendly festival with a world-music vibe, this festival takes place at Charlton Park, Malmesbury, at the end of July.  Think multi-cultural tribalism with some traditional English festival elements thrown in.  Previous years have seen Sinead O’Connor rub shoulders with African star performers such as Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour.  One of the biggest events in the UK, this festival is becoming ever-more polished.  The website leads traders, glampers, campers, volunteers and day-trippers into their own separate VIP enclosures.  It details copious press reviews from iridescent reporters energised and fresh from their Womad fix.  The Arts Desk wrote: ‘It’s the sound of a world without borders’.  Taking place in the same county as the Stone Henge Midsummer Festival, Womad continues the domestic, (loosely) Pagan, community festival programme into the school Summer Holidays.  This particular atmosphere is what festivals were originally all about.  And the spa!  Don’t even get us started… (wood-fired hot tubs and Finnish barrel saunas!)…

This year’s line-up included: Benjamin Zephania, Eliza Carthy, Dayme Arocena, Maya Youssef and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Art Today will continue to visit festivals in the South until the Autumn.  Look out for further highlights and tips!


[Credits: upfest.co.uk; sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk; sidmouthherald.co.uk; curiousartsfestival.com; womad.co.uk]



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