If you have never been to a festival and [this probably goes without saying] you like the blues, then the Blues Festival at Upton upon Severn is an excellent first festival experience. The Upton Blues Festival is a free festival, that is every gig is free for anyone to attend, and plenty of local day visitors come along to enjoy the music available. But to get the real festival experience you need to take your campervan, caravan or tent and camp and our campervan is a perfect place to sleep in at a festival. At Upton the performers are paid from the receipts from the campers who pay £10 a night each to use the flat Fish Meadow that is just ten minutes or so walk from the venues. The festival also gets money from parking charges for day visitors, sale of beer and merchandise. As well as the campsite, the festival committee runs two main stages, one by the river and one on the meadow across the town and an indoor acoustic stage and the Meadow Stage is a fantastic place to lie in the sun and listen to good music. There are also around ten smaller stages in the pubs of Upton upon Severn that are self-funding. Upton is a relaxed and friendly festival that has none of the corporate blandness or size of other festivals and you can always find some excellent music and get in to your own groove.
Upton Blues has grown over the years and in 2016 over 20,000 attended over the weekend and this year around 4,000 people camped in Fish Meadow. The first festival was held in 2002 but Mr BOTRA and I didn’t get there until 2014 by which time it was already a well organised and large event. This year was bigger than ever but the camping facilities held up well, even in the inclement weather, and we never had to queue for a toilet! I love Upton because of its size and atmosphere, because tarmac roads link the stages [rather than a sea of mud] and you won’t find yourself unable to see the stage because the person in front of you has someone sitting on their shoulders or is waving a huge flag. The Upton crowd is a friendly and chilled out beast that isn’t there because its the thing to do.
The music at Upton covers the whole spectrum that is called the blues and we saw some great bands this year and as usual there are a couple that stand out. The high energy blues of Dr Schwamp was just what we needed on a damp Friday night. They are a great party band with plenty of variety in their set and we’ll certainly look them up again. We also loved Sons of the Delta who played on the boat on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I shut my eyes and imagined I was on the Mississippi.
You don’t have to do anything but listen to the blues at Upton but we did fit in a walk along the river Severn on Sunday morning. We enjoyed finding parts of the the town we hadn’t seen before and exploring the countryside around Upton.
The festival feels like it is part of a bigger community and gives a lot back to the town, not just in income for the businesses over the weekend but also improving local amenities from the surplus. We like to support the local economy when we are there and now have a list of must-do activities when we are in Upton. We splash out on an Indian meal one evening and we always visit the Pudding Shop to sit outside and enjoy one of their fantastic steamed puddings during the weekend. The only difficult decision is whether to have apricot, ginger or blueberry pudding.