LIVE: Ramblin’ Man Fair – Mote Park, Maidstone, Kent 23/07/2016
After being impressed by the inaugural Ramblin’ Man fair last year, I was delighted to find out that it would be back for a second year. Mote Park in Maidstone may not be the most obvious location for a festival, but it works really well. OK, there were a few hitches and fraught moments upon arrival (enormous queues for wristband exchange and a lack of really obvious signage meaning that punters were still waiting in line after the opening bands had started), but that’s really my only gripe – once inside, things looked very promising, and the good first impressions were borne out over the weekend.
The site is a very comfortable size – easy to navigate and with decent facilities. I’m a really big fan of festivals that don’t necessitate a half hour trek between stages, and the site layout meant that I never had a problem getting to where I needed to be. Some issues raised last year had been ironed out, with the main visible difference being the changed location of the prog stage (resulting in far less sound clashes between stages).
I’m a pictures gal, not a words gal, so I’m not going to review the bands, but suffice to say there was something for everyone across the four stages, and some really fantastic performances over the weekend. I didn’t see everyone that I hoped to, the ‘first three no flash’ rule for us photographers meaning that I needed to be quite disciplined with my viewing to get to the photo pits in time, plus a couple of clashes resulted in difficult choices (Kentucky Headhunters clashing with Simo was a killer!), but I did manage to see at least bits of a good number of acts on every stage. The Main stage had good visibility from a good chunk of the site. The tented Outlaw Country stage on Saturday became the Blues stage on Sunday (same formula as last year). The Rising stage was well placed for punters to catch upcoming bands and was drawing decent crowds throughout the weekend, and the Prog stage was a delight, almost a festival within a festival.
One of the things that stood out at Ramblin’ Man was the atmosphere. There was a real feelgood vibe to it (helped, I’m sure, by fabulous weather – if only we could order that up every year!), but it was obvious that the clientele were there to relax and enjoy themselves.
I was also very impressed with the quality of food on offer – everything I ate over the weekend was high quality, and although prices were exactly what you expect from festivals, the high standards took the sting out of it a little. As last year, there was seating scattered around the site in the form of hay bales (my choice to chill out on with a coffee and a crepe after hours of running around!) and numerous places to sit and watch stages from a distance when taking a break from the action for a few minutes. There was plenty to do outside of the stages as well – a Wall of Death stunt show and an art exhibition area being two of the non-musical attractions, and if that wasn’t to your taste, there was always the usual array of stalls or the on-site beer festival!
Everyone I spoke to over the weekend gave the event a thumbs up – I was hearing things like ‘best outdoor festival I’ve been to in years’, ‘really lovely atmosphere’, ‘great food’, ‘I’ve seen some great bands I never thought I’d get the chance to’, ‘I’m booking up for next year as soon as I can’. Earlybird tickets for 2017 have already been snapped up, which is a testament to the success of this year’s event. Ramblin’ Man, you’re a good ‘un. I’m looking forward to round three!
© Trudi Knight All images are subject to copyright laws. All rights reserved.