Every year, the small town of Ampthill in Bedfordshire welcomes people from near and far to their amazing production which is of course Ampthill Festival.
This festival consists of three different events over the course of a weekend (Friday-Sunday). Each part of the event had something completely different to offer. 'Amp Rocks' – A night of music on Friday, 'Ampthill Park Proms' – an evening of west end style perfomances on the Saturday and lastly the 'Ampthill Gala Day' – a well rounded family event that welcomes all ages to an array of perfomances and activities which takes place on the Sunday to close the busy weekend.
Friday night's 'Amp Rocks!' gig provided fun and frolicks for all! The production team had an amazing line up for ticketholders to enjoy. The evening was also hosted by BBC Radio DJ Nick Coffer. Redbourne battle of the bands winners Arccos got the night off to a great start. Fresh from performing live on BBC Three Counties Radio that very afternoon, the five lads performed their renditions of well known songs including 'Use Somebody' by Kings of Leon, 'The Kill', made famous by 30 Seconds to Mars, 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk To The Moon, 'What You Know' by Two Door Cinema Club and 'Treasure', a track originally relased by artist Bruno Mars. The band's diverse choice of hits were well recieved by a chorus of kareoke like festival goers and even a small Arccos fanclub in the front of the crowd wearing band apparel.
In between each act while the stage team set up instruments and equipment, the crowds of people were entertained by a variety of music being played throughout the grounds and a social media system inviting people to use hashtags and upload their best rock star style photographs to the huge screens at the back of the stage. A live video feed of the audience was also on view for all to see. Not only that but there was a great choice of food vendors to visit just behind the music arena. Vendors included wood oven pizzas, BBQ Chicken and mobile units offering traditional festival foods including hotdogs, burgers, fries, donuts, tea and coffee. Also up for grabs were a pick n mix sweet van, ice cream and a bar. I must say the pizzas were 'delizioso!'
Now…Are you ready for some time travel? Feeling like Marty McFly and Doc Brown? Lets get into that Delorean and go back in time to some amazing musical eras. The rest of the evening takes us back to the 1980s and right up to the present day.
We begin our musical time travelling journey in the early 90s with britpop band Cast. The band, originally from Liverpool performed well known classics such as 'Walkaway', 'Free Me' and 'Guiding star' which had everyone up on their feet. The band also sampled songs 'Paper Chains' and 'Birdcage' from their new sixth studio album titled 'Kicking Up The Dust'. Their music is still quite similar to material that we already know from them, but with its more modern twist it is definitely worth a listen. One very amusing moment of this set was the band discussing with the audience about their journey to the venue. They spoke of how they jumped on the train only to arrive at what they thought was a destination called 'Flit-Wick' station and little did they know that they would quickly recieve correction from a bystander on the pronounciation of the town's name of 'Flitwick' (pronnounced Flittick).
Time to hit 'The Noughties!' I must admit I am very excited to be able to write about the next act of the night. This is a band that meant everything to my seventeen year old self. A band that I have waited almost thirteen years to see perform live! Introducing the first of the joint headine acts, musicians Charlie Simpson, Matt Willis and James Bourne – otherwise known as Busted! People in the audience were indeed going mad for these three cheeky chaps. For example, next to me, stood two very extatic older women screaming for Busted! They noticed me with my trusty notepad and pen, then looked at me and said "we are such an embaressment to our children, make sure that you don't mention the crazed middle aged women raving next to you" so of course, ladies this is a little shout out to you and your bubbly personalities!
Back to topic. The music. The three members of Busted leapt out onto stage with so much energy and charisma to say a quick hello to the audience and jumped straight into the first song of their alotted time 'Air Hostess'. In amongst the array of big hit singles which included 'Crashed The Wedding', 'Who's David?', '3am', 'Meet You There' and 'Sleeping With The Light On' the bandmates would often encourage audience interaction to build up a good rappor with their fans. At one point lead vocalist Charlie offered a competition to everyone by announcing "the best dancer during the next song will receive a kiss from Matt Willis!" to which Willis replied "I haven't brushed my teeth today." The band went on to perform 'Break your heart' which is taken from their latest album 'Night Driver'. And the lucky winner of the kiss competition? Much to the dismay of many ticketholders, crew and press (including myself), went to band member Charlie. After a sigh from the crowds of people gathered in the music arena Matt Willis then announced that he has "Snogged all of Busted now" After the comedy section of the set the band continued to play more from their latest album which included 'What You're On', 'Without It', album title track 'Night Driver' and new realease "New York". Latest album 'Night Driver' (realeased in 2016) has a very different sound from the classic Busted hits. After seperating and re forming once more, the band's music has definitely grown with them. Their new music has a more of an electro-pop sound. Very much like the style of music that band member James Bourne had experimented with while going solo as 'Future Boy' shortly after the band had split years ago. No matter which direction Busted go in, it totally works!
At the end of an energetic hour and ten minutes and also a heavy rainfall which did not dampen any spirits, the band performed their biggest hit to date 'Year 3000', during which had people from all generations jumping, waving hands and doing their best air guitar impressions while singing along to the infamous lyrics. Before leaving the stage, James Bourne could be seen waving and throwing guitar picks into the audience in front of him. All three members of the band thanked the fans for a fun time, wished everyone a safe journey home and even encouraged everyone to "wear seatbelts!"
After a short interval of music and big screen tv graphics from the stage, the last act of the night began to set up. The stage was transformed with what appeared to be white linen fabric. A very clean and simple look.
The closing act of the night took everyone back to the 1980s! The age of huge frizzy hair and rather dodgy statement cosmetics. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you English synthpop band, The Human League!
The band's female vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley were first to enter the arena to take their place at each side of the stage wearing rather dazzling black sparkling attire. Then on walks lead singer Philip Oakey waving to the crowds of people in front of him before then dominating centre stage. I absolutely loved Philip Oakey's Amp Rocks look! The singer was clearly out to make a statement in his traditional way. He wore a sleeveless black number which trailed to the floor while rocking a bald head and goatee with dark round sunglasses. I am a fan of the very popular DC Comics and this also includes their TV shows. For those of you that are fans of TV series 'Gotham' you will probably have the exact same thought that rushed into my head as soon as I set eyes on The Human League's front man. "Oh my goodness, Dr. Hugo Strange is on stage!" The singer's appearance had a striking resemblence to actor B.D. Wong's protrayal of the famous Batman villain.
The pop heroes, with their glitzy showcase, put on a truely amazing show for all to see. The atmosphere in the arena was electric! People of all ages were united in one place to enjoy a slice of the 1980s.
The band performed classics such as 'Heart Like A Wheel', 'Mirror Man', 'Lebanon', 'Tell Me When', 'Open Your Heart' and 'Fascination'. During the highly anticipated performance of hit single 'Don't you want me?' the first half of the song was performed entirely by the hundreds of people gathered in the audience, allowing the band members on stage to relax a little and enjoy watching their fans having a great time. The pop icons then contributed after the end of the first chorus to continue with their unique set. Lead vocalist Philip Oakey thanked fans for being at the event to see them perform before he and the other members of The Human league exited to the right of the stage. The lights dimmed slightly and fans were chanting loudly for more music from the final act of the night. As expected there was more entertainment from the musicians. They returned to the stage once more to perform two big hits 'Being Boiled' and the huge 'Electric Dreams' before the night of music on Friday came to a close.
The event was one that was certainly not to be missed and was well organised. Well done to everyone that took part in making this evening one to remember. This includes a quick shout out to the team from local recording studio 'Sound Arc' (based in Shefford, Bedfordshire) who provided all of the music/stage equipment for the concert.
Saturday night saw the festival introduce the 'Ampthill Park Proms'. which is a non profit "boutique" festival event that is organised from volunteers from the local community. It was an evening to invite everyone to come and see some amazing performances from some well known west end stars and more.
Unfortunately I was not able to attend this part of the festival, but I can give a brief overview of the night and what it had in store. Not only this year did the team at the festival manage to sign two big west end names Oliver Tompsett and Julie Atherton but they also welcomed back the return of the popular Ampthill Town Band, The brilliant Redbourne Jazz Band and the very talented Ampthill Concert Orchestra.
Between them, west end performers Oliver Tompsett and Julie Atherton have starred in some amazing shows including Mamma Mia!, Avenue Q, We Will Rock You, Fame, Rock Of Ages, Guys and Dolls and The Wizard of Oz prequel -Wicked!
At the end of the night festiver goers were treated to a bright and beautiful firework extravaganza!
Last, but certainly not least Sunday brought us the 'Ampthill Gala Day'. A free walk in day time event for everyone in the family to enjoy. On arrival we (my partner, my two year old son and myself) were greeted by a couple of people handing out flyers with different activites and performances that were on offer throughout the day. There was certainly plenty to do. There was live commentary over a tannoy system throughout the cricket ground which also hosted a variety of games, competitions and even a parade through the local town that finished at the grounds with many people including children dressed as cheerleaders, ladybirds, extra terrestrials, paintballers and NASA astronauts.
The music arena and comedy tent which provided us with live music, stand up comedy performances, Q and A sessions and even a live baking class with Great British Bake Off 2014 winner Nancy Birtwhistle!
The music arena featured acts Idolising Nova, There Is No Dance, a live cooking demonstration from Bake Off Winner Nancy Birtwhistle showcasing her no bake cheese cake, Ghouls, The Indios, Kit Walker, Massaoke – a brilliant interactive sing along and Oasish – a rather good Oasis tribute band.
The comedy tent organised by Ultra Live and Barnardos presented new and upcoming singer/songwriters and performers including the very talented Sam Neighbour, The Kagools and more. The team also brought us the very popular Mock the Week comedian Milton Jones. This was definitly one of my favorite segments of the day. The man is just as rib tickling as he is on tv. In the middle of the afternoon only a comedian would greet their audience with "Good evening!". Donned in one of his statement hawaiian style shirts and jeans with his wild hair, Jones said how nice it was to be in Ampthill's "onion shaped oven" as it was a very hot afternoon with over one hundred people crammed into a small dome shaped tent. In his routine as many stand up comedians often do he began to talk about recent events and politics and even mentioned that he had a great plan to help the UK government to fight obesity. His idea? "make chip shops doors narrower" this was met with a roar of laughter from everyone watching. Later in his time slot he asked the audience if they had anything that they would like him to discuss, so he had great social interaction with everyone watching. If you like stand up comedy I can definitly recommend buying a ticket to see Milton Jones live.
Another highlight of the day was The Science Dome. This was a black domed shaped inflatable tent which is often found at stargazing events around the country. It took us on a journey through time and space with its light display. We were invited into the tent and asked to lie on the floor and look up as a projector put on an amazing display of constellations, moving planets and even a trip to the international space station. At the end of the amazing experience was a simulation of being on a roller coaster racing around the rings of the planet Saturn. The graphics were absolutely incredible. It did make me a little dizzy but it was still something worth seeing. If you are given the opportunity to visit one of these domes at a stargazing event, I highly reccomend that you attend and take your children too. It was beautifil and very educational.
So after all of that, this brings my review of the brilliant Ampthill Festival weekend to a close. Before this weekend, I had never attended any of these events before and I had no idea what to expect. But now I can say that I had such an amazing time there and I look forward to what Ampthill has in store for us in 2018!
For more photos of the festival go HERE!