Wychwood Festival 2024 – REVIEWED!


Wychwood Festival is one of the first of the season and this year marks the 24th anniversary of the hugely popular event in Cheltenham. The event is regularly nominated for Best Family Friendly festival and proudly offers an eclectic mix of musical acts.

This is the second consecutive year that the festival site has been further into Cheltenham Racecourse, in between the very top end of the famous course and Hyde Brook, with Cleeve Hill overlooking the site. It’s a very pretty location for a festival and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a lot further away from a large town when you’re there.

For anyone not driving to site, the local D bus service runs from the train station, through the town centre and out to the park and ride at the racecourse. From there it’s approximately 30 minutes-walking through the grounds up to the campsite entrance.

On day one the first bands start on Sam’s Stage at 2pm, which allowed time for a wander around the revamped festival site to get my bearings.

A word on Sam’s Stage (the main stage) before carrying on.

In November 2023, co-founder of Wychwood, Sam Shrouder sadly passed away. While he had been ill for some time, Sam still MC’d the event from the main stage last year – introducing acts as he had done for 20 years prior. His loss is keenly felt among the Wychwood family and renaming the stage in his honour is a fitting tribute to his legacy.

The site is well laid out, with the main stage at the far end of the arena. Most of the catering options, more of which later, are in the middle of the site, flanked by fair rides and with bars both sides – including a VIP area which guests can upgrade their tickets to access.

This year the Garden stage’s big top was positioned closer to the campsite entry at the opposite end of the site to Sam’s Stage making for a slightly longer walk between the two – albeit still very short by festival standards.

© Gobinder Jhitta for Wychwood

The six months or so of rain that we’ve had this year had definitely taken its toll on the site making the efforts of the set-up crews all the more impressive. Track marks from heavy machinery had caused some rutting in the ground which made for a slightly more “exciting” walk around site, but matting was soon put down to create more easy walking routes.

The weather was also not giving “festival” with a brisk wind whipping through site and slate grey sky making for a murky start to the weekend.

With the sights and smells of the food stalls wafting by and a rumbling stomach we went to sample toasties from Let’s Get Toastie only on their second ever outing at a festival and offering a range of delicious fillings as well as excellent coffee. We went for a classic Ham & Cheese and a Chicken & Pesto, both of which were dripping with gooey delicious mozzarella and cheddar cheese and definitely hit the spot. At £8 each it wasn’t cheap, but with a grey overcast day it was most welcome.

© Shon Douglas for SFG

Even more welcome were the folks from Solo Stove who brought their smokeless fire pits to a corner of the festival site and provided some much-needed warmth and a chance to sit down. They offered free s’mores cooked over the pits which were a big hit as well as chance to win your own fire pit.

Wychwood again offered a multitude of workshops teaching all manner of new skills from playing the Ukulele, to wicker basket making and circus skills.

While having a look at the merch tent the series of new designs for the festival shirts featuring drawings of Tigers and Toucans on adult shirts and crocodile/stegosaurus on kid’s shirts really caught the eye. Adult shirts are £25 with childrens’ priced at £20. Hoodies (saving many ill-prepared festival goers) came in at £38 for adults and £28 for children sizes. The largest size of the official festival T-Shirt was XL which was the same case last year and put this heftier chap off altogether. Band merch was also available throughout the weekend.

Stomach and eyes sated it was time to feed my ears, and first up on Sam’s Stage to kick off the festival were The Standard. The ten-piece specialise in covers and launched into ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’ with gusto and soon had a music-hungry crowd dancing and grateful for the chance to warm up!

Wychwood was officially off and the next stop was The Garden stage to see Genevieve Miles play her dreamy, indie-pop. Genevieve was one of over 870 ‘Apply To Play’ entries and joined eight other lucky slot recipients to play the festival. Her infectious enthusiasm warmed the crowd’s cockles and meant at least this reviewer didn’t need to make another visit to the fire pits (until much later on anyway…).

Due to the assembly of the tent there was a large structural pillar in front of the stage, right slap bang in the middle. I can only assume the months of rain led to changes being needed to the layout because otherwise it was a bit bizarre having bands split either side of the column or all standing to one side (numbers depending).

Across the festival site to the Mountainside Workshops and Neemus Presents Open Mic Session was giving budding performers a chance to woo the crowd. They hosted three sessions across the weekend and had musicians of all ages gracing the stage, including a little lad called Charlie who got a rapturous response from the audience who loved his rock covers.

Back to Sam’s Stage and Scottish rockers Big Country who welcomed Tommie Paxton of Restless Natives into the lead singer role following the surprise announcement of Simon Hough to leave the band a fortnight ago. You wouldn’t tell the band was reeling from the shock though, as they romped through their set – getting the crowd bouncing. Lead guitarist and longest serving member Bruce Watson (joined on stage by son Jamie) gave it his all, having the time of his life while chiding some of the members of the band including “the greatest bass player in this band at this moment in time”.

© Matt Higgs for Wychwood

I left before the end of their set to catch Jo Hill leading a singalong of “All my girls are Tom Boys” on The Garden stage. Joined onstage by two bandmates all playing guitar and singing, the melodies blended beautifully with harmonies capable of melting even the most flint-like of hearts.

Mid-thousands chart botherers The Hoosiers were next up and immediately brought high energy and fine tailored suits to Sam’s Stage but were also very aware (thanks to their powers of group mind reading) that the notion of playing any new material would be met with outrage.

Even with a back catalogue of bangers, The Hoosiers threw in big cover versions of Backstreet Boys and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ before ending on ‘Goodbye Mr A’ and literally saying goodbye for the afternoon.

One of the perils of the wind blowing through the site, aside from the chill, was the wafting scent of Raclette from stage left! Despite the allegations, I am only human and so I caved and treated myself to a traditional Raclette with added bacon which came in at a very reasonable £11. The gooey, unctuous melted cheese waterfall combined with perfectly cooked potatoes was a treat and set me up for the rest of the day – which is just as well as there was lots more to come!

Back at Sam’s Stage it was another mid 00’s pop machine in the guise of The Feeling. This year marks 18 years since the band’s triple-platinum debut album ‘Twelve Stops And Home’ landed and they kicked things off with UK top 10 hit ‘Fill My Little World’.

Over their 45-minute slot the band played through the album, throwing in an excellent cover of The Buggles’ ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and the titular song from West End smash hit ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ which lead singer Dan Gillespie-Sells wrote. The group ended on ‘Love It When You Call’ which has been stuck in my head ever since and then it was time for one of the highlights of the weekend…Barrioke!

Shaun Williamson aka Barry from Eastenders has carved a niche for himself with this fan favourite. Howlin’ Pete’s was overflowing with fans craning their necks to catch the man himself in action as he welcomed festival goers on stage to join him in a karaoke sing-along. Bedecked in a shiny gold jacket, Shaun/Barry claimed to enjoy playing Wychwood as it was the only time he left the racecourse with any money in his pocket – a nod to Cheltenham races which he promotes for a well-known bookie.

Heading over to The Garden stage once more and time for Dutch indie band Pip Blom who were excellent! Led by front woman Pip Blom the band played tracks from most recent album Bobbie, including Tiger, ‘Kiss Me By Candlelight’ and ‘Where’d You Get My Number?’. The slinky, sexy, sinister sound was perfect preparation for Corrine Bailey Rae’s performance on Sam’s Stage.

© Shon Douglas for SFG

Speaking to Summer Festival Guide after her set, Bailey Rae told us that she didn’t want to be regarded as “just a “heritage act” when you’re sort of playing cover versions of your old music” and immediately dispelled any doubts about that statement by kicking off proceedings with the ‘A Spell, A Prayer’ – the opening track from her latest record, ‘Black Rainbows’.

Black Rainbows was inspired by an exhibition on Black history by artist Theaster Gates at the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago. In between songs from the album, Bailey Rae explained the inspiration behind each track before picking up her Gibson SG and rocking the hell out – nowhere more so than on the frankly epic ‘Erasure’. The sound is heavier than expected and a nod to the Leeds native’s background in indie band Helen which cited L7 and Veruca Salt as influences.

Those members of the audience reeling from the sonic assault, expecting radio friendly pop tunes were placated later on as ‘Put Your Records On’ and ‘Like a Star’ closed out the set – much to the excitement of a woman on the barrier wearing a star covered raincoat!

From stars to sequins and there is no doubt that Disco is one of the great musical unifiers. Even if members of the crowd claimed not to know much of Friday night headliner Sister Sledge’s music before the show began, once they started there was no-one standing still!

Kicking off with Lost in Music, the line-up consisting of Debbie Sledge, Camille Sledge, Tanya Ti-et, Thaddeus Sledge and David Sledge brought disco BACK! A monster set list made up of bonafide hits followed, featuring ‘Frankie’, ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ and ‘Thinking of You’. They even threw in two Chic covers with ‘Everybody Dance’ and ‘Good Times’ before bringing day one to a close with an epic ‘We Are Family’ that sent punters off into the night with faces beaming like discoballs!

With the night drawing to a close and despite having shaken my booty throughout Sister Sledge’s set the urge to dance on was as mighty as their vocals, so the Silent Disco was calling!

For those unfamiliar with the Silent Disco concept you get a pair of headphones which have channel options to switch between allowing you to listen to different DJs vying for your aural adulation. To a passer by you hear folks singing along to different songs leading to a bizarre mash up as genre hopping occurs and strained voice fill the night air.

There’s a £10 deposit for the headphones which struck fear into this reviewer’s heart realising an overreliance on digital payments seemed set to scupper a much-anticipated dance. Thankfully, the bar in the tent did cashback meaning dancing was very much on the cards.

After a solid couple of hours bouncing between indie hits, 90’s dance classics and an EMO set (it’s NOT a phase!) it was time to head back for the night to see what Saturday would deliver…

© Matt Higgs for Wychwood


WAKEY WAKEY! Saturday morning sleepy heads were roused from their beds by one man positivity machine Mr Motivator who led the crowd through a 45 minute workout to kickstart the day. Speaking to Summer Festival Guide after his slot, the main man told us that movement is a wonderful medicine and “moving the mood” can help improve our mental and physical health – setting us up to feel good “not just for when you’re doing it, but for hours and days afterwards.”

Saturday saw a definite increase in numbers on site as day ticket holders descended on the racecourse for a packed day.

Aside from the music, there are activities galore at Wychwood – especially for kids. The Storybox tent returned, hosting readings from much-loved children’s authors as well as books available to buy and all manner of fun board games to keep the young and older alike entertained.

© Matt Higgs for Wychwood

Speaking of board games, next door Firey Jack’s Games of Days Gone By tent was brimming with ye olde activities including Viking Chess and medieval Jenga, which proved hugely popular throughout the weekend and a fair amount of head scratching on our part trying to work out the rules.

Over at Howlin’ Pete’s with my ears still ringing from the Silent Disco the night before Taskmaster Education had taken over and were putting children through their paces at the whim of the Taskmaster’s assistant, Little Alex Horne.

The busier site meant decision making on food was based more on length of queues than any particular preference, with the Souvlaki, Pizza and Fish and Chip vendors proving particularly popular. Spying a short line at Himalayan Dumplings & Lunchboxes I opted for an Enlighten Your Tastebuds lunchbox consisting of 24-hour marinated beef mince on a bed of steamed rice with three beef dumplings. This came in at a pretty punchy £14 but was very filling and tasted great.

© Shon Douglas for SFG

Onto the music and the first performer of the day I caught was Dolly Mavies on Sam’s Stage. Dolly hails from just over the border in Oxfordshire and has supported previous Wychwood performers Mel C and Sophie Ellis-Bextor on their tours. Along with her very talented band, including drummer who was metronomic throughout, Dolly and band filled their half hour slot with polished indie pop and definitely left the stage with some new fans.

The first act on stage at The Garden was Supalung, aka singer-songwriter Sam Brookes. His voice filled the tent up as he worked through songs written under the Supalung moniker as well as those he’s performed under his own name, including ‘Wreck My Body’ a song about being in love.

While wandering across the site I spied a group of men dressed as jockeys in the VIP area. Suspecting a stag do, I then spied a horse spinning around on one of the fair ground rides on site – one of the more surreal images from the weekend but not the most surreal (more on that later). Local Samba group Ola Samba offered drumming workshops and performances over the weekend, bringing a welcome splash of colour to another grey day.

Over in The Garden, Gloucester-based collective Dub Catalyst filled the stage with their ten members and the tent with an audience seeking a good time – and the group delivered. They could easily have played the main stage and had another half an hour in the eyes of this reviewer and more than a few of the audience who were skanking away throughout the band’s set.

On Sam’s Stage, Scottish singer songwriter Callum Beattie brought his uplifting indie rock to a busy crowd with more than a few Scots out in the audience – hardly a surprise with Texas headlining. Beattie has similarities with the likes of Sam Fender, Bruce Springsteen and The Gaslight Anthem – bringing together rousing anthems with a storyteller’s patter. He introduces song ‘Daddy’s Eyes’ about his father returning home from the pub at 8am and taking him to school at 8:30am. There’s nothing new in what he’s doing, but he’s doing it well and Beattie thanks the audience for turning up to watch an act that was unknown to them beforehand. There’ll definitely be some converts after this performance.

© Gobinder Jhitta for Wychwood

Nottingham natives Stereo MCs take to the stage next with a plan to make the crowd dance. With a 45-minute set and over 30 years of music to work through, the group led by frontman Rob Birch waste no time in getting stuck into proceedings and deliver with anthems ‘Connected’ and ‘Step It Up’. Some of the crowd seemed to be saving themselves for the rest of the evening’s entertainment, but those that were dancing did so with gusto.

With a lot of the day left and the Silent Disco’s excesses creeping in I decide it’s time for a caffeine hit and grab a Flat White for £4 which isn’t much more expensive than one of Cheltenham’s many coffee shops are charging.

Energised I head to catch the end of Abbie Ozard’s performance in The Garden tent. Her soaring, sweet vocals have the crowd engaged and she treats them to new song ‘Monster’ before ending with recent single ‘Anything for You’ which is inspired by the compromises made for “them that you love”. She releases her debut album in July and is definitely one to watch.

On the absolute opposite end of new and emerging talent are The Bootleg Beatles. The world’s premiere The Beatles cover band has been entertaining crowds for over 40 years and with such a breadth of incredible material to work through, there was no doubt they’d be bringing a hell of a show with them and boy did they deliver!

© Shon Douglas for SFG

Kicking off with an energetic version of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and followed up with ‘She Loves You’, ‘All My Loving’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ the Fab Four immediately had the Wychwood crowd singing and dancing along. Speaking with Summer Festival Guide before the performance the band spoke about the challenge of condensing a theatre show down into a festival slot and the limitations it places on them, but a solo performance of ‘Yesterday’ by ‘Paul’ aka Steve White allowed the remaining three Beatles chance to change outfits for the second era of the show. Sadly for this reviewer, a performance of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ didn’t quote force the sun to make an appearance, but in their defence it did show the next day. A singalong of ‘Hey Jude’ closed out the show and drove the feel-good factor up tenfold.

Welsh sextet CVC aka Church Village Collective were on next in The Garden bringing their psychedelic rock and disco basslines to this corner of Gloucestershire. CVC are DEEPLY cool, from the look to their music and multi-instrumentalism – they owned the stage and were a definite highlight of the weekend. ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ from the band’s 2023 Get Real album is an absolute powerhouse of a song, with a pulsing bassline throughout the chorus and layered vocals asking the crowd “Is it okay if I’m yours for the night?”. I think there’ll be more than a few investing more than just the night in CVC from here on.

© Matt Higgs for Wychwood

Psychedelia was back on the menu on Sam’s Stage next with The Coral. It’s22 years since the band’s self-titled debut and since then they’ve released 11 studio albums with their sound progressing along the way. Frontman James Skelly said prior to going on stage that they wanted to “play your best stuff over the years really” and what followed was a greatest hits of The Coral show, covering the last two decades.

Starting off with ‘Bill McCai’ the group went through 16 songs in total, playing hits such as ‘Pass It On’, ‘Lover Undiscovered’, ‘In The Morning’ and ‘Jacqueline’ as well as a cover of The Doors’ ‘People Are Strange’ from one of the band’s favourite films Lost Boys before closing out the evening with ‘Dreaming of You’ as the sun started to set behind the Malvern Hills in the distance.

© Shon Douglas for SFG

Before Texas came to stage I went on a mission to find a gluten-free/vegan option to see how people with dietary requirements are catered to at the festival and found Oh Babu to the right of the main stage where I got a delicious Punjabi Meal Box with spiced chickpea curry, saffron pilau rice and salad for £11. It wasn’t the easiest to eat with a fork, but thankfully a spoon was on hand to help and avoid any unwanted spillages (least of all because I was very hungry!).

I took another lap of the festival site to catch a packed tent enjoying The Amy Winehouse Band in action at Howlin’ Pete’s, while The Garden was overflowing with fans trying to watch Peter Hook and The Light. The amount of Joy Division t-shirts on show throughout the day should have been a fair indication that Hooky’s set was going to be popular, and sure enough it was!

© Matt Higgs for Wychwood

With his trademark low slung bass guitar, Hook ran through a mix of Joy Division and New Order tracks including ‘She’s Lost Control’, ‘Transmission’ and ‘Shadowplay’ by the former and ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and ‘True Faith’ before closing the evening with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and fulfilling everyone’s bingo card of hits for the evening.

The final act of the day is Saturday headliners Texas. The band is well and truly amongst the legends of pop music in the UK, with a career spanning almost 40 years and a massive amount of material at their disposal. Tonight felt more like a Texas show than a festival, with a massed crowd gathered to see the Scottish band in action.

Kicking off with ‘I Don’t Want a Lover”, front woman Sharleen Spiteri went on to tell the crow that “We’re gonna give you a little bit of everything” and being on stage is their happy place – and on the basis of tonight’s show it was hard to argue!

© Matt Higgs for Wychwood

The front woman’s energy and crowd engagement elevated the performance to a whole other level. Acknowledging that she had “far too much to say for myself”, Spiteri chided one reveller for wearing a gilet – assuring the crowd that “no-one in a gilet can dance!”. This led to the woman removing the gilet, drawing a cackle from Spiteri as she gleefully exclaimed “she took it off!”. In an act of solidarity, the singer removed her own jacket before urging the crowd to get down and dirty and playing ‘Let’s Work It Out’ before segueing into Orange Juice’s ‘Rip It Up’.

From here on out the band was hurtling toward escape velocity with the crowd waiting on Spiteri’s every word. During an acoustic version of “In Demand” she asked the audience to hold up their phone torches, making her feel like she was “in Avatar!” and then it was into the final throes of the show – with a triple whammy of ‘Black Eyed Boy’, ‘Say What You Want’ and ‘Inner Smile’ bringing down the curtain on another brilliant night at Wychwood.

Spitteri and co put on one of THE great Wychwood headline performances and thrown down the gauntlet to next year’s headliners for what will be the festival’s 25th anniversary. Absolutely 10/10!


Finally! The sun has decided to make an appearance and brought with it a riot of colour as festival goers dispense with the practical hoodies and layers and bring out the sparkles, fancy dress, countless football shirts, bucket hats and ice creams.

My day started with a bacon roll from Jolly Hog, who had moved their pitch overnight to be closer to the main arena. It wasn’t cheap at £8, but the bacon was good quality and well cooked and at that point in the morning with nought but coffee for sustenance it was much needed.

This morning’s main stage starters were CBBC’s Hacker T Dog and Kate Thistleton delivering a high energy DJ set which kicked off with a remix of the iconic “We’re just normal men…” line that seems to have been viral since Louis Pasteur’s days! A chaotic three quarters of an hour consisting of dog related songs and chart bangers ensued, but also remixed versions of children’s TV theme songs – the latter of which teed up one of the more bizarre sights of the weekend.

Ahead of their set in The Garden later that day, Dexy’s frontman and all-round music icon Kevin Rowland was warming up with a Qi Gong session, a form of tai chi. The gentle flowing movement of Kevin’s workout coincided with a dance version of the Fireman Sam theme tune, which one wouldn’t normally associate with the meditative act. It may well have been Kevin had headphones in and couldn’t hear what was going on, or alternatively there may be a new Qi Gong anthem on the block!

Crispin was next up on Sam’s Stage. The local lad from “just round the corner” is a former Gloucester Cathedral chorister and despite the band’s sound being somewhat less choral, his sincere ballads and indie rock songs were catchy and set the day up for a guitar band heavy line up of music to come.

In Howlin’ Pete’s tent John Leather’s Swiftie Disco offered a pop tonic to the rock, playing the pop queen’s records for an impressive two and a half hours. It definitely kept restless kids entertained as they danced through eras of Swift’s music, stopping only for a restorative ice cream on the way.

The Garden had a great line-up for the final day, and first up was Thomas Bradley Project. Hailing from Liverpool, the band brought a traditional folk/rock sound with elements of Led Zeppelin in their 70’s influenced sound.

Next up were Scottish band Brògeal from Falkirk. The band brought frantic energy to the stage, a lazy comparison would be like The Pogues but with a Scottish accent – but there were elements more like a Scottish spaghetti western at times, and raucous foot stompers throughout. About three quarters of the way through a breathless set and in between swigs of white wine from the bottle, front man Daniel Harkins – wearing Kappa popper tracksuit bottoms (a throwback to my own youth!) proclaimed “We’re gonna kick it up a notch” which left me wondering how many notches there were!

It wouldn’t be Wychwood without mainstays and local legends Thrill Collins who brought the vibes to a busy Sam’s Stage. Their infectious energy and breathless pop mash ups were the perfect accompaniment to the now sun-soaked festival. Not only are the band supremely talented and fun as all heck, but they’re also modest too – claiming to have written ‘Barbie Girl’ at the end of the summer last year. Sadly no sign of Ryan Gosling joining them on stage – but who knows, the 25th anniversary may well bring a dose of Hollywood with it.

© Gobinder Jhitta for Wychwood

Indie icons The Futureheads were next up on Sam’s Stage. Having burst onto the scene in the mid 00’s with hits such as ‘Decent Days and Nights’ and ‘Beginning of the Twist’ the Sunderland quartet brought their energetic best to the main stage, rattling through their hits seamlessly before summoning the power of the crowd for their imperious cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’. Ending with a mighty version of ‘Man Ray’ the ‘heads added headed off to a festival near you!

Across site to The Garden and Welsh group Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard were the heaviest act of the weekend. Matching every member of the audience’s devil horns with his own, shaven headed frontman Tom Rees was the very epitome of rock god and delivered the deepest split I have ever seen a shredding guitarist deploy during one mighty riff. The heat was playing a part, driving some into the welcome shade, but Rees was having none of the pollen count – claiming “pure nasal domination” over nature’s best efforts and leaving this antihistamine powered reviewer feeling a touch emasculated.

For lunch the ever-trusty Souvlaki option was top of my list, with a tasty chicken skewer and fresh salad going down a treat for a reasonable £11. My companion went for a savoury crepe from one of the two crepe stands, opting for ham and swiss cheese which came in at £10. We left suitably sated.

© Shon Douglas for SFG

Seth Lakeman and band rocked up to Sam’s Stage next. Lakeman has played the festival a number of times in recent years, and the multi-instrumentalist is clearly at home here having spent the weekend on site with his family.

Lakeman’s band is very tight and delivers the first festival appearance of a mouth harp, which in my humble opinion is a much under appreciated instrument. The highlight of the set was without a doubt ‘Kitty Jay’ which has an almost mid 90’s dance banger vibe to it as Seth plays the violin with seemingly ever-increasing pace.

© Matt Higgs for Wychwood

The next offering from across the border in Wales was Melin Melyn in The Garden. Bizarrely they’re one of the only bands to acknowledge the large pillar in the middle of the stage, even naming it ‘Lucy’, serenading it with a Saxophone solo and hugging it. Charismatic frontman Gruff Glyn greets the crowd by exclaiming that “It’s a pleasure to be here. I wish I was a horse – I think I’d win” before a set full of psychedelic, surfer pop, folk that enchants the audience – that or the band’s synchronised dance moves have hypnotised them…Glyn offered to give members of the audience Welsh lessons for £20 an hour, before haggling himself down to free and dedicated the song ‘I Paint Dogs’ to artists. The set was over in a flash, but the performance was something special.

The sea of England shirts at the festival began flocking towards Sam’s Stage, I’m 99% sure not as a result of Melin Melyn’s presence in The Garden and all became clear when The Lightning Seeds began their set.

As a festival with more than one eye on nostalgia, The Lightning Seeds proved a big draw for the crowd seeking sugar sweet, summery pop tunes in the sunshine. Kicking things off with ‘Change’ from 1994’s Jollification Ian Broudie and band rolled back the years delivering huge hit after huge hit, including ‘Sugar Coated Iceberg’, ‘Lucky You’, ‘Pure’ and ‘The Life of Riley’ before closing the show with a genuinely stirring singalong to 1996’s anthem to perpetual disappointment, ‘Three Lions’. Who knows, perhaps 2024 is England’s year? With a new greatest hits album coming out later in the year it’ll definitely be a big one for The Lightning Seeds – win or lose!

Howlin’ Pete’s was calling and the sound of guitars playing through hits of the 90’s kept the nostalgic feelings coming as The In-Here Brothers from Derbyshire tested every memory bank and sinew of the, shall we say, more mature audience with a riotous performance. It turns out, even 30 plus years after learning the dance to ‘Saturday Night’ at a holiday camp in Dorset, I still know every move. Hooray for muscle memory! The duo apologised for the lack of budget, restricting them to a bottle of Radox versus a full foam party – but I’ll be honest, after an hour of dancing a soak in a muscle easing bath sounded heavenly.

Seasick Steve is a festival stalwart and came on to a sunlit Sam’s Stage, announcing “I’m old now, I’m gonna savour this”. His trademark beard blew gently in a breeze bringing some respite from the baking heat. His story telling rhythm and blues sound is always at home on a festival stage and a large crowd had formed to watch him play.

© Gobinder Jhitta for Wychwood

With a new album coming out, Seasick Steve took his chance to make a sales pitch. He compelled the audience to buy the record, saying “If half of you buy it you’re gonna throw the whole music industry into chaos! Even if it’s just one week and then Taylor Swift will be back at number one!”. For the majority of the set Steve played the more traditional instruments, until the last portion where the DIY instruments came out. Firstly a 2×4 piece of wood with a guitar string attached to it, followed by a hub cap, garden hose, can of beer and burger flipper and ending with a guitar made from a “genuine Mississippi licence plate” to close the show with ‘You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks’ and ‘Bring It On’ before thanking the audience for having him and leaving stage to fulsome applause.

Hunger struck and I have to admit I once again caved to the Raclette stand. This time a portion of fries laden with melted cheese, pickled gherkins and cabbage which was genuinely excellent.

Recovered from his Fireman Sam interrupted Qi Gong session, Kevin Rowland and Dexy’s welcomed the crowd into The Garden for the last set in the tent of the weekend and brought a party atmosphere to Wychwood.

Rowland shows no signs of slowing down for a man in his 70’s and the audience were lapping it up. Dresed in a colourful outfit and trademark hat, Rowland led the band through covers of The Bee Gees’ ‘To Love Somebody’ and Van Morrison’s ‘Jackie Wilson Said’ interspersed the set full of Dexy’s hits including ‘Geno’ and ‘Come On Eileen’.

Darkness has fallen on the festival site and it’s another chance for the 90’s to shine on Sam’s Stage as Ocean Colour Scene close out the weekend. The Birmingham band’s Moseley Shoals album chartered at number two in the UK when it came out in 1996 – 28 years ago – and was packed with iconic Britpop anthems.

One of these being ‘The Riverboat Song’ which the band started their just over an hour long set with. The song’s iconic riff, most associated with TGI Friday, started and the audience was taken back to that warm summer back in ’96 and nostalgia was rife once more. Simon Fowler’s instantly recognisable vocal filled the night’s sky as Steve Craddock dutifully unleashed iconic riff after iconic riff onto the Wychwood crowd – however the line-up was slightly different for this evening as drummer Oscar Harrison had sustained a “Strange grass injury” according to Fowler and was replaced on stage by Harrison’s son.

The family affair continued with Steve Craddock’s son Cassius also joining the line up to give Sister Sledge a run for their money!

With an earlier start and finish to the last show of the weekend OCS knew a singalong was needed to complete the weekend for people and after a 100 mile an hour version of ‘Hundred Mile High City’ from the band’s third album Marchin’ Already they duly delivered. ‘The Day We Caught the Train’ reached number four in the charts but is definitely number one in the hearts of those singing along with the “Oh-oh la-la” chorus long into the night and after the lights had gone out.

And that was that! Wychwood 2024 was over and it was time for the revellers to make their ways home to bed.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Wychwood Festival is a belter! There were some changes this year, not all of which were universally popular, but the site was heavily affected by the record-breaking rainfall over the last six months and the crews managed to put on a brilliant show on despite that hurdle. The festival has an authentically family friendly focus, with plenty on offer to keep the kids entertained while allowing parents a bit of a break and some fantastic bands. With so many festivals already cancelling this year, we’re lucky to have an event like Wychwood.

Next year will be Wychwood’s 25th anniversary which is a testament to the vision of the team behind the festival and it wouldn’t surprise me if they bring out the big guns with the line-up. Summer Festival Guide will be all over the announcements as they come, so watch this space!