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2003 March

The Third Swanage Blues Weekend - 7, 8 and 9 March 2003

Review courtesy of The Purbeck Gazette

What comes to mind when someone mentions “The Blues”? The plaintive voice of Bessie Smith and a 1920’s quintet? Screaming guitars, a wailing harmonica, pounding piano, thundering bass and drums? Perhaps a little acoustic guitar picking along the banks of the Mississippi? Well, whatever “The Blues” means to you, you could have had it up to your chittlin’ yams and black-eyed peas in Swanage from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th March.

Artists from France, London and the Midlands rubbed shoulders with their counterparts from England’s South West, South East and the cream of Purbeck talent. The Blues was there in all its glorious forms - rural, urban, ancient, modern - and provided the musical catalyst that brought together fans from all over the country.

Hundreds of fun-loving visitors proved how the right event can provide a much-needed economic boost to the area out of season. Organiser Steve Darrington said: “Many newcomers told me that although this was their first visit to Swanage, it most certainly won’t be their last. They just couldn’t believe the incredibly high standard of entertainment, excellent pubs and restaurants, beautiful views, the fabulous atmosphere and that admission to everything was totally free!

“The amazing thing is that it nearly didn’t happen due to venues becoming unavailable and potential problems with licensing laws. I really do have to thank the landlords, musicians and the local community in general for their encouragement and enthusiasm. A special mention please to the Tourist Information Centre, Blue-Level, French Antiques, Purbeck Gazette and the Holiday Accommodation Association for their support.”

More than 50 performers entertained in eight different locations. Highlights of the weekend included Saturday and Sunday afternoon in the newly refurbished King’s Bar, King’s Road East, with the Martin Johnson Band, Purbeck Slim, BB Rian and ‘Lucky” Steve (aka organiser Steve Darrington) on piano and harmonica. Excellent in their supporting roles were Paul Darby, Brian Pascoe, Southend’s Roy Mette and acoustic trio Flatfish Sandwich, fronted by local diva Laura.

Hard rocking acts Renegade and Crosscut Saw were the late night favourites at the White Horse, while Claude Bourbon deserved his soubriquet ‘The Frog with the Happy Blues’ at the Red Lion. Tim Royce and Reg Edwards exhibited their fretboard wizardry in the Crow’s Nest and the Black Swan, while finger picking Steve Hill from Stroud attracted a tremendous crowd to the Purbeck Hotel. Completing the line-up were the London-based Robert Hokum Band, and local favourites Arecibo and Rhythm Café.

Steve Darrington concluded: “When you consider that it all started three years ago as a birthday party for local photographer George Crane, we’ve come a long way since then. I honestly believe that we can do this sort of thing a lot more often. Anybody requiring more details is welcome to contact me on 01929 422338.”

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