By Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers
It may be the best but it’s also the last - this weekend’s Harefest in Pateley Bridge will be the final one but it’s going out with a bang.
Pride of place at this modestly-priced mix of roots, folk, blues and rock music goes to the first show for seven years of Drunk in Public, the legendary acoustic ‘throwaway’ offshoot of The Levellers.
Not that the retirement of Harefest will mean the end of live music at Harefield Hall Hotel, say organisers Elaine Little and Michael Dry.
“Over the years the festival has played host to a range of major artists from Lindsifarne, The Wonder Stuff, Magna Carta, Fairport Convention and The Albion Band, as well as supporting new performers across the north.
“It’s been successful but we’d like to concentrate on using this beautiful site as a year-round venue with more regular gigs and one-off events.”
Running from tomorrow night, Friday to Sunday night, the line-up includes of Nick Harper, New Groove Formation, Dan Donnelly, Gaz Brookfield, Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican and, obviously, Drunk in Public.
The latter’s Mark Chadwick has been a vocal supporter of Harefest from the start, valuing the location and the relaxed air in this 15th century former manor house itself.
Mark said: “I’ve been here every year since it started. It’s a special part of the world and it’s a treat for me to come to such a chilled out atmosphere.
“The great thing is I get the chance to play with other musicians I wouldn’t normally bump into.
“A lot of the audience are resident in the hotel or camping the weekend and get to know each other at the bar. The crowd comes from all over the country. The festival is a meeting place. ”
Despite the rootsy tones of Mark’s music, both in terms of his more folky solo albums like All The Pieces or his rockier work with The Levellers, he’s managed to remain in the ‘mainstream’ of British music for more than 20 years, not bad for someone once labelled “crusty” by the press.
He also reveals that some big names will be appearing on the next Levellers’ release - an album of cover versions of their own songs.
“So far we’ve had Imelda May, Billy Bragg, Bellowhead and Frank Turner recording with us.
“They’ve picked their own favourites from our songs. You spend a day in the studio with someone and they come up with a very different take on one of your songs. It’s great
“It’s been so easy and effortlessly brilliant.”
For the moment, Mark is looking forward to Sunday’s headlining show with his other band.
Drunk in Public play a mix of Levellers tunes and solo work by its component parts - Jon Sevink and Simon Friend of The Levellers, the larger-than-life Rev Hammer and Mark, himself.
The spark and wit of the band may be intact, says Mark, but the name itself is a bit of a misnomer these days.
“It’s a silly name which belies the fact. We did used to drink an awful lot of beer on stage during Drunk in Public performances but we don’t do it anymore.
“You can get away with that sort of behaviour when you’re 32 but when you’re 47 it’s slightly more difficult to carry off!”
It’s a long way from This Garden, a major hit for The Levellers in 1993, to the lovely setting of Harefield Hall situated in 28 acres of woodlands overlooking the River Nidd.
Only such a special event as Harefest could have dragged Drunk in Public out of semi-retirement.
“Mike and Elaine basically foisted it on us,” Mark laughs. “But they did it in quite a clever way by talking to us individually.
“They reformed the band one member at a time!
“I love it here. It’s the best thing happening this weekend in the whole of Yorkshire.”
For tickets, call 01423 711429 or 01423 715840 or email email@example.com
More information at www.harefieldhall.com