Halls Farm, Lytchett Matravers, Dorset

Wonky Donk 2014

Roots Revival Festival
11th & 12th July 2014

For those uneducated about the annual Wonky Donk Festival I shall first fill you in with some brief information. This year the festival is in its official 3rd year and was started by a group of friends with the aim of creating something quite unique.

Situated on a Donkey Farm, hence the name, the site has a natural valley surrounded by the beautiful Dorset countryside, which is ideal for the stage area and has space for plenty of camping. It has its own ecosystem, and it virtually never rains over the weekend as great weather is always specially ordered by the Lord of Wonky Donk himself: Hawkeye Houlihan. The festival is limited to just 499 people, and as each year goes by the event becomes friendlier and friendlier as the same people seem to return annually. The tickets, at just £30 each, completely sold out, leaving many Wonky Donk virgins disappointed.

On arrival at the site you will not find Wifi, showers, or any of the comforts provided by the large commercial festivals. There are a couple of food outlets and a well stocked bar full of reasonably priced, locally produced, beverages of all types. There are two stages quite close to each other so that when one band finishes, the other, in most cases, is ready to start immediately. The sound is expertly engineered by the hard working, forever smiling, “Percy” of Pulse P.A. who works tirelessly throughout the whole weekend making sure everything sounds just right. Percy only returns to his tent each night when the very last note of each act has been played.

It has to be said, this year’s line up is the best so far, with many bands returning for their second and third appearances, as well as an injection of new blood for some carefully selected acts. Most bands have to sign a binding contract with the “Lord Of the Manor” that they will let the “Phantom Fiddler from Denmark”, “Flemming Fiol”, join them on-stage without even a hint of rehearsal. Flemming joins in letting the music take him in whatever direction it will.

The music starts on Friday afternoon and ‘Honest’ Pete Read kicks things off with a short acoustic set which sees the start of the Phantom Fiddler’s takeover. This is soon followed by festival favourites The Mother Ukers, who get out their ukulele’s to perform some time travelling ‘ukular fusion’.

Carter County then perform some tracks from their debut album “Trains, Dames and Pain”. Their set clatters along the tracks nicely like a well maintained, on time train, only faltering slightly due to a broken guitar string. The Dead Plants, after being watered, spring to life to get people’s feet moving despite the baking hot sun.

The biggest crowd of the afternoon however is reserved for Milk Machine, an occasional band who get together for special events. Featuring Thomas Taff Morris, Andy Jack Ratt, Crow Man, Andy Razz and Hawkeye with, of course, the Phantom Fiddler too. The band perform some rather off the wall reworked and rehashed covers done in a hoe-down style. These include “Blue Monday” by New Order, “Anarchy In The UK” by Sex Pistols and a rather nice medley packed with goodies sung by Taff.

Wonky Donk 2014
Wonky Donk 2014 123

As the sun drifts behind these rolling hills of Dorset countryside more people come out of their hiding holes and the main area becomes a little fuller, creating more of an atmosphere, as The Surfin’ Birds and Cash Converted both plough through some great uplifting sets.

It’s the Jack Ratts who really get things moving, and the area is front of their stage is absolutely packed with sweaty unwashed bodies moving furiously to their infectious, well delivered, tight set of songs. Next up are six-piece London based Rock n’Roll outfit Severed Limb who keep up this high momentum until a power cut stops them in their tracks. They don’t let this cause too many problems and they carry on regardless with their acoustics, frontman Robert impressively crowd surfing across the willing audience. The power soon returns with a massive cheer from the delighted crowd, and Quinns Quinney conclude the evenings party with a fine acoustic skiffle jam in the bar after-hours to keep the insomniacs dancing all night.

As ordered, the sun rises high over the Wonky Donk faithful on Saturday morning, with hats and sun cream a must as temperatures are predicted to reach 25 degrees.

The opening band are The Paper Trains from Southampton, who ease us in gently with a thrilling set of expertly played banjo led bluegrass. The Sweetchunks Band perform a form of ‘bearded folk’ which infuses blues and funk with traditional folk to make for one really interesting sound. With tongue firmly in their cheek the set includes lots of great humour to make for one hell of an entertaining show.

The Paper Trains
The Paper Trains 
The Sweet Chunks Band
The Sweet Chunks Band 123
Surfin Dave

Surfin Dave 1

After their power busting performance last year, Surfin’ Dave and his Absent Legends return to adorn the main stage with their grace and experience. The ramshackle band of rednecks that are The Jimmy Hillbillies, touring virtually all the local festivals this year, grace the Wonky Donk stage with a confidence that comes from finally playing to their type of people.

Harry Cobeans and his sidekick Ski Daddle, with guest drummer Jonny Bruce, pull out all the stops with a great set featuring such numbers as “Pick A Bale Of Cotton”, “Mild Mild West”, “Swamptrash” and that amazing hillbilly classic the “Benny Hill Boogie”.

The Jimmy Hillbilles
The Jimmy Hillbilles 123

Those Harpin’ On guys arrive on stage next, with an excellent mix of blues standards complete with impressive performances on the harmonica by Little Dave, who’s borrowed Shane Mcgowan’s hair cut just for the occasion.

Harpin On
Harpin On 12

Marvels 1
The Trav Cats

The Trav Cats 1

If I’m honest the next couple hours is a complete blur. Maybe I hit the Cranbourne Chase cider a bit too hard, or maybe I was magically transported over to another festival. The mists finally cleared and I found myself watching a Danish old time string band, The Turf Rollers, playing some really great toe-tapping tunes.

Grissley and The Grasshoppers
Grissley and The Grasshoppers 1

My band of the festival has to be a band I have waited a while to see: Grizzly and The Grasshoppers, an acoustic blues and roots band from Farnham. Their music is diverse and played with a true passion that makes every member of the audience sit up and listen. The Curst Sons from Brighton then bring their hillbilly blues to the main stage as the sun starts to disappear behind the hills. The trio bring some real energy to proceedings with some great up-tempo songs performed in a really original way.

The Curst Sons
The Curst Sons 12

Quinn Quinney absolutely pack out the 2nd stage with a huge mass of bodies all clambering to get close to the front for a glimpse of the band’s cheese board. Yes, quite possibly the only band of the festival to have their own selection of cheese and chutneys on stage with them. Using traditional instruments as well as a watering can the band perform a high energy set full of cleverly reworked and reworded tunes, with plenty of great humour which the audience seem to really love.

Quinns Quinney
Quinns Quinney 12

The Doghouse Boat Boys, or as I introduced the “Boathouse Dog Boys”(Oops) has the privilege of closing proceedings on the main stage. As the audiences various tipples began to take effect the atmosphere seemed to step up a level with loads of energetic dancing going on. The band powered through a great set of bluegrass/rockabilly/skiffle fuelled numbers including “Back Door” and the harp filled tune “Life In The Doghouse”.

The Doghouse Boat Boys
The Doghouse Boat Boys 12345

Those Jimmy Hillbillies returned once again for a late night set in the Wonky Donk Honky Tonk for those wanting to continue on in to the night.

Once again Hawkeye and Big G. (Graham Cullen), along with their huge team, put on a fantastic weekend of great entertainment. If you missed out on this one a second festival on this site called the Acoustic Movement festival will take place in September, check out their page here for line up and ticket details. To all my fellow Wonky Donkers I met, danced, sang, chatted and drank with………………see you next year!!!


To keep up to date with the Wonky Donk Festival go here.

Words, Videos and Pictures (day 1) by Dave Chinery (Chinners).
Pictures (day 2) Jon Musselwhite.
Exquisite Cuisine by Tim “Delia Smith” Heywood.

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