Halls Road Farm, Lychett Matravers

Wonky Donk

One of the most anticipated events in the Dorset festival calendar is the Wonky Donk Festival at Hall’s Farm Road in Lytchett Matravers. The annual festival has slowly been building a steady momentum since its first small gathering in 2012. The festival is limited to just 500 people and each year tickets always sell out as regulars return to re-acquaint themselves with friends made at previous events. Unlike the recent Dark Holler Festival, this years event is blessed with a perfect weather forecast. As you enter the main entrance gate; just off the Lytchett Matravers back road, you can just feel the positive vibes radiating from everyone inside. As well as a fantastic line-up of hand picked acts, the festival is a big social event with a very family feel to it while anybody attending for the first time is made to feel most welcome.

The music kicks off in the early evening when the heat from the sun is just beginning to fade, a perfect time to taste some of the reasonably priced Cranbourne Chase Cider that’s on offer. The first band to take to the stage are Carter County, fronted by the Johnny Cash-loving railway man Mark Carter; who after spending so much time on the railways, has the clickity clack of the tracks embedded in is soul. The six-piece band which includes a lap steel player play a host of original tracks from the album “Trains, Dames, and Pain” with a nicely delivered version of Kenny Rogers “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town”.

Wonky Donk: Carter County
Wonky Donk: Carter County 

The festival has the luxury of two identical inflatable stages, and as one band finishes the crew has the next one ready to start straight away. Weymouth band The Surfin’ Birds take to the stage next with their very own genre-colliding mix of 50’s Surf; combined with rock n’roll, performed with large amounts of punk attitude. Brothers Paul (guitar) and Liam (drums) are joined by the wonderfully named “Squidhead” on bass, and the trio create a raucous amount of psychedelic energy used to fully entertain and warm up the crowd for the night ahead. The place by now is filling up nicely and the atmosphere is slowly building.

Surfin' Birds
Wonky Donk: Surfin’ Birds 

Mark Carter has done a quick change and arrives on stage with the spirit of Johnny Cash running through his veins. “Cash Converted” are a band that continue to entertain and educate people with the music of this legendary figure. The band quickly get the crowd up dancing with popular tunes such as “Ring of Fire”, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, with drummer Jon Bruce keeping the perfect train track rhythm. Mark invites “Bethan Shergold” to the stage, who joins them on a few numbers as June Carter Cash. The couple have a great onstage chemistry, reproducing numbers like “We Got Married in Fever” in a really authentic way.

Cash Converted
Wonky Donk: Cash Converted 

The ever popular “Johnny Boxcars” return once again to this Lytchett Matravers site with a slight personnel change. Cara Headon has joined since I last saw the band on bass guitar. They draw a big crowd to the stage when they start their set. Their sound seems to have changed and has a slightly heavier feel to it. The change from double bass to conventional bass guitar brings a more modern feel to their tunes. Thankfully John’s very rootsy slide guitar is still firmly in place and he thrills the audience with numbers like the epic “Sky Burned Red” and “The Noisy Thief”. His skilful guitar work is really a joy to watch and he impresses many connoisseurs of this trade in the audience.

Johnny Boxcars
Wonky Donk: Johnny Boxcars 

A change to tonight’s schedule means that Quinns Quinney move to Saturday night and “The Slap Ya’ Mama Big Band” take their place. The band are usually fronted by Screamin’ Miss Jackson, however due to a severe bout of tonsillitis, she has been turned into “Crockin’ Miss Jackson” and sadly could not perform tonight. The rest of the band are all here and pull out all the stops to avoid any disappointments. They band who have spent virtually all of their summer at festivals, provide some lovely entertainment with Becca Phillip and Marc Legassick offering some excellent vocal work. The band combine roots, country and skiffle with other further afield influences to bring a unique sound using banjo, mandolin, Harmonica, drums and double bass. They get the crowd on their side and perform a memorable set that earns them much appreciation from the Wonky Donk crowd.

Screamin' Miss Jackson
Wonky Donk: Screamin’ Miss Jackson 

Tonight’s headliners are “The Severed Limb” and they have also suffered as their bass player could not make it to the stage tonight. To avoid having them cancel festival organiser Hawkeye Hoolihan steps in and offers to take over with very little notice. (He seems to be making a habit of this recently)! The band from London combine electric guitars and drums with accordion and large amounts of percussion, to create something quite different. The band really throw themselves into their honour of headlining and do their damndest to whip up the audience, with their brand of rock n’ roll injected with large amounts of punk rock. They open with a tune called “Cat Sick Blues” and continue a high momentum with great tunes like the skiffle-influenced “Welcome to the Bone Yard”. They send the Wonky Donk massive back to their tents fully entertained. The first day ended on a high and with rumours of lots of love in the air as Day two beckons, it’s almost so exciting that I would not sleep, however another couple of pints of Cranbourne Chase Cider soon saw to that!!

Screamin' Miss Jackson
Wonky Donk: Severed Limb 

Wonky Donkers


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Words, Pictures Videos by Dave Chinery

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