Cerne Abbas Brewery

For several years now trips down to the Cerne Abbas Brewery have become a regular occurrence as the place sits amongst beautiful Dorset countryside, over-looked by the famous giant and plays host to some great Summer festivals. This weekend’s Barnstomper is one of the final outdoor festivals of the season; organisers, Pronghorn’s Banjo player “Lamma” and the infamous gig socialite Simon “Guyer” Guy, along with their team have put everything in place for what is expected to be a great weekend.

The venue has three stages including an intimate acoustic stage, a compact 2nd stage and large main stage housed in the main barn. Unlike the Endorset Festival in July; the weather forecast is good with sunny/cloudy skies and warm temperatures, which is great news for all those camping in the surrounding fields.

This is my third trip to Barnstomper and one of the many reasons I keep returning is that it’s one of the friendliest festivals on the circuit. I’ve only been here 2 minutes and Guyer pokes his head in the car window giving a cheery surprisingly sober welcome.

When I first get into the barn I get a huge bear hug from Dready Steve (the sound man) and compère Grant Sharkey flashes a huge smile and says hello. The award winning fan group from the Lymmingtons Boldre (Professional Festival Types) keep me busy with some acquaintances; Jill, Keith, Kerrie, Sadie & Stephen; Mike, Lee, Graham all make me feel like part of the furniture. Our only disappointment is we get there too late to catch festival opener Wob; I blame the traffic around these tractor-filled backroads, I’m reliably informed that he put on his usual top class performance.

This weekend I’m hanging with my old radio sidekick Tim Heywood and photographer buddy Matt Rayner, apparently we shared a classroom at Mount Scar School in Swanage when we were five, neither of us can remember so it must be true. The first act on are my old mates Lady Winwood’s Maggot. Now these guys know how to entertain a festival crowd and with their first trip out to Cerne Abbas they show just what they are made of. Mark, Sid, Rob and Dan; despite their lumbago, bunions and drinking litres of Gaviscon instead of cider; they push the envelope with their punk-infused Folk, sounding something like Joe Strummer jamming with Steve Earle alongside Neil Young’s rhythm section. Old favourites like “Bulldozer” and the banjo-led “Unleash the Dogs” are mixed with newer tracks including “That Murder of the Crows” – a great start to our weekend.

Lady Winwoods Maggot
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After their first class performance at the Endorset Festival, the Black Kat Boppers have been invited back. This first class quartet are a unique act that deliver their rockin’ roots styles with subtle injections of Ska, Blues, Rockabilly and a mass of enthusiastic energy. With Connor Hillary on electric guitar, Dylan Clarke on double bass, Colin Owens on stand up drums and idiosyncratic singer Roy Phillips; the band show off their combined, considerable musical attributes. It’s hard to sit still when these guys are on stage, with their sustained momentum throughout they are without doubt one of the highlights of the weekend.

Black Kat Boppers
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One of Dorset’s premier Ska bands The Decatonics are up next and they are fresh from supporting John Peel’s favourite band The Undertones at the O2 Academy in Bournemouth. With a three piece brass section, keyboards, bass, electric guitar, drums and lead vocalist Sally; the band display some first class musical prowess.

It’s a trip down memory lane with tracks from the classic British Ska era; coupled with their own Ska’d up versions of tracks including “Tainted Love”, The Cranberries “Zombie” mixed with Edwin Starr’s “War” and Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. There is an impressive consistency to the vocal and it’s hard to fault any part of the band who clearly show the crowd that they can deliver in all areas. They are a popular addition to this line-up and the crowd give them all the positive support they deserve as they leave the stage.

The Decatonics
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Over on the second stage are Bristolians The Hawkmen, a quartet who liquidise a host of genres together to bring about their own sound. They describe themselves as having a blend of Rockabilly, Northern Soul and Rhythm & Blues. The band’s talisman bassist Scott Milsom, who is pulling a double shift today and is due to perform with his other band Skinny Lister later is joined along by vocalist Cinta Marie and guitarist Tom Kuras. The Barnstomper crowd are a discerning lot and the majority of them spend most of their Summer out at festivals seeing all manner of acts. The Hawkmen; despite all the various distractions around the site seem to grab the attention of the vast majority who stop and intently listen to what the band have to offer, with original compositions like “Big Bertha” (the pet name for their tour bus) and the smoulderingly charming “Under Your Spell”, the band earn themselves a host of new fans and plenty of well-deserved respect from their audience.

The Hawkmen
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At this point the hunger pangs kicked in, now there is quite a choice onsite with lots of different food types, however on the way in we spotted a sign for a Curry Van (Tikka Trak) in the village about ten minutes’ walk away. After a recommendation from Grant Sharkey, local music plugger and DJ legend Tim Heywood offered to take a trip down and grab us some dinner. He was back in a flash and we were soon tucking in to a very tasty chicken dupiaza, garlic mushrooms and onion bhajis. With our bellies full, washed down with a pint of ginger cider it was time to return for the last three acts of the evening.

Salisbury’s social commentators Car Sick are a band certainly going in the right direction and after recently confirming next month’s impressive 21 date tour of the UK, the band have spent the Summer getting their name out there at a host of festivals and notable gigs. The four-piece band as usual have no planned setlist and arrive onstage and play whatever suits their mood.

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To be fair, many of their songs like “Pub Watch” and “Ten Stella’s Down” are about drinking and having a good time; though a run through of their new single “Put It Down” shows the band branching out into other areas. The song has a chorus that this audience immediately leap on and a fast-paced ending that creates a small mosh pit. The vocals are sometimes Hip Hop and sometimes a bit Jamie-T, the band’s energy and attitude reminds me of the early days of The Enemy. They have changed their image slightly from their early gigs; got better haircuts, increased the crowd pleasing onstage banter, removed their caps (mostly) and have certainly upped their game in front of this audience.

The penultimate act of today is Funk & The Two Tone Baby aka Kent-based Dan Turnbull; a one man multi-instrumentalist who with the use of an acoustic effect-fed guitar and a whole heap of modern technology, manages to elevate the need for further bandmates. With a stack of influences and a few tricks up his sleeve Dan’s efforts are rewarded with quite a crowd who seem to relish what’s on offer. We are treated to songs including “Shake It Up”, “You Can’t Stop The Music” and “Work All Week” and Dan tells us his latest long-player is out in October.

Funke And The Two Tone Baby
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The set escalates into a trippy dream from 70’s Scfi drama “Planet Of The Apes” with a group of chimps taking to the stage with one dressed in a wedding dress (what have they put in my cider?). They are all cavorting around to a great song called “Not Enough Bonobo” and this infectious tune ends the set on a chaotic high.

Barnstomper Festival over the past couple of years have brought some real gems to the Friday night headline set in 2021 we had “Coco And The Butterfields” and in 2022 “Holy Moly And The Crackers”. This year once again the organisers have pulled out all the stops to land nautical influenced London band Skinny Lister and their new album “Shanty Punk” is to be released in October giving us a clue to their musical leanings.

Skinny Lister
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The barn tonight is packed and clearly the band’s reputation has drawn them the biggest audience of the day. The 5-piece have energy, musicianship and creativity in large amounts; with vocalist Lorna Thomas, guitarist/Vocalist Daniel Heptinstall and Maxwell Thomas on accordion displaying some quality instrumentation and harmonisation. Much of the audience are familiar with the band’s material and they join in singing many of the numbers. Every song is a crowd pleaser with tracks like “Mantra”, “Rattle & Roar” and also a number featuring a chap called “Party George” with his own composition “William Harker”. With the high momentum; like that of Scottish and Irish folk “Skinny Lister” end the evening’s festivities in some style, setting the bench high for tomorrow’s acts.


More Videos from Barnstomper Festival can be found on our YouTube Channel here.


Words & Media By David Chinery (Chinners)
Photography by Matthew Rayner
Additional Material By Tim “I Smoke A Pipe” Heywood

Skinny Lister