Go Hardwick or go home
I’ve been to countless outdoor music events in my time and, hand on heart, the two greatest festivals bands I have ever seen are BOTH headlining this year’s Hardwick Live. Each have the knack of making those big open spaces feel intimate and they fill them with the kind of anthems that bring the crowd together as one. I’m speaking of Manic Street Preachers and James.
I’ve followed the Manics since their early days and watched them bloom from rabble-rousers playing the back rooms of pubs to stadium-filling big beasts (and, yes, despite their national treasure status, they still know how to rabble-rouse with the best of them). And what a back catalogue! ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will be Next’, ‘The Masses Against The Classes’, ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, ‘A Design For Life’ – I could go on. They’ll be wowing the crowds on Saturday night with James taking over headlining duties on Sunday.
I still have a James t-shirt from their early Madchester days when ‘Sit Down’ held sway. But what I particularly love about them was when they got back together in 2007, after a five-year hiatus, they became, somehow, even better. Albums such as 2016’s ‘Girl at the End of the World’ and 2018’s ‘Living in Extraordinary Times’ are as good as anything they have ever done. And they are INCREDIBLE in the live arena and are sure to finish this year’s Hardwick Live in rousing fashion.
But let’s not skip to the end of this year’s big party just yet, because elsewhere on the bill you’ll discover a myriad of delights.
There are plenty of other big names to get your teeth into including, on the Saturday, The Zutons. They are another one of those bands who just get the festival vibe and they’ll be regaling us with all their biggies including one of THE great festival songs in ‘Valerie’. Another outfit who know exactly how to locate our collective sweet spot are Sister Sledge. These disco dollies will be drawing on their incredible run of worldwide smash hits and giving us some of the best songs ever written including, ‘Lost In Music’, ‘We Are Family’, ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’, ‘Thinking of You’ and ‘Frankie’. Also on Saturday look out for original punks Stiff Little Fingers and indie-rockers The Sherlocks.
Looking to the Sunday, you’ll find another bill laden with goodies including Lisa Stansfield. This Manchester singer has sold over twenty million albums and achieved 14 top twenty hits, including the worldwide smash ‘All Around The World’. Ziggy Marley has one of the most famous names in pop music (he’s the son of Bob) but he’s earned the right to be regarded as one of the leading lights of the reggae scene today with a string of well-received albums under his belt.
A man who needs no introduction is Billy Bragg who I last saw playing the Durham Miners’ Gala in 2018. Of course, everyone knows that Billy is your go-to man when it comes to songs with a social conscience, but people tend to forget that he is a damn fine songwriter and his love songs are just as affecting as his political stuff. I don’t have room here to mention every act playing but elsewhere on the bill I’d particularly like to point you in the direction of A Certain Ratio, Cattle & Cane, Tim Burgess and Catherine McGrath.
There will also be plenty of DJs in attendance revving the crowd up including Craig Charles who will be back in the north-east once again with his outrageously moreish Funk & Soul Club.
And this year the hotel’s Coachhouse Courtyard will be transformed into a dance arena with Glitterbox doing their thing on Saturday. Renowned for the world’s most flamboyant and hedonistic parties, they will be getting up and getting down with Joey Negro, Horse Meat Disco (Yay!), The Shapeshifters and Melvo Baptiste. On the Sunday Retro, which has been selling out club nights and attracting thousands of music fans around the UK and in the Balearic Islands since 1989, will be lighting the blue touch paper. DJs here will include the esteemed likes of Jeremy Healy, Brandon Block, Paul Taylor, Jon Da Silva and Allister Whitehead.
There will be plenty of food options on site including Mexican, Thai, Indian, vegan and vegetarian, as well as fish and chips, hog roasts etc. And if you’d like to quench your thirst get on board with a huge main bar, real ale marquee, Pimm’s van, cocktail van, champagne marquee and more. They will also have two free drinking water points on site.
There is also a children’s area – with a disco, storytellers, rides and circus training – arts and crafts workshops, fairground, plenty of camping options should you need them, and ample parking.
You should also know that this, the biggest music festival in the north-east, is set in the grounds of Hardwick Hall Hotel, and overlooking 120 acres of parkland, making it one of the best-looking festivals you’ll find anywhere in the UK. Add those looks to that line-up and you’ve got a weekend overflowing with goodies galore.
Hardwick Live Festival, Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 August, Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield, County Durham. There are a range of ticket options available including individual days and weekend passes. hardwicklive.co.uk