Now in its eighth year, the UTSf, organised by Kate Rusby and her family production team, has gone from strength to strength. This award winning small festival, held at Cinderhill Farm in a beautiful little corner of Barnsley, hosted an amazing rolling programme of music, learning workshops and arts for all ages. This is a truly family festival, which prides itself in attention to detail in every way.

The musical line up was notable for its diverse genres and with all three headliners being female – Imelda May, Suzanne Vega and ‘Her Royal Sweetness of Barnsley’ the adorable Kate Rusby.

For Kate Rusby this was a special festival as she is celebrating her 30th anniversary as a professional musician. Her usual style of engagement with the audience, outpouring of love, chat and humour was completely absorbed by her devoted fans. She performed many of her well known and well loved songs, and tracks from her new album, ‘30: Happy Returns’.

Imelda May gave a stunning performance, showcasing outstanding diversity of musical styles and poetry, backed by an impressive and talented band featuring Donny Little. She wowed the audience with her energetic and exciting delivery of iconic rock numbers such as ‘Tainted Love’.

Suzanne Vega regarded as one of the foremost songwriters of her generation, engaged the audience in her usual quiet and loving way with a selection of numbers spanning her long and distinguished career as a songwriter/poet.

As well as artists from the UK and the islands five other countries were represented, each bringing their own unique style of home grown music offering an eclectic mix of flair and traditions.

Highlights of Friday’s line up included ‘Stone Jets’, a band of three talented guys from South Africa whose distinctive sound of rhythmic soul coupled with a feel good factor got the festival off to a great start. They were followed by N’famady Kouyate and his band who wowed the crowd with a vibrant performance of modern interpretations of traditional West African Mandingue songs – his enthusiasm and speed at which he played the balafon, a traditional wooden xylophone, was breathtaking.

The Trials of Cato hit the floor running with their interpretations of traditional tunes with a modern ceilidh twist. The superb and lightening string picking of Polly Bolton was incredible and had the crowd yelling for more. Following on was This is the Kit, the musical project of Kate Stables is best described as being ‘multi-layered’, which appeals to listeners on a variety of different levels as each ‘layer’ is revealed and unfolds as it takes you on a musical journey.
Then completely out of the box and with more surprises was the ‘This is your Life-ish Thingy’. Usually Sal, Kate Rusby’s best friend, and Kate have a good old yarn about their escapades in the past and a walk down memory lane but this year as it’s her 30 year anniversary it was – ‘This is your Life Kate’ ! Even Kate’s old music teacher turned up!

Sam Kelly & the Lost boys cited as ‘one of the most exciting bands to have entered the UK folk scene in the past 20 years’, had the full participation of the audience with their stunning original music and reworking of traditional tunes.
Last up for the evening was Davina and the Vagabonds, direct from the USA! The retro New Orleans/Memphis repertoire delivered by Davina’s unique voice and commanding stage presence, and the brilliant brass musicians in the band, finished the night with a Bang!

Saturday brought more surprises as the world famous Brighouse and Rastrick Band took to the main stage. Briggus, as they are fondly known, have a formidable reputation, and they didn’t disappoint! A packed house, brilliant musicians and a very, very appreciative audience – a real bit of Yorkshire for over 150 years!

The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican (yes, you may well be puzzled) are not in any way related to the crooning Val but a Yorkshire band of lads wearing wigs and gaudy tank tops who, although outrageous at times, are highly entertaining. Jarvis Cocker reckons they are ‘the greatest thing to come out of Barnsley, since the A61 to Sheffield!’ Make of that what you will!

Flatcap Carnival kept the fun going with their seven piece Latin inspired ska band and who ‘s mission is to always bring some sunshine to the festival scene with their Bongo bashing macca shaking trumpet tooting sounds. Will Varley followed – heart wrenching stories (often true) delivered by one man with a big voice.

The afternoon continued with performances from the likes of Trousdale- a Southern Californian band of vivacious young women whose crystal clear voices combine to achieve great harmonies and meaningful songs. This was followed on by an audience with Adrian Edmondson, the actor, comedian, musician, writer and television presenter, catching us up with what makes him tick.

If you love a traditional folk mix (as we do) the Kinnaris Quintet will cause your heart to skip a beat. Pure instrumental nectar at its best!

Rocking us into the evening were the legendary Haggis Horns – highly acclaimed and amazingly versatile, these accomplished musicians delivered their unique soul, hip-hop and heavy breakbeat funk to a rocking crowd.
The final act of the night, Big Moon, brought the evening to a close with their tight knit vocal harmonies in their own inimitable style.

The final day brought to us a wonderful variety of music and entertainment. Kicking off with the sweet and accurate voice and lovely guitar sound of Iona Lane who brought to us a range of both her own material and traditional folk. Following on was the funky twelve piece brass band calling themselves The Intergalactic Brasstronauts, a local band loudly doing their thing with a collection of dub, reggae, jazz and electronica. The Australian singer/songwriter Azure Ryder elaxed her audience with her warm, beguiling voice and dreamy, beautiful songs, with nods to Maggie Rogers' rural pop and Florence's earthy drama. A change of direction came with the hugely popular Jason Manford who loves to do live stand up comedy ‘’ “Out of everything I do, stand-up is the job I love most. It’s great to be returning to the freedom of being in charge of what I say and do. It’s just lovely to be back.” Well done Jason, you made us laugh and you done well! The banjoists Damien O’Kane and Ron Block, masters of their trade brought to us a high octane banjo fuelled storm, wowing the audience with a spectacular sound of traditional and contemporary material. The talented and award winning band, The Young’uns, who specialise in singing unaccompanied, performed a great selection of traditional shanties, contemporary songs with heart-on-the-sleeve storytelling, beautiful lyrics, warm harmonies and relentless repartee. The five-piece Indie rock band from Newcastle upon Tyne, Lanterns On The Lake, came next with their natural touchstones of gauzy dream-pop and monumental post rock -awesome!

Overall, we couldn’t fault this little festival. Very well organized, with top performers, plenty of seating in the main venue, magnificent location, very friendly staff able to help and guide in all areas, excellent clean sanitation facilities, a huge variety of ‘anything you wanna do’ music and dancing workshops, and excellent kid’s entertainment and not a bit of litter in sight!

To conclude, this was a relaxed, hassle free and very friendly festival and one which we’ll certainly try to return to next year.

Photo credit: Steve Lacey Photography