CATCH UP: Blackthorn Festival 2018


On foot, there’s a quaint, dusty woodland path through Etherow Country Park that takes you to Blackthorn Festival. A clearing makes way for a hill in the forest, surrounded by tents and three raised stages that make up the festival that’s become part of the local culture, unifying the music scene in one annual August weekend. Having grown from strength to strength since it’s conception in 2013, this year saw the likes of Pete Doherty, We Are Scientists and Peter Hook & The Light take to the main stage.

Legends in their field, the general feeling was astonishment that such music notoriety as the artful dodger himself – Pete Doherty – had agreed to play at a festival with such a relatively unknown following. Perhaps it was the sense of community and the gathering of minds, maybe it was the open arms for independent artists or possibly it’s an accolade to his former lyrics beckoning to keep the Arts afloat.

“The only way out of the dustbowl or the farm for thee
Join a band or join the army”


Amongst the eclectic lineup were newcomers, quickly becoming maestros of the Manchester scene in their own right. The likes of Afghan Sand Gang, Creature Comfort, Hey Bulldog, RPMs and Deja Vega set sights ablaze by enticing fans new and old with their Northern guises. During the exhilarance of the event, we caught up with rising stars The Blinders shortly after they crept off from their main stage slot one afternoon.

The trio are longstanding advocates of the festival, which included headlining one of the smaller stages last year, which they enjoyed but felt a sense of pride to be on 2018’s main stage. “These kinds of festivals are so much better than the commercial ones” mentions lead singer Thomas Haywood whilst drummer Matty Neale acclaims the local festival and how it brings bands together who are at a similar point in their career: “you need them, they’re for the fans – this type of festival.” The Blinders debut album comes on to the scene on the 21st of September and if our previous experiences are anything to go by, it’ll be an unmissable moment for the Manchester residents.

Hot on the tail of any other rising acts are the four-strong, all-female, punk-grunge act Witch Fever. Lauded as being one of the best sets of the weekend, the girl gang quickly amassed a following from attendees at the festival. You could sense the admiration in the air as they played, so of course, we’d have been foolish not to to edge close to the backstage area for a few words with the band.


Witch Fever will soon release a lacquered blood-red vinyl of new single ‘Toothless’, which couldn’t be more in-keeping with the look of the Manchester-based quartet. Although the weekend has been their first festival experience, it appears to be an experience which has been met by a mutual appreciation: “from what we’ve seen we love it. Everyone is so friendly. It’s chill and a really nice environment.” There’s actually even a story to how Witch Fever came to be on the Blackthorn lineup, as explained by lead singer Amy-Hope Walpole. “The lineup was released and our (female) manager reached out to Blackthorn like ‘hey there are no women on your lineup’ then, credit to them, they put us on.”

This recent realisation from across the live music and festival scene beckons a calling for stronger female representation in music and the media. One particular event that’s impacted this particular for Witch Fever was when they were sexualised and leered at by a crowd and even another band at a recent Bristol gig. Speaking of this event Witch Fever mention that there has been an apology from Bristol’s Stag & Hound venue and a feeble response from the offending band member. “If you’re a woman to whom this happens all the time it’s horrible. To him as a man, it’s nothing. People don’t seem to realise when particular behaviour is sexist”. Thankfully this has only made the group stronger and pushes them to fight for the right to have women play a leading role in music. As it should be. Blackthorn Festival 2018 sets pulses raising and introduced fans to new discoveries with their musician-led, community-spirited event which only has room to grow.

Ahead of Blackthorn Festival 2018, we did a round up of what to look out for. Check out how the real-deal compared to our predictions!