A bit of rain and mud is all part of the fun at festival

Rain doused the Wickham Festival's opening day PICTURE: BOB AYLOTT
Rain doused the Wickham Festival's opening day PICTURE: BOB AYLOTT
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RAIN and a bit of mud couldn’t stop festival-goers from enjoying the music on the first day of the Wickham Festival.

Record numbers of people are expected to descend on the festival site over the weekend, with close to 5,000 revellers partying away last night to Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.

With scenes reminiscent of those at Glastonbury, the crowds embraced the worst the British summer could throw at them.

Other musical highlights will include Rolf Harris, folk stars Richard Thompson and Bellowhead as well as ex-punk Toyah and former Fairground Attraction singer Eddi Reader.

The Treacherous Orchestra, who bill themselves as a 13-piece acousto-thrash celtic supergroup, will close the annual event, held on the edge of the village near Fareham, on Sunday night.

Organiser Peter Chegwyn said: ‘The atmosphere has been great. Everyone just enters into the spirit of it all.

‘We had our first camper arrive when we putting in the final preparations at 5am. It was a chap from the Isle of Wight who’d just come over on the ferry.

‘The first thing Jools Holland asked was if they were playing outside, but I could reassure him it’s all undercover in the big top.

‘It’s days like this that I’m glad we have the huge circus tent.’

Four years ago organisers were caught out by a sudden downpour on the festival’s opening day that turned the site into a quagmire.

They decided to close the parking and camping fields as people were still arriving, resulting in chaos as people tried to park and camp on surrounding roads and fields.

But Mr Chegwyn vowed there would be no repeat of that this year.

‘We’ve been much better prepared this time – we learnt from the problems in 2007,’ he said.

‘Where the ground was bone dry the day before all the water was just running over it, but we’ve put lots of roadways down and it should be alright.

‘The forecast is getting better over the weekend, so if we had to have the rain, this was the best time. I think we’re going to have a great weekend – a typical British summer isn’t going to beat us and it certainly won’t stop the show.

‘There are still some tickets available, but we’ve already sold £100,000 of tickets more than last year, so we’re expecting a good crowd.’