The Mucky Weekender music festival returns - with Dub Pistols, Bez and ex-Prodigy man Leeroy Thornhill

We’re sitting in a field Barry Ashworth knows well.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 5:05 pm
Launch for the Mucky Weekender Festival (September 10-11, 2021) at Vicarage Farm nr Winchester, with founder Barry Ashworth of Dub Pistols, Leeroy Thornhill (ex-The Prodigy) and Bez. Picture by Paul Windsor

As frontman of Dub Pistols, his band played the Blissfields festival here numerous times.

But with Blissfields currently on hiatus, Barry has moved his own festival, the Mucky Weekender, to the same site, just north of Winchester.

The festival is named after one of Dub Pistols’ biggest and best selling singles, Mucky Weekend.

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The band decided to create and host their own festival in 2019, using it as a way to connect with their fans, The Pistolero family, and showcase both established and new musical artists over the two days.

Speaking at the festival’s launch, Barry says: ‘I think I played every year at Blissfields, so I was well aware of the site and the location.

‘The site we had in Sussex was incredible, but we needed to go grow, and Mel and Paul (Bliss) kindly let us come and use this location.

‘It's somewhere I've always loved, and to be sitting here on such a beautiful day like this, knowing full well that this is now Mucky Weekender's home is incredible – it's something I've over the moon about.’

Leeroy Thornhil on the decks at the launch for the Mucky Weekender Festival. Picture by Paul Windsor

The Weekender only ran for one year at its original site. It was pencilled in for 2020, but the pandemic put paid to that.

‘The plan was never to move it,’ adds Barry. ‘We were going to stay there but due to circumstances beyond our control we had to move and luckily this site became available.

‘I absolutely jumped at the chance to move here – it's probably the place I've played more than anywhere else.’

Describing the event’s ethos, he says: ‘Everyone’s a star at Mucky Weekender.

‘I’m a strong believer that the crowd are just as important as the performers.

‘Everyone has a smile on their face and is full of love. It’s the kind of festival you could go to alone and leave with 1,000 new friends.

‘We are really excited to host this event and can’t wait to put a smile back on peoples’ faces.’

World class DJs and live performers have been carefully curated to maximise the party vibe, with some of the best music, past, present and future. Stages will feature Happy Mondays icon and indie national treasure Bez, bringing his ‘Bez’s Acid House Party’, Tom Findlay, one half of the chart topping electronic music duo Groove Armada, Terry Farley, The Prodigy’s Leeroy Thornhill, Krafty Kuts, The Clash/BAD’s Don Letts, First Lady of dance music Lisa Loud and leading Balearic DJ Nancy Noise, plus many more.

The main stage has live performances from festival hosts Dub Pistols, the nine-piece Gentlemen’s Dub Club performing their new album, electronic music group Freestylers and festival favourites The Cuban Brothers as well as hotly tipped newcomer Lula Franks, amongst others.

The new site is set in 28 acres of private parkland and stunning countryside – which the organisers are keen to preserve.

Barry says: ‘Our ethos is very much one of “leave no trace”, and judging by our first year it’s an ethos the crowd fully embrace too.

‘Our last site was left cleaner on departure than when we entered it.’

This philosophy has continued when considering how to keep the site Covid-safe, without compromising the relaxed and free spirited atmosphere of the festival. The organisers have taken the decision to limit the festival to 3,000 – 60 per cent of its potential capacity – in order to help revellers maintain social distancing.

In addition, other precautions have been taken, including walk through scanners to avoid physical contact on entry.

Great care has been taken to install top quality facilities, including five-star food outlets and posh showers and loos, which will be cleaned regularly by a dedicated team operating onsite throughout the festival.

The big top will be open-sided to make free movement and social distancing easier, and the bar will operate a one-way system designed for safeguarding.

Whilst soaking up the atmosphere Mucky Weekenders will also be treated to an array of street performers, including magic, comedy and an extra special art installation nestled in the woods called ‘The Shack’, created especially for the festival by Arlen Figgis, son of renowned British director Mike Figgis.

And Mucky Weekender will, once again, be supporting the Portsmouth-based charity Tonic Music For Mental Health.

Ashworth is a patron of the charity which is designed to raise mental health awareness, challenge stigma and promote mental wellbeing through music and the arts. Its new initiative is The Tonic Rider, an innovative programme promoting good mental health in the music industry

‘Tonic's a local charity, and something I’m very proud to be part of,’ says Barry. ‘It's been one of the hardest times for musicians over the last year-and-a-half.

‘The Tonic Rider campaign is more important than ever, so to bring them and have them as our chosen charity was a no-brainer.’

When buying a ticket to Mucky Weekender there is an option to contribute to this well-deserved organisation. Find out more at tonicmusic.co.uk.

Mucky Weekender takes place on Friday and Saturday, September 10-11, at Vicarage Farm near Winchester.

Tickets are £120 (parking is an extra £10) and it is open to those 18 and over, or 16-plus when accompanied by an adult.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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