Festivals For All were lucky enough to attend the inaugural Nuts In May festival near Workington over the Bank Holiday weekend 4th – 6th May 2012. Here’s what we thought….

Talk about hitting the ground running – Nuts In May managed a magnificent debut. Normally, inaugural events can be a bit, er, flaky around the edges, but Nuts In May managed to stage an absolutely splendid weekend where even Festivals For All’s critical eye could not find fault. The organisers have form of course, having been part of the good folk behind the regions other flagship event, Solfest, for many a year.

Let’s start with the basics; the location is both scenic and easily reached (one long road through the beautiful Lakes from the M6), with the site itself surrounded by a wind farm to provide a dramatic backdrop. The organisers have put a lot of effort into the design of the festival site with permanent walkways and fencing, and maximised some excellent natural amphitheatres for the various stages. Great effort was put into the pretty landscaping and the art works and installations littering the site. Looks like they are planning to be around for the long term (oh aren’t we lucky people!).

Quality and Value were the hallmarks of this festival. A price point of only £34 with camping, and food and drink at Northern prices, coupled with the absolutely first class facilities, made this a festival to remember for all the right reasons. The dedicated kid’s area certainly kept all the family entertained. Talking of ‘basics’, FFA don’t normally concentrate on toilets; in 2012, it should be taken as read that the ‘facilities’ fit the bill. Sadly, this is not always the case irrespective of the size of the event. This reviewer can’t honestly think of an event with cleaner and more plentiful facilities than Nuts In May … believe me this is praise indeed.

The site boasted six atmospheric venues, including a large bar marquee and picturesque Glade stage hidden in the woods, and this is certainly an event for Muso’s with the Open Mic stage doing good business, whilst the famous Weirdigans Café tent hosted some great late night impromptu sessions around the wood burner.

Top it all off with some fine weather, (I type this ruddy faced – Mrs FFA however blames the fine Mitchell Krause real ales at £3 a pint… but I do not concur), and it really was a great scene – particularly at night with the effective fairy lighting throughout the site, and laser projections of skating penguins could be seen across the bar tent (…but that could have just been my view of course). Bloody cold at night mind – but it was early May. You can’t have everything!

What of the music you ask; Well, the festival provided a great mix of headliners and local bands. Once again I continue to be stunned by the wealth of talent out there from artists of all levels and genres; there were some excellent performances from bands I had simply not heard of before the event. This is also the sign of first class programming of course, and the organisers did themselves immense credit by putting on a line-up of this calibre for the measly ticket prices charged.

Highlights from Friday included main stage act Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash turning in yet another classic set of Prog Rock, with the ubiquitous Blown’ Free bringing the house down. Earlier The Baghdaddies had the crowd dancing as the temperature dropped with their usual jiggery-pokery. The Magic Tombolinos midnight set produced a major highlight, with the lead singer playing bare-chested throughout a great goodtime music set. Brave Brave man as the mercury plummeted.

Personal preference of course, but my act of the day was surely Mad Dog Mcrea with a first class set of Celtic influenced mayhem over on the Bar stage. They had the place bouncing.

Friday was rounded off by a late night set by Danny Mahon in the Glade. Marvellous stuff. Manc posturing and swagger counterpointed by razor sharp social commentary…. And, as is often the case with so many well aimed hits on target, bloody funny too. Check this guy out. We staggered home happy bunnies.

Saturday’s highlights included local hero’s Pikey Beatz on the main stage really pulling out all the stops with a fine blend of everything from Ska to Vaudeville. No wonder this was filmed for their latest video. Goodtime music at its finest.  Nic Kershaw simply enthralled a packed crowd over at the bar stage. It’s sometimes easy to forget just what excellent singer-song writers guys like Kershaw are. Rather like Steve Harley, Kershaw is astute enough to maximise the effect by surrounding himself with some fine musicians. Tight and punchy, but always letting Mr Kershaw’s atmospheric voice take centre stage. Very very good. Some great Lizzy flavoured rock and guitar hero classics, including all the necessary rock god posturing, from Five & Dangerous finished a throbbing night in the bar.

Again, personal preference, but probably the set of the weekend was reserved for the mighty Tarantism with their midnight set on the main stage. Not really on this reviewer’s radar prior to the festival, we were simply blown away by their live set. Everything from dance, to folk-rock, and punk to reggae peppered an almost psychedelic mix. We danced the night away. They have a number of festival appearances coming up shortly and I’d heartedly recommend you check them out.

Lazy, hazy, sunny Sunday saw the ideal Sunday afternoon band The Lost Padres whip the crowd into a dancing frenzy whilst Emmas Imagination illustrated why she had such a strong following at the festival. Almost effortless class delivering some beautifully fragile songs to an enraptured audience. Over in the bar – well what can I say – Federation Of The Disco Pimp laid down some of the finest Jazz Funk I’ve ever heard. A really class act; top musicians and entertaining to watch. What festivals are all about.

The excellent Ahab closed the show on the main stage. Quality shows through. The almost intimate atmosphere they managed to evoke in a field in Cumbria simply illustrates why these guys are winning awards by the armful. Lovely, charming songs of love and loss, coupled with a few stompers, provided a fine end to main stage activities.

We ended the night with the late night set over at the Glade. Blimey – Ska Ya Man. Absolutely brilliant reggae and ska delivered with so much youthful energy that the vibe made your hair stand on end. Perhaps a little raw around the edges now, but these guys are ones to watch as they mature. Chatting afterwards they told me that the average age is n-n-nineteen. Listen to them and they could be old stompers from Kingston. “Frightening talent in ones so young” as my old gran used to say.

So there you have it. The inaugural Nuts In May. We predict that in a few years’ time everyone will be claiming they were there at the start. For the lucky few who were – we already know why.

Article by Barrie Dimond