REVIEW: Wintertide Festival

The Wintertide lantern parade passes through the grounds of St. Hilda's Church
The Wintertide lantern parade passes through the grounds of St. Hilda's Church

From top class national music acts through it’s very own film festival to an amazing firework grand finale, the inaugural Wintertide Festival proved to be a resounding success.

Making great use of the Headland’s cosy pubs and the historic St Hilda’s Church – which was breathtakingly illuminated – the festival offered a fantastic cornucopia of music, art and entertainment.

Friday evening started with a lantern parade with Headland schoolchildren down to the turning on the Christmas tree lights in the Town Square under the dramatic backdrop of St Hilda’s Church.

The evening offered a songwriter’s circle in the Fisherman’s Arms and fantastic close-knit harmonies from all-girl group The JADes in Mary Rowntrees.

Upstairs in the wonderfully refurbished Duke of Cleveland featured a truly, brilliant set from singer-songwriter Martin Stephenson.

The Co Durham troubadour deconstructs the live show between performer and audience with his insightful banter, but still delivers fantastic songs like Collen, Wholly Humble Heart and the excellent, closing Orange Is The Colour of Joy. A staggering performance.

Saturday featured the Film Festival in the Borough Hall’s Croft Room - curated by local film maker Max Bianco - featuring some fascinating. weird and wonderful short films, including Richard, about a homeless piano tuner, Ekki Mukk, about a man and a snail finding their way home, beautifully sound tracked by Sigo Ros, and, best of the bunch, Terminal Bar, a hip, photo-driven documentary of one of the seediest bars in Times Square in New York City, as seen through haunting black and white photographs taken by bartender Sheldon Nadelman.

Music wise, the Duke of Cleveland offered Ramble Gamble, a six-piece raggle-taggle collective with banjo-fuelled harmonies, and the return of the prodigal son, former Standards frontman Neil Winspear and his duo with pianist Stu William. The Hartlepool lad is in as good a voice as ever and, with his excellent new song, This Is A Hold Up, shows he is still the master of a memorable melody.

Hot footing it over to the Cosmopolitan we catch bespectacled, Teesside troubadour Chas Thomas, with his wry observations on love and life, especially ace song Zoe before catching Pool’s finest young band, Lost State of Dance, frugging away with their synth rock on the outdoor stage and the aptly-named song Dancefloor.

The Fisherman’s Arms hosted the thoughtful musings of Madison’s Thread, before a fantastic trio of acts, the inventive harmonies of 3 At Sea, the hoe-down swing of The Buffalo Skinners and the dexterous guitar-pickin’ of Blair Dunlop rounded off the day at the Duke.

Highlight of the weekend was Teesside siblings Cattle & Cane in the wondrous venue of St Hilda’s Church.

The venue provided the perfect setting for the hushed, reverential tones of the Hammill family band’s poignant melodies and gorgeous harmonies. A truly special event.

On Sunday, The Fisherman’s Arms featured the soulful vocals of James Robson & The Lovely Burn, local singer-songwriter Lee Etherington, four-piece folky-blues band Peg Powler and gorgeous singer-songwriter Elaine Palmer.

Rescheduled from the outdoor stage to a very busy The Duke, the redoubtable Jay Harrison and his band The Little Details, performed an excellent crowd-pleasing mix of classic mod songs.

After the firework display The Cosmopolitan hosted Peterlee’s finest Mick Arnell and his band The Kets, while the acoustic Rn B stylings of Pek & Wanley brought the weekend to a close.

All in all, a fantastic event for the Headland and the town and a much credit to programmer brian Barnes for putting it all together - roll on next year.