Well here it is after too long an absence for which I apologize, preparation for Solfest took more of my time than I’d expected (of which I should have been aware, Solfest always takes more time than I allow for) and post festival. Well one tends to get knackered during the weekend and there is always period of brain death were I just don’t want to do a thing.

But getting grips with myself and putting onto the net edition 6 of the wireless show has done me a power of good and it gives me great delight to present it.

Here as always you’ll find the links to the featured acts websites and some musings on the festival itself. At the end too I’ll tell you all about “THE DRYSTYAN TOUCH” which is my version of “The X-Factor”

I’ll put on record here before I do anything else a huge thank you to everyone who worked on The Drystone Stage this year.


Dean Pendleton

Dan Pearson,

Charlie Cragg,

Adrian Hull

Oliver Suckling

Andrea Tynan

Sharon O’Connor

Alec Morris

Cat Hirst

Chloe Thwaites

Mick Fuller

Peter Milston

Gavin Bradshaw

Mark Twiss

Sean Kerr

and my brilliant team of PA’s who made my job so much easier on the weekend.

Hannah Rogers

Kat Askew

Sky Higgins

Vikki McMullen

Sunny Dermott

Elton Ritchie

Dylan Reay Bennet

and to Jon Purkins who organized the team of artists who made the stage look so wonderful, better than it has ever looked before.

Last but in no way least of course the absolute light of my life Karen Butler, fellow Solfest Organizer and superstar. (Don’t put it about too much, but she’s going to make an honest man of me before the next Solfest!)

So to the podcast.

Opening as usual with a musical gewgaw from me before opening properly with



I’d said in the program that these guys were my “punt of the weekend” and I wasn’t lying. The crowd in front of the Drystone seemed to agree with me too. It was packed, everyone of which
bouncing along to the most original band ever to grace the stage. The followed this storming set with a further impromptu gig in the Alhambra marquee. Our new splendid red and black Berber tent that was the home of the spoken word, comedy and Music Hall for the weekend.
Who needs Gogol Bordello when you have Diddley Squat.

I wasn’t going to make an issue about the use of the tent as a music venue as it is owned by one of the members of Diddley Squat, Jonah Maurice.

Jonah has been a regular at Solfest for four years now with “My Giddy Aunts Theater Company” performing as the BFG a stilt character who is now a fixture at the festival last year he introduced the L.A.D. (Long Armed Depressive) one of the funniest walkabout characters I’ve ever seen. Now with the addition of Diddley Squat in his repertoire I can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to Solfest next year.

It was Jonah who gave me one of the best Solfest moments too as we were setting up on the Wednesday, I was enjoying a sit down and brew on the Drystone reveling in the fact that my stage had power and sound running before anyone else. The speakers blasting out a selection of tracks which made the whole atmosphere in the Drystone Arena palpably good and abuzz with anticipation of a great event when at the very moment Freddie Mercury sang out “I Want To Break Free” I saw Jonah and his two brothers arrive on three Horse drawn carts across the skyline in front of the stone circle. Incidentally from the same vantage point on the Saturday night across the darkened field I saw the magical LED cyclists ride in the opposite direction. A potent dreamlike image straight out of a Peter Greenaway film.


Staying with the Eastern European flavour (which is definitely the new music of the age) we have MAGIC VIOLIN by MINNIE MOOSIKA


Klezmer, as I’ve said before it’s the white mans reggae (a term possibly coined by my good friend and Solfest Chairman Simon Kay, then again he maybe heard it elsewhere) the music of the diaspora. The track here MAGIC VIOLIN, I particularly like. As a sidebar here Gavin Tolan (a very tall man) the bands mandola player also constructs wonderful mechanical puppet shows, you can see one in action on the bands website.

Next track.



From the title you will appreciate there is strong language on this track so I repeat here what I have said on the podcast. If you are offended by such language, skip the track. It’s not gratuitous though. Christian Reay the eponymous terrorist writes songs that combine the anger and anarchy of punk with considered lyricism and a deft hand at catchy melodies that can catch you off guard. We all know men such as the one he sings about here along with his friend Daniel (and shamefully I can’t find my notes that has his surname on). They turned up at one of my open mic night at The Spinners Arms and I’d really finished booking acts for The Drystone. But the response from the crowd was a loud BOOK THEM so I had no choice really, the blew us all away and it was a pleasure to give them the opportunity to perform. It’s good that there are still people unafraid to write really uncompromising and challenging material, more power to them and more of Daniel later in this blog.



Christi took to the stage on Saturday night and owned it. A powerhouse performer that gave a breathtakingly good set. I’ve banged on a lot about how this years line up on the Drystone was my strongest yet and Christi was one of the best of the weekend. A native of New York state she plays a wonderful fusion of Appalachian style fiddling with the English and Celtic traditions.

This track (recorded at The Sage, Gateshead) exemplifies her tour de force playing. She should have been at last years Solfest but as sometimes happens communication went astray and it didn’t happen. Needless to say I was more than happy to set matters to right this year and without a shadow of a doubt she will be seen on the Drystone again at some point in the future.



I can’t believe it was May that I last had a track by Chris up here. One of the regulars at The Spinners and well known on the Folk and Blues scene Chris followed Christi on the Saturday night wearing possibly the funniest fancy dress of the festival that was also elegant in its simplicity. A white paper “boiler suit” (or was it a very large Babygro) and an orange cardboard carrot nose he came as a snowman. It was a surreal image on stage for sure as he began to sing in his distinctive style.


A live track here from the open mic sessions at the Spinners Arms with my very good friends Jude and Dave Proud again they are also Solfest organizers.

Back to the music, Jude has got to be Thea Gilmores biggest fan (and didn’t she do a beautiful set at Solfest a couple of years back) so she entranced us at the Spinners with some gorgeous versions of some of Thea s songs. Jude has a fantastic voice which I think we have under rated and undervalued for too long. Dave has often been in the limelight having been a leading member of local band DELIVO (featured on podcast number 2, which will have been taken off line by the time you read this, if you really want a copy email me and I’ll sort something out for you) and a regular singer at the open mics. Another one of Judes songs will being going up on


very soon, enjoy.

Jude is to be a mum is another couple of months or so and Dave has just turned 30.

Now there is a lot of talk right now about 70 being the new 50 (so that makes my 54 the new 34, yay! I’ve almost got my zits back and the full flower of youth AND that also means my fiancée is a cracking stunner at (the new) 23!!!) therefore Dave having turned a real thirty means he’s at the new 10!…

…That explains a lot too.



As I said earlier more from Daniel here on his own without The Casual Terrorist and showing a nice touch on the pianoforte too. Daniels work is as full of venom as the Terrorists is though the track here is one of his milder songs. But the thing with Daniel is to follow his career over the years for his voice as it matures and acquires experience will be a good thing to hear.



Louise has been on The Drystone two years running now and both times has been soooo good, you could (and one day if god is in his heaven it will happen) put her on stage alongside Duffy, Roisin Murphy, Annie Lennox, Amy (the carphone) Winehouse or just about any sublime lady vocalist and she would be able to stand there and hold her head up as one of THE BEST. If you are reading this before November the 8th and are anywhere near Kendal she is supporting Cara Dillon (another brilliant lady singer who gave a storming set on mainstage three years back) and it would be well worth you while to spend a pound or two for that show. Her song the scintillatingly good “Greensweets” was on podcast number 2 but you can still hear it on her myspace.

Also if you remember a rather good close up musician around the festival, that was Jay who plays guitar in her band.



Billy was one of those brave pioneers who took to the Drystone in its first year, when it was just a few pieces of wood, canvas and a trailer. Oh how things have changed. A maestro of the guitar and writer of compelling music. High time he got to be heard bit more.


I can’t find any web presence for Dos Bauls but that could be due to the fact that half of the Bauls is Dan Fox who is one of the busiest men in the county. Percussionist in Sonic Tradition (Who of course are part of Solfest and The Drystones history having performed on both the Drystone and mainstage and the aforementioned Louise Mary Martin is now their lead singer replacing Ali Wood now of Tongue Tide) Dan is also the man behind SOLFEST FM whose website should be regularly checked for they will soon have recordings of live sets from many of the Drystones acts online.



What can I say, this has to be the definitive version of Venus in Furs played by the Drystone Stages house band, Wal, Paddy and James. Who have established themselves as our ceilidh band (Wal also being part of Sonic Tradition and at one time a member of Dragonsfly who I’ve had on earlier podcasts and were on The Drystone on Sunday night)


It was only a matter of time until I put this up on here and it’s still one of the things I’m most proud of thanks to Tom Kay tuneage. It was made with E jay a few years ago now but none the worse for that. It’s the sound of a Cumbrian summer in the twenty first century and I’ll thump anyone that disagrees with me.



See above, it’s the Squats once more




What is it? It’s a new talent competition to find the brightest and best new Cumbrian singer songwriters and give them a world stage platform on The Drystone Stage at Solfest. Cumbria is the best place on Earth to live. That’s a given, a fact. But the cost of living here is that if you have any artistic leanings whatsoever it is that little bit harder to get your name known. To be heard and seen.

Solfest has established itself as a world class festival, we get an audience from everywhere. Australia, all parts of Europe and Canada and the USA. The Drystone Stage has also established itself as a very special stage, to quote Rob Armstrong of “TARRAS” the Mercury Award nominated band who chose to have their re union gig on the Drystone.

“”The Drystone Stage is the cool place every cool band wants to play

Well Solfest 2009 will see three brand new acts get a prime time evening slot on the Drystone and the process begins at my Open Mics at The Spinners Arms, Cummersdale, Carlisle. on the FIRST Saturday inevery month And The Last Man Inn at Plumbland near Aspatria on the THIRD Saturday in every month. Both sessions start at 8pm.

To be in with a chance the contenders must be resident in Cumbria or if they are a student at a College out of the county their parents must reside in the county. There is no age limit, but entrants must write and perform their own material. No backing tracks allowed, if you want to be a “Pop” singer there is nothing wrong in that and that’s what the X Factor and Carlisles Stobbart factor are for.

If you come along to one of the open mics, say you want to try for the Drystone Touch and that’s it. You’ll get to perform two or three songs on the night (and come back as many times as you want) assessing and judging it all (in these preliminary sessions) will be myself, Karen and the very discerning audience at each session. In around May or June there will be a “final” in a well known local concert venue and that’s when the three winners will be decided. I’m also working on some other extra prizes to go with the paid slot on the Drystone but they are under wraps until I’ve got them sorted out. At the very least you’ll get a free drink for performing at the sessions, which at the Spinners means a free pints of REAL ALE and they’ve just made it into the prestigious GOOD BEER GUIDE so you know it’s quality stuff! The Last Man also provides free food later in the evening for everybody performers and punters alike.

And that is it. The LONGEST blog in a while. Until the next one, bye.

The Wizards Pot

An archive of the life and rantings of The Wizardmarra. www.wizardmarra.com The Best Storyteller In The World.


About Alan Whittaker

A storyteller like no other. Weaving traditional storytelling with madcap posing and stand up comedy riffing. Taking the listener from here to there and back again at break neck speed; with panache and a fine sense of the ridiculous.For more information about Alan, read his biography.

Comments are closed.