Riverside Free fun for all the family down by the river

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FREE family-friendly music festival in an idyllic riverside setting in the Cotswolds, with more than 40 acts playing across three stages, rock, indie, jazz, and folk on the main two stages and all sorts on the Riverside Fringe stage!

Riverside is one of the most popular events in the Oxfordshire music calendar. What began life 20 years ago as a jazz picnic for friends, now boasts more than 40 acts playing everything from folk music to blues, rock, ska and hip hop, attracting thousands of music lovers of all ages, and yet Riverside is still the friendliest, most relaxed music festival in Oxfordshire and, astonishingly, is still completely FREE to enter.

Game of Gnomes!

Riverside is very much a family event, children can join in free music workshops with Salt Box Music, go on nature adventures with Little Wild Things, and try their hand at a range of creative crafts and activities. This year’s Riverside Festival will be welcoming mystical woodland folk, so if you have ever wanted to dress as an elf or fairy, a dryad, nymph, a goblin, troll or gnome, a wicked witch or kindly wizard, now’s your chance!

The Music

Riverside is always an enticing blend of old friends and new acquaintances. On Saturday get your ska skanking with the 2Tone All Ska’s performing on the main stage then turn it up with the fantastic Zurich. Topping off the evening is the sparkly-spangly pop of Alphabet Backwards, with alt-country band The DreamingSpires taking the headlining slot.

Sunday opens with Cornwall’s Tailor Made Truth. Oxford favourite, blues rock artist, Mad Larry Band is also on the bill, along with fabulous swamp rockers, the Mighty Redox, then the ascending Balloon Ascents before the main stage closes with some up-tempo indie rock from Leader.

Second stage line-up

Riverside is famed for showcasing Oxfordshire’s music talent and has again invited thriving independent record shops Rapture (in Witney) and Truck Store (in Oxford) to run the second stage. They’ve pulled together a great line-up this year from Oxfordshire and beyond. There's a strong roots and Americana flavour running through the bill with Loud Mountains, Great Western Tears (featuring members of Swindlestock) and The August List, joined by acclaimed Nashville-based song-writer Don Gallardo, and rousing folk troubadour Franc Cinelli and his band all topped off with a headline set on Sunday from the ever-popular Knights Of Mentis. The organisers are particularly excited to have Oxford's swashbuckling party-starters Peerless Pirates and country-psych rockers Kid Calico & The Astral Ponies and they say not to miss local musician collective Bear On A Bicycle who open the show on Sunday.

Riverside Fringe

Riverside gets so many requests from performers who want to appear at the festival that four years ago it set up a Fringe stage where anyone can apply to take a turn. This intimate stage with its sit-down audience is ideal for solo singers, small groups and acoustic acts. Saturday afternoon opens with octogenarian Gwyn Osborne singing popular tunes from his youth and sees the return of harpist Mark Harmer. Don’t miss the performing poets collective The Four Wordsmen of the Apostrophe on Sunday afternoon and if you fancy a good bop there’s a double session from DJ Jude to round-off Saturday evening.

Whistle whetters

The wizards at Witney’s Wychwood Brewery are creating another delicious real ale for this year’s festival, but it needs a name. This year the Riverside Festival judging panel based in the Riverside office (known locally as the Rose and Crown) is looking for a name to fit in with the woodland folk theme and, appropriately, whoever comes up with the winning name gets a year’s supply (365 bottles) of the delectable Hobgoblin beer. This year’s Riverside beer is amber with a malty well hopped bitterness and a bitter-sweet fruity finish. The competition (open to anyone over 18 years-old) closes at midnight on Saturday 4 July. Email your suggestion to beer@riversidefestival.charlbury.com.

In addition to the usual Riverside bar, the popular Pimm’s and Tins tent returns along with the Riverside Gin and Tonic lounge; Junior festival goers can get tasty thirst-quenchers from the Punch and Juicy Bar whilst their parents enjoy a really good cuppa at the Pre-School Tea and Cakes tent. There is also a wide assortment of stalls selling traditional festival fodder from burgers and pizzas to curries, noodles and a hog roast.

The Riverside community

Riverside Festival would not exist, and certainly would not be free, without the huge band of local volunteers who make it happen. Charlbury Primary School and the Beer Festival help out with equipment, Charlbury’s Pre-school provides teas, and the local recycling group ensures that 99% of Riverside’s waste doesn't go to landfill. Earlier this year West Oxfordshire District Council gave Riverside Festival an Inclusive Award in recognition of its work to ensure the Festival is open and welcoming to people of all abilities whether they be volunteers helping out at the Festival, performers or, most importantly, the audience. If you would like to be part of the Riverside Festival team email volunteer@riversidefestival.charlbury.com and you could be in with a chance to win a ticket to the Cornbury Music Festival (at Great Tew Park 10-12 July) and a backstage pass to The Riverside Stage over that weekend.

Published on 16 June 2015 by Ben Robinson

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