Festival Review: Hardwick Live 2019

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Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield, County Durham opened it’s doors once again for the sixth year of Hardwick Live, a weekend camping festival across five stages last weekend. Set amongst beautiful views and deep in the countryside surrounded by lakes where campers pitched their tents, there’s something for everyone at Hardwick, which makes it one of my favourite festivals of the summer season. Comedy, entertainment, a huge array of food and drinks stalls, children’s street entertainers and a mini funfair as well as a huge array of music for the whole family to enjoy. The festival brought in the crowds of thousands who were able to not only watch global stars but also local talent and upcoming artists from around the UK.

The headliners across both days brought an 80-90’s rock vibe, but the strong lineup was compiled of soul, rock, indie, pop and country - as well as a brand new disco stage for 2019 hosted by both Glitterbox and RETRO. The festival has gotten bigger and better each year and you can tell that the organisers work really hard to make it inclusive for all to attend - as they state on their website - ‘Hardwick Live is where you will stand alongside superstars, urbanites, farmers, fashionistas and families. Entertainment for a friendly crowd from all walks of life’ and they couldn’t sum it up any better. 

Saturday saw Welsh legends Manic Street Preachers headlining the main stage - and they still know how to put on an incredible show. Rock band James took the headline slot on Sunday, returning to Hardwick Hall after also headlining in 2015.

Their was so many artists I was unable to see them all but amongst the talent worth a mention was Charlatans main man Tim Burgess, Newcastle’s ones to watch Baltic and Rivet City, something a bit different in the form of Hyde Park Brass and The Lancashire Hot Pots, Disco DJ Legends Horse Meat Disco, Joey Negro, Jeremy Healy and Paul Taylor, and up and coming talent such as Bloxx, Plaza and LLovers.

One of the first bands to start proceedings on the main stage was The Sherlocks, an alt-rock band from South Yorkshire who praised the festival for being one of the first to give them a chance back in 2014. They entertained the people who got down early to enjoy a full afternoon of music with original music - ‘Will You Be There?’, ‘ Escapade’ and ‘Blue’ as well as some of their newest releases ‘NYC (Sing It Loud)’ and ‘Magic Man’. They closed with anthem and probably their most known song ‘Chasing Shadows’. 

One of the definite highlights of the full weekend was Sister Sledge Live - featuring Cathy Sledge and her spectacular show of dancers, back up singers and full band. They clearly made an impression as you could hear them being mentioned several times by festival goers all weekend. Kicking off their set with the greatest hits ‘Lost in Music’ and ‘Everybody Dance’ getting everyone into the dancing mood. ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ was a whole show within itself - as they invited lucky fans on the stage for a dance off, and of course no Sister Sledge show would be complete without ending with ‘We Are Family’. 

Sports Team have made quite a name for themselves on the festival circuit this year and were the perfect addition to the Discovery Stage at Hardwick this year bringing something different to the norm. Their setlist included ‘Margate’, ‘M5’ and ‘Here It Comes Again’. The Joy Formidable played on the same stage - a alt-rock band from Wales. Ritzy Bryan is an incredible front woman who enticed the crowds in to watch their set. 

Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers played the main stage this year - accompanied by their large backdrop of flame print and matching orange amps - they made quite the impression and I’m sure they will be a firm favourite to return to the festival again. The Zutons proved once again how incredible their live set is as they played just before Manic Street Preachers. It was almost like the crowd were getting two headline acts - ‘Zuton Fever’, ‘You Will You Won’t’ and of course ‘Valerie’ were amongst the setlist. 

Country music singer / songwriter Catherine McGrath closed the Discovery Stage with her sing along tunes on Saturday night. Accompanied by her band she showcased her debut album ‘Talk Of The Town’ to the North East crowds. 

Manic Street Preachers came to the stage just after 9pm and delivered an 18 song set to close day one of the festival and boy they did deliver. A perfect showcase of what a live show should be, rekindling the magic of days and anthems gone by with the added brilliance of new material. The balance of old and new was really something special to the delight of the crowd who didn’t want the set to end. ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, ‘You Stole the Sun from My Heart’ and ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ were amongst the setlist as well as a cover of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. 

Back again on Sunday to see a totally different lineup across the stages - musically just as diverse as the day before. 

Derry based electro-pop multi instrumentalist Roe played the Discovery Stage to the increasing crowds and has made quite a name for herself over the last couple of years. To say you’ve played Glastonbury and supported massive artists such as Snow Patrol at age 19 is quite something and she showed us exactly how she’s managed this with her one woman set of original music - a set that could have easily entertained the crowds at the main stage and definitely one to watch. 

Featuring on the main stage was Billy Bragg - who was introduced to the crowds as ‘Mr Sexuality Himself’. Ever political and personal, his heartfelt lyrics were sang back to him by people who came down early to watch. He was a surprise to see on this lineup - but actually fit in quite well.  

Only The Poets played on The Discovery Stage and are definitely ones to watch. Their stand out and performance and likeability drew in the crowds who couldn’t help but try to sing along to their catchy summer tunes - even if they didn’t know them!

Back to the main stage with Lisa Stansfield. Her voice is on another level - powerful, melodic and soulful showcased perfectly with a full live band. She is a must to see live - very impressive and very at home on the stage. I have been lucky enough to attend many festivals this summer and found that males have seemed to dominate the lineups. It was so a lovely and inspiring thing to see so many women across the stages of Hardwick Live - I hope next year is the same and other festivals can also follow in their footsteps. 

Legend of stage and screen Craig Charles closed the Discovery Stage with one big party. Famous for his Funk & Soul Radio show and decoratively dressed he provided exactly what festival goers needed to get warmed up for the end of the festival and the headline act on the main stage. His energy levels never swayed and the audience, young and old absolutely loved his 90 minute set. 

And so it was time for James, an iconic indie rock band were the artists who had the pleasure of closing Hardwick Live 2019. A setlist, again incorporating old and new, a class act who delivered a great performance. Never scared to change things up, Tim Booth is the ever professional charismatic frontman starting his set with ‘Johnny Yen’ and climbing down to join the crowd for ‘Leviathan’. 

‘Sit Down’ was the tune that everyone had been waiting for, and as they ended their set I got the feeling that James, however legendary, are a band stronger than ever. 

As the festival closed, I only had one thought - I cannot wait to see what Hardwick Live crew bring to this picturesque setting in 2020. As other towns and cities up and down the UK host their own festivals year in year out - Hardwick Live is putting the North East on the map - some would say ‘The Glastonbury of The North’. 

Words and Photography by Lauren Stewart

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