Home   Sheerness   News   Article

Festivals ditched but live music returns to the Isle of Sheppey

This would have been a bumper summer for festivals in Swale but the coronavirus lockdown has put paid to most.

We have already missed what would have been Sheppey's two-day tribute act festival Isle Fest and the always popular Woodfest at the Woodcoombe Sports and Social Club at Murston, near Sittingbourne.

Sheppey singer Mike 'Mr Smooth' Harris
Sheppey singer Mike 'Mr Smooth' Harris

Yesterday (Saturday)would have been Iwade Rocks.

But after months of locked-down pubs and clubs, live music has returned, albeit with additional restrictions.

Minster Working Men’s Club in Union Road was one of the first to welcome back its regular entertainers with the return of Mike ‘Mr Smooth’ Harris this afternoon (Sunday)from 2.30pm.

The main difference was that he was outside on the club’s patio and tables and chairs were socially distanced.

Club steward Ray Seager said: “When I heard the Government was allowing live music outside I checked with PRS (Performing Rights Society) to ensure we were covered. Swale council also said we can do this with our existing entertainments licence.

The verandah at Minster Working Men's Club, Sheppey
The verandah at Minster Working Men's Club, Sheppey

“We normally have entertainers every Sunday afternoon and often on Saturday nights. They must have suffered terribly during the lockdown so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to perform.

“Mike is one of our regulars so we asked if he’d be prepared to come along. We can seat six people safely at each of our tables on the verandah.”

Mike, 59, from Halfway said: “Life as I knew it changed the day the Government announced the music had died. I’ve lost about 36 gigs which is a huge amount for a solo act and I am still getting cancellations.

"I have continued to record and post songs on Facebook but this is great news. I’m so looking forward to getting back to entertaining people. I live for music.”

Mike started out as a drummer in his teens and has performed in local bands Sleepy Hollow and Kudos. He has been a solo singer-guitarist for 18 years.

Taking Care of Vegas at Party in the Park at Sittingbourne on Saturday last year. They are booked at Blue Town's Criterion Theatre later this year. Picture: John Nurden
Taking Care of Vegas at Party in the Park at Sittingbourne on Saturday last year. They are booked at Blue Town's Criterion Theatre later this year. Picture: John Nurden

The Criterion Theatre in Blue Town is reopening its doors on Thursday, August 6, at 10am. It has a limit of 40 people per show.

Events rescheduled include Oh Boy in September and Elvis tribute act Taking Care of Vegas in November.

Sheerness Town Council was planning its inaugural Festival of the Sea on Saturday, August 15, which was to have replaced the annual Sheppey summer carnival. It has now been postponed until next year.

Cllr Cherise Moorcroft who chairs the community and environment committee, said: “I was devastated we were not able to hold the event this year. We had a great team of people working together to create something new and unique for the town.

"However, the safety of residents is our top priority and we must follow government guidelines. We are looking forward to organising the event for the lights switch-on at Christmas and hope to celebrate then with an amazing event.”

In The Summertime: Mungo Jerry at A New Day Festival at Mount Ephraim Gardens, Hernhill, Faversham, 2019. Picture: John Nurden
In The Summertime: Mungo Jerry at A New Day Festival at Mount Ephraim Gardens, Hernhill, Faversham, 2019. Picture: John Nurden

Another event to bite the dust is the A New Day Festival at Mount Ephraim Gardens, Hernhill, near Faversham.

Organisers had been planning a four-day special at the end of August before they finally gave in to the Covid-19 threat. It was to have starred a repeat performance of summer favourites Mungo Jerry.

Party in the Park organised by The Appleyard in Sittingbourne and starring Toploader and local band Marylebone Jelly, and the new Party on the Farm at Halfway, were both planned for last month and were axed.

The quirky Chicken Stock festival at Stockbury with folk veteran Richard Digance due this month has had the plug pulled and is re-booked for July 22-25 next year.

Read more: Stories from the Isle of Sheppey here

Read more: Sittingbourne stories here


More by this author


This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More