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Review of Leeds Castle Concert near Maidstone

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We'd waited, and we'd waited... but after two postponements, the Leeds Castle Concert finally went ahead last night - and boy, the crowds that turned out for it were ready to party.

As we handed over our tickets on the gate, we were told that it had been kept to 50% capacity. But the atmosphere later said otherwise.

More space for the audience this year
More space for the audience this year

There was definitely more space around the grounds where we could pitch our picnic chairs, but when it came to flag-waving, audience participation, dancing and singing along, especially as night fell, it felt like there were just the same number of people there as any other year.

It was always going to be a risk to change a usually mid summer event (sponsored by Brachers) to early September. What if it rained, or was too cold? What if it got dark too early?

Luckily, summer was on our side as despite an overcast morning in Maidstone, the sun shone, bringing with it the perfect setting of blue skies and balmy temperatures. And the earlier darkness just added to the evening.

The music seemed even more on point than usual. Down for the Count got everyone going and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra led us faultlessly through a repertoire of classics.

The five soloists shone. Two were making their debut (baritone Felix Kemp and Emma Williams), but the others were back surely by popular demand, and I hope they'll all return for another year. My personal favourite was Louise Dearman singing Skyfall, and it really felt like the night had got going when the audience started to join in when Emma Williams sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Louise Dearman was back performing for another year
Louise Dearman was back performing for another year

The only dampner on the evening was an interminable queue for the toilets, which meant we ended up watching the Spitfire Flypast while in the toilet queue, or risk losing the spot we'd waited over half an hour for.

With spectacular fireworks and the field guns exploding perfectly on time, the atmosphere was really jumping towards the end.

Soloist Tim Howar got the crowd up on their feet
Soloist Tim Howar got the crowd up on their feet

So much so that when artistic director and conductor John Rigby returned to the stage in his sparkly jacket for the last section of popular songs, most people stayed to dance, rather than pack up and head for the car park, joining together to sing and dance to the likes of YMCA, Sweet Caroline and Uptown Girl, with Tim 'The Power' Howar confidently leading the singing.

It may have been a long wait for it, but it was worth it.

* Next year's is scheduled for its usual weekend spot of Saturday, July 9, 2022. Get in early with early bird prices and book here.

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