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The Wessex Folk Festival returns to Weymouth over the weekend of 1st and 2nd June, one of the only FREE TO ATTEND UK folk festivals remaining.  Weymouth is steeped in a rich history, its historic harbour the perfect backdrop for a weekend of folk performances.  The award-winning beach (Sunday Times Britain’s Best Beach 2023), and array of pubs, cafes and restaurants means there’s something for everyone as folk takes over the town with a colourful extravaganza of music and dance.

The Festival started in the early 2000’s organised by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, together with the Weymouth Folk Club, held in the Weymouth Pavilion. Some years later, the Council stepped back and a group of volunteers carried on organising the festival which has run continuously until today. In past years such folk greats as The Oyster Band, Dick Gaughan, Vin Garbutt and Martin Simpson have graced its stage.

This quite unique free festival is held along the streets and squares around Weymouth’s delightful historic harbour.  Over the festival weekend, the south harbourside area is transformed into a bustling marketplace of street traders, Morris dancers and children’s entertainers with two stages providing the setting for both professional folk musicians and amateur musicians. The local pubs and meeting rooms hold thriving music sessions and workshops in local venues.

The Festival continues to attract some of the best of UK’s professional folk and roots performers, thanks particularly to Arts Council England – supporting grassroots music, We Are Weymouth (Weymouth BID) and Weymouth Town Council.

This year the festival is  delighted to welcome the following national performers:

Steve Knightley

Renowned West Country singer songwriter Steve Knightley, former Show of Hands frontman, announces a ground-breaking nationwide solo tour—the first since the iconic band disbanded. Focused on promoting his latest album, ‘The Winter Yards,’ this tour signifies a profound shift in Knightley’s musical journey. The Wessex Folk Festival is very pleased to have Steve Knightley appearing in Hope Square. He will also be hosting a songwriting workshop. Don’t miss that, you budding songwriters.

Sam Kelly Trio

Sam Kelly is a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning singer, song-writer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. As a young child Sam spent many a night enraptured, listening to his Irish grandfather tell folk tales, sing folk songs, and play folk tunes on his melodeon. Having caught the bug, Sam has dedicated his life to rediscovering and renewing the sounds of his Gaelic heritage, and creating exciting new music that transcends the boundaries of traditional and popular music. He brings with him two of his larger band, The Lost Boys.

Urban Folk Quartet

UFQ have ignited audiences across the world with their cross-genre, contemporary take on folk music for over a decade. Rooted in Celtic tune forms and traditional song, UFQ also takes influence from Afrobeat, Indian classical, funk, rock and a whole lot more. Featuring Joe Broughton on fiddle, guitar, and mandolin; Paloma Trigás on fiddle and vocals; Tom Chapman on cajón, percussion, and vocals; and Dan Walsh on banjo, guitar, and vocals, their show is a multi-instrumental spectacle of high-energy virtuosity.

The Magpies

Transatlantic folk band The Magpies combine sublime harmonies with exquisite musicianship and songwriting. Their latest album garnered over a quarter of a million streams on Spotify, a place in the Official Folk Chart Top 40 and a live session on BBC Radio 2. UK festival highlights include Glastonbury, Cambridge and Shambala and internationally in the USA, Canada and Europe.


Banter are Nina Zella, Simon Care, Tim Walker and Mark Jolley. Four fine musicians whose roots are firmly in the traditional English genre, but who enjoy stretching the limits – in what a lot of people refer to as “the quirky Banter twist”.  Formed in 2015, due to a happy accident, they immediately realised their common love for traditional English song and dance and began to mess around with it.

The Melstock Band

The Melstock Band take their name from the works of Thomas Hardy, who gave this fictional title to the singers and musicians of the parish of Stinsford, where his father and grandfather were prominent in leading the dancing, carolling, merrymaking and church singing, and where the young Thomas Hardy played his fiddle for weddings and parties. They bring to the festival our special link with the great man.

Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer

Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer have been playing folk around the UK for over twenty years. The have a reputation for finding that artistic balance of simultaneously being tradition bearers and contemporary innovators.  The play with a real joy of performing and a love of the genre and yet, you’re never quite sure what instruments they’ll play next.

Sam Grassie

Sam Grassie, just 24, has achieved much acclaim for his performances and recordings – particularly for his playing of the legendary Bert Jansch. His music explores the boundaries between trad folk and world blues. Hailing from Glasgow, where Bert was born, he formed a trio fronted by singer/harpist Iona Zajac which they called Avocet after Bert’s 1979 instrumental album. They follow through on that reference with mellow psychedelic folk music to soothe the soul.

The Lost Trades

The Lost Trades are a Folk/Americana trio, based in the West Country, with a cool Laurel Canyon vibe. With a sound that is reminiscent of the California folk scene of the late 60s/early 70s, their three-part harmonies have been described as “flawless”, “spine tingling” and “magical”.

The local scene

Three of Dorset’s finest shanty groups will be appearing – with the Wareham Whalers presenting some of ‘The Shout’ – their paean to the RNLI in their 200 year celebration year – possibly with a guest appearance from the Weymouth Lifeboat (in the harbour!!).
The festival also supports a long list of local talented musicians and singers – who will be performing on the Harbour Stage – all detailed on the Wessex Folk Festival Website and in the festival Programme.

Everything starts in the pubs of Weymouth on Friday evening (31st May). Stalls open for business at 10:00 Saturday morning (June 1st) with music on stage starting at 11:00 until about 5:30 and dance groups performing on the Quayside throughout both days.