July 29-31, 2002
Underneath The Stars festival began with its eponymous song, a lovely Folk anthem sung by the equally lovely Kate Rusby – who in the terms of UTS is the ultimate local girl done good, the leading member of the Von Trapps of Cawthorne. I mean, helping to organise an absolutely top notch, ungrimy, not-for-profit music festival on your home turf, for the benefit of your mates, their mates & anybody else who wants to visit the fine village of Cawthorne & the Victorian smoking jacket it dons in its outlying fields in the form of the UTS festival – that’s pretty cool like.
I would be at the festival for just one day on my summer jaunteries– so chose the Friday as two of my favourite music-combos would be playing – the Trials of Cato & Imelda May. O my god, I love ‘Proud & Humble’ by Imelda May, & that song was the chief reason I thought I’d venture from my island retreat in Scotland down to deepest darkest south Yorkshire. That, & the fact my old time buddy Andrew Buggy just happens to live at nearby Millhouse Green – a doubling up of the raison d’etres if I ever lived one!
Organisationwise, UTS was just so slick; a team of willing volunteers, top grade facilities – including hot showers – & a sophisticated line-up, it was all a far cry from my usual festival experience which involves getting hammered in a muddy field with loads of Scots & midgies. Alright, I did a get a bit hammered, but I wanted to enjoy Imelda May as much as possible in her full-on goddess pomp – she was as inspiring as Bjork touring Debut in 1994 – justifying me knocking back a bottle of gin at the campsite & the subsequent stagger home blind drunk & blind in the dark. But this was such a superb, honest festival that my phone, review notes & favourite cap had all been handed in the next morning! Result ! That wouldn’t have happen’d at T In The Park.
UTS is proper chilled, like, perfect for families, the deck-chair crowd & folk with camper vans wanting to get their feet muddy for a few days in a field, followed by a wipe of the butter knife morning by those aforementioned hot showers. There’s a great selection of food & drink & some interesting stalls. At times it’s a bit like a posh Butlins, having comperes go ‘hello stargazers’ when introducing acts was a bit happy campery. I witnessed this just before Trials of Cato came on – two thirds Wrexham, one third bob, whose musical suites seem’d a lot more refined than that wild folk stomps I’d witnessed in the busking streets of Chester which hooked me on the band in the first place. There’s also been a personnel change, with a Kate Bushesque lassie replacing one of the lads. I’m not quite sure I enjoy’d the new incarnation as much, to be fair, it was a bit like having Enya replace Mick Jagger!
It was now time for a wander around the site, checking out the stalls – a real good, holistic selection including Mark Fraser, storyteller, Oddwood & Co tree puzzles, loads of stuff for the kids & some wonderful willow weaving that I had a go at & fell in love with. Next up was the very surreal this is your life thingy for Kate Rusby- the Cindy Lauper of folk -, a couple of thousand people being thrust into an intimate life chit-chat with Kate was a bit like being at Puttipathi ashram with Sai Baba.
Still, it was highly entertaining & reyt funny, but I did get the feeling at UTS you’re more of an acolyte than a punter – Kate was headlining Saturday night for example! But Kate is well down to earth, & epitomised the down-to-earth team behind UTC, including her sister, Emma. They represent the human spirit in its most gentlest & ambitious mode, & I recommend this festival for anybody wanting a cleaner, more cerebral experience from their festival going – & even if you don’t, the lost property is proper honest!
Words: Damian Beeson Bullen
Photography: Andrew William Buggey