As a way of meeting up with the scattered tribe, hearing great new music, exchanging news, gossip and new ideas, and generally hanging out in a creative but relaxed sort of way, it's hard to beat a festival.

I just want to tell you about some great ones which I'm involved with on a regular basis. Some of these events have been the mainstay of my summers for at least half of my life, and have a great deal of good memories attached to them:

From meeting my partner Glennie at Glastonbury festival, to meeting my longtime playing buddy Chris at Lorient, they have inspired songs and been the venue for some of my most treasured musical and personal experiences. They have been the backdrop for my kids' growing up, and I'm sure they'll be the backdrop for their kids' growing up too, such is their multigenerational allure. Friendships made at festivals can be very special. It's a space in our lives where we open up and explore, and even though that might be it till next year, when next year comes round, it's as if winter hadn't intervened at all.

Add to that the satisfaction of working on festival creation beforehand, and it's a recipe for a fulfilled festie-lover. Give it a try, if you have time, skills and ideas to offer, you might enjoy it. Or just go to the festival and enjoy what has been set up for you.


Glastonbury Festival, surely one of the most incredible spectacles of the modern world. I make no excuse for including this one, as some of you will be reading this from other parts of the world. It has everything in abundance, over a huge area, and a fantastic positive vibe. Due to the high profile TV coverage of the main stages and celebrities, I feel I have to counterbalance this by saying that for me and countless others, THERE IS SO MUCH MORE. The Green Fields are a treasure trove of new living ideas and fantastic creative endeavour, and to be honest there have not been that many mainstage acts that have made me want to leave them.

My job is facilitating the Healing Field Music Space, a small acoustic venue for heartfelt playing, participatory listening and sound workshops. Usually situated with Cafe Kailash and the ROKPA garden raising funds and awareness for the Tibetan cause, the space has hosted quite a number of unplugged guests in its time: Praying for the Rain, Lost Padres, Caitlin and Sika, Nigel Shaw and Carolyn Hillyer, Chris Ellis, Celeste Lovick, Dragonsfly, to name but a few. Equally important, though, are the trusty crews who have manned it so well over the years. www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk


Stainsby Festival, now preparing for a transformative 44th year (2012), a 'folk' festival with a lot more than just folk music. Most of the mainstage acts come from the main folk club and festival circuit, but 'the Space', as stage two is known, is a bubbling crucible involving local talent of many genres, more intimate performances best suited to smaller spaces, and the chosen few from the mainstage in 'unplugged' format. This is a festival with a huge amount of heart. It is small, in festival terms, ( 2000 people), but provides a memorable experience, with crafts for sale and for participation, a procession, loads of kids' stiff, a strong alternative element, a healing area, great beer, really good and varied music, and one of the best, (if not THE best) PAs on the circuit, (the best I've ever played through ).

Some festivals are set up by the community to be at the service of the musicians, which is great for the musicians. Stainsby also asks the musicians to be at the service of the community, in the traditional way, with opening and closing ceremonies relevant to the land and its local community, but with a global reference also. The subsequent feeling is one where punters, crew and musicians are all part of the same community. My job here has changed over the years from musician to 'Spaceman' to guest to doing drum-making workshops, and I've loved it, and felt loved by it, every time. www.stainsbyfestival.org.uk


Gaunts House Summer Gathering is a very gentle affair put on by the Richard Glynn Foundation at Gaunts House near Wimborne in Dorset. Most of the action takes place during the day with dozens of workshops and talks on all manner of transformational techniques, ancient and contemporary wisdom, therapies, meditation and, generally speaking, the more esoteric aspects of life.

The setting is the superb grounds of a stately home, now run by the foundation as an intentional community, and includes mature woodland with deer and other wildlife, parkland, lawns and a wonderful ballroom with painted swallows on the ceiling and a parquet floor which has the best acoustics for more intimate musical performances. In the evening, ( sometimes during the day also,) the music kicks in to provide another level of entertainment, experience and enlightenment for the public and the hardworking Gaunts House community. Great steamy gigs in the 'theatre' with the best of alternative bands the South of England has to offer; fabulous intense listening experiences in the ballroom with, or without, the grand piano; music round fires till the wee hours, under the trees and the stars. www.gauntshouse.com


Big Green Gathering. As the name suggests, a huge gathering of people connected with the green movement. From early beginnings on the Wiltshire Downs, it has grown to take up most of an organic farm near Cheddar in Somerset. Everything from renewable energy to horsedrawn transport is on display, along with green crafts, sweatlodges, low impact lifestyles, a healing field with over a hundred options for feeling 'better', speakers forums, numerous cafe stages and bigger venues, a hugely diverse market and a vibrant atmosphere. Now alas in a state of uncertainty as to its continued existence, due to having to cancel in 2009. Sadly missed, and hopefully not beyond resuscitation.

2011 saw a renaissance in the form of 'The Green Gathering' at a different site near Chepstow, and by all accounts was a very enjoyable do, well run by a largely new team and new board of directors. The BGG is dead, long live The Green Gathering!?


Wirksworth Arts Festival began small and is now one of the best town arts festivals in the country, drawing in audience and participants from all over the country. As a resident of the town, I have been involved in a musical capacity a number of times, with Tomorrows Ancestor or as a solo musician on the busking trail. The usual format is a series of weekends, in which different parts of the town and environs stage events, installations, workshops and exhibitions, spreading from the first major weekend when over a hundred homes open their doors to the public, as exhibition spaces for many artists, in many media, both those resident and those from further afield. This also gives a chance to peek into some exciting architecture too: renovations, old miners' cottages, ecobuilds, there are some grand designs here! And for your ambulatory delight, hundreds of buskers also take to the streets in a tapestry of sound. In the space between weekends there is a continuous roll of events of all sorts: film, drama, recital, dance, poetry, comedy, gigs, collaborations, debates, workshops, you name it. www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk


Healing Area Music Space is a space within a festival, and happens in the Healing Fields at the Big Green Gathering and Glastonbury Festival, though it could happen anywhere. for example it also in a small way contributed to 'The Space' at Stainsby. Based on the experience of circular, 'knee to knee,' tribal gathering, where the storyteller/musician/teacher might be any one of us, it takes place in an earthy 'bender' structure, an ancient homebuilding technique of our ancestors with tarps (originally skins), over bent poles.

We deliberately avoid the use of PAs and amplification even though this means the audience is inevitably a small one. This is partly due to the sensitive nature of where we are, in an environment of healing and therapy, but also because it has become clear over the years that by offering a purely acoustic experience, we can engage in more meaningful performance with the audience, and they can engage in more participatory listening with us. However we do dress the space and schedule artists who we know can work their magic in this kind of environment, as well as leaving space for those who just turn up offering appropriate material. In these times of huge sound systems and even huger egos, we pride ourselves on keeping it small and sustaining the soul of creative engagement. intouch@brianboothby.co.uk


Rivenstone is the name of a great little festival on Dartmoor, run by Nigel Shaw and Carolyn Hillyer, both creative people of the highest order as well as much travelled supporters of the rights and cultures of indigenous peoples. 2010 was my first year and I loved it. Everything is done with the greatest care and attention to detail, from the brilliant PA and stage facilities to the thunderbox composting loos. Due to their passionate advocacy of indigenous spirituality there are striking, thought provoking and unusual shrines at every corner, not to mention fine pieces of art and sculpture. All the creative offerings, music, visual art, drama, debate and even commerce, connect back to the land, not just Nigel and Carolyn's patch of Dartmoor, but the earth as a whole. I was honoured to be asked to open musical proceedings in such a held space. Mention must also be made of their iron age roundhouse, a beautiful structure which contained a living fire all through the festival. Native drums hang on the roof pillars and as the smoke rises to the thatch it's actually quite hard to stay in a hectic technological 21st century. Drifting into the race memory is much easier! The festival happens every two years ~ long time to wait and a long way to go ~ but I'm really hoping I get invited back.


There are now probably dozens of events every weekend of the year throughout the country as more people want to get out under the stars and celebrate, and three ways of finding them are:


and keeping your eyes open for posters.