Bridport’s Music Festival

Jurassic Fields 2017

It’s not Glastonbury but Bridport has its own music festival, Jurassic Fields. This year it’s on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July in Asker Meadows. Have a look at the line up and buy tickets online here.

Bridport has several venues for live music throughout the year. Check out the guides for the Electric Palace and Bridport Arts Centre. Many of the local pubs and bars have live music regularly too.

Some West Dorset music trivia

Billy Bragg is probably the most well-known local musician. He has lived for almost twenty years in one of the big white houses up on the cliff near The Hive Beach Cafe in Burton Bradstock (the other is now the Seaside Boarding House). The singer songwriter and socialist activist, originally from Barking in Essex, has had a successful career over the past 35 years. His songs include A New England, She’s Leaving Home and Between The Wars. In 2011 several national papers reported that up to thirty Burton Bradstock residents had received hate mail attacking him and his politics. The letters labelled him a hypocrite and wanted the locals to drive him out of the village. Many of his neighbours sprang to his defence.

Indie-blues singer Polly ‘PJ’ Harvey was born in Bridport in 1969 and grew up on her family’s farm in Corscombe. She attended school nearby in Beaminster. In the early 90s she rose to fame as a musician, singer-songwriter, composer and artist. St Catherine’s Chapel was the inspiration behind her song “The Wind”, from her 1998 album Is This Desire?. In 2010 she recorded her eighth album Let England Shake at St Peter’s Church in Eype during five weeks and previewed the album with a show in the church. It went on to win the 2011 Mercury Prize. She was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2013.

Rock vocalist and songwriter Ian Gillan lives in Lyme Regis. He found commercial success as the lead singer and lyricist for Deep Purple in the late 60s. He was the co-writer of hit Smoke On The Water, selling more than one hundred million records. In 2014 he took part in Lyme Regis’s Guitars On The Beach, playing Smoke on the Water on stage together with a couple of thousand of guitarists on the beach.

Other musicians which come from the Bridport area include the acoustic band Show Of Hands and Afro Celt Sound System (founder Simon Emmerson, lives in Broadwindsor).

Echo Beach Chesil Bank CoverAnd, finally, the Fleet Lagoon features on the cover of the hit record Echo Beach (1980) by the Canadian band Martha and the Muffins. The original version of the single shows a map of the Toronto Islands in Canada, but latter issues show the sand bar and Chesil Beach in Dorset. Not a lot of people know that…


Beachcombing in Dorset

One of our favourite beach pastimes is to look out for interesting bits and bobs when wandering along the shoreline. Shells, sea glass (if we are lucky), pebbles that catch the eye. Once we took a metal detector onto West Beach. Our expectations where dashed when all we found was a lump of old chain, some rusty nuts and bolts and a couple of squashed coins!

We especially like to look for stones with a hole in them, known as ‘hag stones’. In folklore these stones are said to have protective powers. In Dorset they have been used for many years to protect people against witchcraft. Fishermen, well into the mid 19th century, tied them to the bows of their boats to protect against bad luck, accidents and the inability to catch fish. This is mentioned in a book about Dorset, published in 1906. An Abbotsbury fisherman relates that in his youth, when a particular boat caught no fish when neighbouring boats were catching plenty, it was thought that the boat was “witched” because the stone had “not been placed, or not properly placed, or not placed soon enough, on the boat”. To dispel the bewitchment, “a mackerel stuck with pins was placed in the stern hatch.” To this day hag stones are sometimes still hung on local fishing boats.

It wasn’t just fishermen who believed in the charm of the stones either. People used to hang hag stones on key chains or on the end of their beds to protect from nightmares. It was believed that if you looked though the hole you could see through to the ‘faerie realm’, or put a curse on your enemy. The stones are also known as holey (or holy) stones although it is not clear if this is because they have a hole through them, or ‘holy’ from being a source of protection against evil.

We have taken the hag stones we have found home, threaded them on a length of string and hung them in the garden. Next time you find yourself on a beach with time for a little beachcombing, why not keep your eyes open and you may soon find some beach treasure to take home. A simple reminder of your happy holiday.


Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit

Long-eared furry thing

I read about a superstition concerning rabbits and the Isle of Portland the other day. Good excuse to find a bunny picture I thought…

There is an unwritten rule in Portland that you do not use the word ‘rabbit’ as they are associated with bad luck. Mention rabbits in a Portland pub and, as tradition has it, you could clear the bar. Instead they are referred to as underground mutton, long-eared furry things or just bunnies. The superstition is believed to derive from quarry workers because burrowing can cause landslips in quarries. They would see rabbits emerging from their burrows immediately before a rock fall and blame them for increasing the risk of dangerous, sometimes deadly, landslides. If a rabbit was seen in a quarry the workers would pack up and go home for the day until the safety of the area had been assured. Local fishermen too would refuse to go to sea if the word was mentioned.

This superstition came to national attention in 2005 when a special batch of advertisement posters were made for the Wallace and Gromit film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit replacing the film’s title with the phrase “Something bunny is going on.”  There’s no mention of the dismay it must have caused Portland locals when they went to see the film and heard the word ‘rabbit’ throughout though!

Guitars On The Beach

Guitars on the Beach 2014

Guitars on the Beach is becoming an annual event in Lyme Regis. This year it’s on Saturday 17th June. Each year they put up a stage and invite everyone to come along to the beach with a guitar. The aim? To create Britain’s Biggest Band and break the record for most guitarists playing the same song together at the same time.

We’ve taken part a couple of times. Our first time in 2013 was also the first one ever. The date was the day that Buddy Holly would have turned 77 so Rave On was chosen as the song.  A classic but also a simple three chord tune that even a beginner can attempt. As we approached the beach we joined a stream of folk with guitars on their backs or carrying deckchairs. A sizeable crowd gathered. Unfortunately just as it was getting going it began to pour with rain and a powerful storm soaked us through! In the end over 2,200 guitarists played Rave On, not once but twice. And then again as there was a bit of a mix up over the time and they wanted to make sure everybody got into the record!

The next year Ian Gillan from Deep Purple had agreed to appear so, along with Rave On, the plan was to play Smoke On The Water. We were more prepared. My husband tuned a guitar for me in such a way that I could easily play the main riff after a lesson and after a fashion. On the Saturday off we went, plus a friend of my daughters and four guitars. The sun shone, Ian Gillan took to the stage, people in boats moored off the shore burned smoke flares, and the event even made it onto the BBC news website. Funnily enough, you can easily spot my daughter and her friend in one of the photos as they were still wearing their “Where’s Wally” hats! Not usual attire I hasten to add, bought along for the Bridport Hat Festival which had been earlier on the same day. We didn’t break the world record (over 6,000 in Poland in 2009) but did beat 2013’s total with 3,325 people. I am now the proud holder of a certificate saying I’ve played in The Biggest Band In British History.

On Saturday June 17th the record bid is at 5 pm. There’s more acts to follow and the event is scheduled to go on to 10 pm. The web site has a list of the songs that are going to be played by the crowd, and the chords for them. It’s fun and raises money for charity too. If you are nearby why not dig out that old acoustic, practise a few chords, and go along and join in?