23 July 2024

‘Let’s pack the town to the rafters for Withstock!’

Organisers of Withstock have said they hope Withernsea will be “packed to the rafters” for the 30th anniversary of the music festival this month.

This year’s festival, across the weekend of July 27-28, marks a return to its roots with two days of some of the region’s best rock and pop bands playing on the Valley Gardens stage.

The origins of the festival date back to 1994 when local musicians Kevin Lythe and the late Pete Suddaby staged a one-off celebration of local music under the name Pleasant Valley Sunday, to raise money for Withernsea’s Christmas lights.

It soon grew into an annual event, held under numerous guises in subsequent years, including Summertime Special, Withernsea Festival, Unlock the Rock and Withfest.

The late Withernsea town councillor Keith Hardcastle was also involved from day one, looking after the administration, and Withernsea Town Council took on the organisation and responsibility from 1997 after Pete died.

Kevin, who will be playing bass in Barefaced, the first band to kick things off on the Saturday, said: “In 1995, the event was huge as there had been coverage on Look North. There had been footage of Les Holdstock walking through the town – Les was an uncanny Bowie lookalike.

“His band was playing at the event and it seemed that people thought the real David Bowie was in Withernsea – and they turned out in their hordes.”

In 2019, for the 25th anniversary event, Les Holdstock and his Bowie band returned as headliners.

This year’s festival, hosted by Seaside FM, is free to attend and there will be 14 bands across the weekend, from noon to 10.30pm both days, including the Rockin’ Deltones, Powervalve, the Gallaghers, Bonemuel, Guns N Yorkshire Roses and Kinda Queen.

As well as the music there will be a licensed bar, food and trade stalls, and family entertainment including a variety of street performers, buskers, stilt walkers, the Hosanna puppet show, a fairground and much more. A fireworks display will take place after the final band has performed at about 10.30pm on the Sunday.

Withernsea Town Council clerk Jayne Moxon said she hoped to extend Withstock’s reach beyond Valley Gardens, thanks to the input of Yorkshire Coast BID and other sponsors Larkham Leisure, Visit East Yorkshire, Game King, Withernsea Big Local, Larsens Accountants, Holderness Hardware, Withernsea Lions, Longmeadows Holiday Park, RAOB, Withernsea & District Lions, Glamordent, the Old Boatshed and Withernsea Town Council.

She said: “This has allowed us to book a lot more stuff for the kids to do. We’ve got Apus Productions street theatre coming in, and they’ll be doing things across both afternoons. We’ve also got Bandanarama, the wandering band, who are brilliant.

“It’s not just for the music buffs – it’s a family festival with a bit of something for everyone. “We want to expand it a bit on to the high street and promenade to incorporate one or two of the other establishments, such as the pubs and cafes.

“And the other main message is that it’s all free, so we want to pack it to the rafters if we can.”

Jayne explained the reasoning behind the return to rock bands on both days. She added: “For the past few years we’ve had the big bands on the Saturday and a quieter acoustic programme on the Sunday, but we did see that last year the audiences were starting to trail off on the second day, so we’ve decided on rock bands both days this year, just to keep the tempo upbeat.

“We hope people will be more inclined to stick around for both days – and that they stay for the closing fireworks display, which will ensure the festival ends with a bang!”