Tunbridge Wells is lucky enough to be a town brimming with inspiring artistic events all year round, and this weekend sees two of the area’s most respected music festivals – Unfest and Alfresco – taking place. Carolyn Gray, a co-organiser of The Forum’s Unfest, explains how it still manages to stay current and relevant despite being around for over two decades…
This year, Unfest enters its 21st year as a free music and arts festival in Tunbridge Wells, following its small beginnings in 1996 at The Forum.
The weekend of free music promises another exciting and eclectic line up from this Friday, May 26, until Monday May 29, with several additional events happening before and after the weekend.
The launch evening at The Forum on Thursday May 25 sees London band Lullaby headline a pay-to-enter show, with donations going towards the rest of the festival, which is free. The same evening you can pop into Javabean café in the High Street for a spoken word open mic night.
Javabean is one of the many smaller venues running events alongside the main activities at The Forum and The Sussex Arms. You’ll also find music happening at The Royal Oak, The George and Pembury’s King William IV.
The Forum is the official ‘Command Centre’ for the festival, and is where you can source all information and merchandise relating to Unfest.
Headlining on Friday’s opening evening are rising stars The Bay Rays, with support from Joeyfat, The Standard Lamps, Top Cat Collective and Orestea.
Over the weekend, the garden will be open with music being played inside and out, and food available from pop-up restaurant Food Comes First. The events at The Forum conclude on Monday with The Acoustic Reverb Collective and TWUNTS.
The Sussex Arms and Mews are also a hive of activity. On Sunday, Big Orange Media take over the basement, while in the Mews Paul Dunton will once again run a Local & Live Stage all weekend.
Also, for a second year running, Unfest will be setting up in the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery on Saturday morning. So why not detour from your usual shopping trip to the Farmers’ Market and go inside for some music, spoken word and coffee. An exciting element of the morning will be a recording studio hosted by musician and keen cyclist Paul Cheese. Since the beginning of May, this particular artist has been collecting the sounds of Kent for his project The Big Record. There is still time to join in via his website www.paulcheesemusic.com – or you can look out for him around Tunbridge Wells over the Unfest weekend.
Another exciting development for 2017 has been the launch of a special Unfest app. Tunbridge Wells-based digital products studio Really Quite Something have developed a new geo-based music feature within an app especially for the festival. Geojuking is a sort of Geocaching for music, and allows app users to stream music based on their location during the festival. Users will be able to check-in at venues and stream the tracks that are dropped there, as well as pick up special offers provided by the venues and bands.
Although the main activities end on Bank Holiday Monday, you can still catch more music in The Sussex Arms basement on Tuesday May 30 courtesy of the Sea Pinks. Putting on new and original bands in the basement will be a continued feature during 2017, leaving The Forum available for bigger, touring bands and private bookings.
The legendary venue is also sporting a new ‘tickled pink’ look for this year’s festival. The Forum’s co-owner, Jason Dormon, explains why the front of the building has been daubed in pink:
“We have a colour-choosing committee for Unfest every year, and after much deliberation and discussion Team Pink was first past the post this year. The outside of The Forum is now ready to coordinate with all our merchandise for the festival.”
From Sunday June 4, and continuing throughout the summer until the Local & Live Festival at the end of August, The Forum’s garden will be hosting live music and games. These Sunday Sessions are open to all, and kick off at 1pm each week. The launch date sees a reggae takeover, while on Sunday July 23 we will be celebrating the Tunbridge Wells Belgian Festival.
See right for more Unfest events, and visit:
www.unfest.org and www.facebook.com/unfesttwfringe @unfesttw
The Tunbridge Wells Forum
Event information at www.twforum.co.uk,
www.facebook.com/localandlive and www.unfest.org
Thursday Unfest Festival Pre-Launch Night: Music from 8pm till late Lullaby, Indigo Lo, Fliiis
Friday Unfest Festival Music from 7.30pm till late – The Bay Rays, Joeyfat, The Standard Lamps, Top Cat Collective, Orestea
Saturday Unfest Festival Music from 1pm till late – Dave ‘Shep’ Shepherd, Vispers, Higgs & The Bosons, I am Aquitaine, Jordan Jones, Glassmaps, Kid Kapichi, Billionaire, Youth, WAX, Ladybird, Lectures, Lunar Rhythms DJ set.
Sunday Unfest Festival Music from 1.30pm till late – The Naming of Things, Bombay Monkey, Alex Metcalfe, Hunters Loaf, Night Without Sleep, Jelly Skin, Violence, Joeythin, Dead Ceremony, Lily & Jessie, Recent Vegan DJ set
Monday Unfest Festival Music from 1pm till late – Frost, Amberton, Spyplane, Darcie Mountney, Kelly Bourne, Uplift, Tierz, Josh Doyle, TWUNTS,
Local & Live Outdoor Stage at The Sussex Mews Courtyard (next to The Sussex Arms)
Unfest Music Festival
Music from 2pm each day except Mon 29: 1.15pm start
Saturday – Hamish Donald, Emily Izen Row, Jack Clarke, John McLane, Abi Hudson, Hannigan, Nate Austin, Thomas Ashby, Eliza Lewis, The Floodgates, Josh Renton
Sunday – Gronk, Hannah Richards, Alana Hazzard, Rob Picazo, Paul Monham, Bison, Jimmy Harrison, Harry Whitty, Kyla & Nat, Alex Beharrell, The Varlies
Monday – Benjamin Lewes, Jack Leon Mackey, Milly McCarron, Mark Morriss, Migden & Gibson, Joe Ackerley, Poppy Raine, Steffan James, The Paul Dunton Orchestra, Harley & Woods
The King William IV
Pembury, open all day, free entry, live music day time and evenings. More information at www.unfest.org
Friday Disco (evening only)
Saturday Unfest Festival (music from 12noon till late)
My Shining Star, Daniel Gurney, The Sea Rockets, Jon McDevitt, Arthur O’Hara, Insane Society, Stawberry Blue, Frankie Swaine, Sivix, Lee Willz, Second Helpin’, Move Over Dali, Jason Lloyd Bevis, Si Genaro, Duvet Dogs.
Sunday Unfest Festival (music from 1pm till late)
Ukelear Fallout, Flick Bennett, Natalie Moore, The Alley Devils, One Night Love Affair, Revellation, Tom Haacke, Dickie Ticker, Steve Hewitt, Black Adder
The Sussex Arms
Sussex Mews, open all day, visit www.unfest.org for more information on listings and timings.
Friday Unfest Festival – (basement stage) 8.30pm till late Riff Raff, The Sweeney
Saturday Unfest Festival – (basement stage) 2pm till late The Gallerys, Suncharmer, Method Actress, Code Marla V Spire Cranes, Nunslayer, Escuda, Lower Slaughter, Dissociates, Atlas Shrunk, We Are Bandicoot, Fish Head – (upstairs stage) DJ sets from 1pm till late Matty Dread, Alex Macnutt, Alex Wallace, Richard Marshall, Electric Jam
Sunday Unfest Festival – (basement stage) 3pm till late White Heat, Lee Martin, Mitch Emery, Tarot Rats, Shelbyville, Sarah Tonin, Boogaloo Dudes, The Pillows, Operation Kino – (upstairs stage) DJ sets from 12noon till late DJ Abstruse and The Inscrutable Few, Vinyl Tap
Tuesday Sea Pinks and Kreol Lovecall
2 High Street, open all day, free entry. More info
www.thebedfordtw.co.uk and www.unfest.org
Friday Unfest Festival – 8.30pm till late The Varlies
Saturday Unfest Festival – 8.30pm till late Riff Raff
Sunday ‘Quiet Riot 2017’
10pm-11pm Luke Pope, Hannah Richards, Alex Beharrell
9pm-9.50pm Sophie Harmsworth, Ash Evans, Ryan Weeks
8pm-8.50pm Jem & Paul, Aaric Snook
7pm-7.50pm Weybourne Chester Bingley, Dom Brouder, Paul Crisp
6pm-6.50pm Ben Wood, William Thomas, Lizzie Arkell
5pm-5.50pm Rob Barlitz, Charlie House, Hanna
4pm-4.50pm Mitch Emery, Chasing Shadows
3pm-3.50pm Charlie Dee, Amber Anderton, Frankie Swain
2pm-2.50pm Ross Uttridge, The Latter
1pm-1.50pm James Harris, Olivia Rose