THE Upton Blues Festival will celebrate its 10th year with a swinging selection of the best blues musicians around.

The festival has grown at an “alarming rate” since it first started in 2001 and can now happily claim the title of one of the UK’s best loved blues festivals.

Upton Blues Festival committee member Cliff Dawe, who will be performing in the festival as part of The Fabulous Boogie Boys, said: “The first year we had just 17 bands and 2,000 people turned up. Since then, it’s grown steadily. We now regularly get between 75 and 85 performances and almost 25,000 people.

“It’s really, really well attended and the bands are getting bigger as the years go on.”

This year the festival, which will take place from Friday, July 15, until Sunday, July 17, will feature up to 90 different performers with a range of styles performing on three main stages around the town - which includes a new acoustic stage on the river front.

And it is expanding its repertoire of music from simply blues to incorporate bluegrass, country honk to New Orleans heat and acoustic delta - not to mention soul and gospel.

“We’re trying to diversify,” explained Dawe, who is one of two original members of the committee who still sit on it.

But possibly the most impressive thing about the festival in an age where similar events cost up to £200, is the fact it has remained largely free.

Dawe said: “The festival makes its money to pay for the next year by people using the official camping sites and buying the merchandise, which means the music itself is free.”

But it has also stayed true to its roots, still investing heavily in local bands despite its expanding size.

“It’s definitely a Worcestershire festival,” said Dawe. “We do back bands from all over the county but we also make sure there is an influx of Midlands bands every year.

“This year, I’m looking forward to seeing Paul Lamb & the Kingsnakes, Steve ‘Bigman’ Clayton and the Big Blues Tribe - and I have to mention my own band as well.”

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