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UK folk festival Underneath the Stars returns

Family friendly Yorkshire music and arts festival Underneath the Stars returned from 30 July to 1 August, with organisers opting for a reduced-capacity event despite the lifting of the final coronavirus restrictions in England on 19 July.

Taking place in a socially distanced format with 3,000 ‘stargazers’ at Cinderhill Farm near Barnsley, Underneath the Stars 2021 featured performances from the Staves, Kate Rusby, Ward Thomas, Paul Carrack, Martyn Thomas, comedian Dawn French, LYR (featuring UK poet laureate Simon Armitage) and more. In a change to previous festivals, the usual two stages under the cover of marquees were switched for one large outdoor stage, literally underneath the stars, with wide access lanes and zones, so that the audience could choose their own space to view performances.

Everyone working for Underneath the Stars, from artists to volunteers and on-site caterers, were required to take lateral-flow Covid-19 tests in advance of arriving on site (guests were encouraged, but not required, to follow suit), while signs and messages gently encouraged people to give space for others and indicate where the wearing of masks was required.

Festival director Emma Holling, commented on Friday (2 August): “This year’s Underneath the Stars festival has been quite amazing and the feedback from customers wonderful. We’re still on site with campers leaving, but there is already and an overwhelming sense that the team have managed to pull off something quite special. We’ve received a lot of thanks from workers who have been able to practice their trade and musicians who have been able to perform in front of an audience for the first time in a very long time, and audiences hungry for entertainment and a sense of community.

“We were able to replace artists at even the highest levels with names that delighted”

“We faced a number of challenges over the actual weekend. We had been prepared for volunteers to drop out and the rate was quite significant; we had made some advance contingencies and were able to manage this. We also knew we were likely to lose artists, and we lost four in total” – Saving Grace (aka Robert Plant and Suzi Dian), Honeyfeet, Lanterns on the Lake – “at around 24 hours notice each. However, thanks to some advance thought and a good contact list, we were able to replace artists at even the highest levels with names that delighted and did not disappoint. We’ve received a lot of praise from our customers or ‘stargazers’ for this.”

Hollings offers further thanks to the festival’s volunteers, who helped to keep the site safe, and financial support from the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), which allowed the event to go ahead.

“We are hugely indebted to our wonderful team of volunteers without whom we could never have staged the festival,” she continues. “It’s hard to single out individuals who helped us to make this year’s event happen; however, big thanks to my fellow director and the festival’s production manager, Pete Sharman, from Isophase Audio, who kept the whole show running to the highest of standards in all weathers.

“Lauren Barker did an amazing job communicating our Covid-safety messaging to customers, Eddie Barcan of Splendid Events did an amazing job with event management support and his ability to magic up replacement acts. We’d also like to thank two of our trade associations, the Association of Festival Organisers and the Association of Independent Festivals, for their work providing information and lobbying on our behalf.”


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