Singer’s music festival under the stars

Kate Rusby
Kate Rusby
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There is a brand new music festival to join the ever-growing number that Yorkshire has to offer. James Nuttall spoke to the organisers.

One of the most unspoilt places in Yorkshire is the tiny village of Cawthorne, just outside Barnsley.

Boasting houses that are hundreds of years old, and a road that was made in the 1920s, which villagers still refer to as “the new road”, Cawthorne remains every bit the traditional English village.

One of its attractions is Cannon Hall Farm, which hosts an array of events throughout the year.

This weekend, it will be host to its first official festival, Underneath the Stars.

This will be a three-day folk festival, headlined on Saturday by folk star, Kate Rusby, a resident of Cawthorne and one of British folk’s most acclaimed artists.

The other headliners will be Richard Thompson and The Puppini Sisters.

Kate and her brother, Joe Rusby, spearheaded Underneath the Stars, with the help of their friends, the Nicholson family.

While Kate will close Saturday night’s festivities, Joe will be sound engineer for almost the whole the festival.

Kate has already played several benefit shows at Cannon Hall Farm in previous years.

Sitting in their parents’ kitchen in Cawthorne, she explains why they chose this place to host the festival.

“It’s a fantastic place. It’s right up on the hill, so the view is just absolutely glorious; the perfect setting.

“It grew from just one Saturday night concert to having the three and this is the next step, which is a very large one, to make it a whole three-day event.”

This has been Joe and Kate’s first attempt at organising a festival, and their hard work has paid off, but was it 
an overwhelming experience during the planning stage?

“It’s not overwhelming, I think it’s ambitious, but we wanted to take that step, really, and just see how it goes running an event in this area, because there isn’t so much”, begins Joe.

“There’s Leeds Festival and there’s a big one on the same weekend, Tramlines Festival in Sheffield, which is a different style, so we’ve got a clear idea of how we want it to be and there isn’t anything similar to it in this area.”

“There are quite a few folk festivals dotted about, but I think what we are doing is a bit more ambitious, like Joe said,”adds Kate.

“We’ve spent years and years at folk festivals and different music festivals. Our dad is a sound engineer, 
that’s how Joe ended up as one, so even as kids we were taken along to festivals, so we’ve all always been seeing how it happens and how it works.

“There’s always these little bits of information that have gone in. I think if you do have the knowledge, it’s a lot less scary.”

Kate’s loyalty to Yorkshire is evident, not only on her albums, on which she sings in her own accent, but also in the fact that wherever she is playing in the world, she is sure to have some Yorkshire Tea with her.

“I’ve always got some in my handbag for emergencies. When we do our own gigs, we take our own tour box with a kettle, Yorkshire Tea, all the things you need.

“In fact, over in Canada we were playing this big festival there and they showed us to our dressing room which was in this beautiful caravan, and about 10 minutes after we arrived this lady pulled up with a tea trolley with little china cups – they’d been brewing the Yorkshire Tea, waiting for us to arrive.”

Joe and Kate primarily sourced all the acts that will play at Underneath the Stars themselves.

The Rusbys are very much a cottage industry, with Kate’s father Steve being her booking manager, and her mother handling the accounts and Ian on sound duties.

However, this cottage industry has certainly managed to create what promises to be a successful weekend.

“We’re expecting around two and a half thousand people each day, and there could be more depending 
on the weather,” says Joe.

“We have a big top tent; the main venue holds that many for the concerts, so especially at busy times like for the headliners it will definitely be around that number in the main tent.”

Underneath the Stars will not only be a particularly special gig to Kate because she has helped to organise it, but her Saturday night headline slot will also be the official album launch gig for her brand new album, Ghost.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic to work on some new material. The last studio album we did was the 20 album, to celebrate it being 20 years of being in the business.

“The idea behind the 20 album was that we took a look back at all the songs we’d ever recorded and we went in the studio and did brand new versions of them all.

“That was taking a look back, so it’s been really lovely to get back to creating new work and new songs, then being able to take those out with the audience.

“We officially launch the album at the festival. We’re going to do a signing, and that’s the first place it will be available anywhere in the world, and then from September we’ve got gigs in Britain.

“On this album, there’s a lot of electric guitar lines; not screaming, wailing rock ones, but little lines and effects on that, going along, and I think it’s quite changed the flavour of this album compared to other ones, really.”

• Underneath the Stars Festival, Cannon Hall Farm, South Yorkshire, July 25-27. For tickets and more information visit