The Show Must Go On… Never was that saying more apt than on the opening day of the 2021 Wickham Festival.
After 18 months of struggle and uncertainty over Covid, organisers managed to get the event despite major problems caused by the weather.
With water getting into the stage electrics, the main stage was deemed unsafe to use forcing a hasty re-jig of the running order.
All the headline acts were still able to perform and turned in superb sets to delight the fans who had battled the elements to enjoy a return of live music.
Organiser Peter Chegwyn said: “Nothing was going to stop us! We worked so hard to get this festival on and then the Great British weather intervened.
“Of course, Covid was a huge challenge. We had to re-design the whole site and put in a lot of extra measures – including having an outdoor main stage.
“The rain was a big problem which we were not able to resolve in time so we were unable to use the main stage but we had contingency plans in place.
“Thankfully we were able to amend the running order and move acts around so that all the headliners still performed. All of them completely understood and were very accommodating and very professional in the way they adapted.
“And that showed in their performances. They all turned in superb sets for the fans – and they were all genuinely delighted to be back playing live again, especially to such a receptive audience as ours.
“For instance I know this was the first live gig Nine Below Zero had played since March of last year and you could see how much it meant to them to be back on stage. It is so good to be able to watch live music once more.
“People have been desperate to get out and see bands for so long and I think they accepted that things were always going to be a bit different and that it was better than having no festival at all.”
Many other events have already been cancelled including Cropredy which means Fairport Convention will now headline here on Sunday.
Wickham gambled and managed to get it on despite the challenges of the pandemic and the weather.
Chegwyn added: “This really is the festival that would not die. So many others have not gone ahead after such a tough time. We have all faced real challenges and the events industry has been brought to its knees.
“Live music in particular has really struggled and that’s why it was so important to get Wickham on. Events like this need people to support them so we are very grateful to all those who have backed us.
“I can’t deny it has been a real slog to get this on because we have faced problems which I have never encountered before in 30 years of running festivals. But I am so pleased we are up and running.”
The melodic voice of Kitty MacFarlane opened the event on the Quay West Stage followed by Tim Edey with Rachel Croft starting things off in the Big Top where Tidelines then kicked the party into top gear with a rousing set.
The indefatigable John Otway, approaching his 5000th gig, brought his usual mayhem to the Quay West marquee followed by a superb set from Nine Below Zero sounding as fresh as ever despite the enforced lay-off.
They were a tough act to follow but Wickham favourites Tankus the Henge delivered their usual high-octane show to delight the crowd.
Over in the Big Top the Peatbog Faeries were on top form followed by the SAS Band with a glittering array of top names delivering their big hits including Roachford, Tom Robinson, Steve Harley, Madeline Bell, Graham Gouldman and the evergreen Toyah.
It provided a perfect party finale to a difficult opening day with fans delighted just to be able to enjoy live music once again.