Wickham Festival News

WILKO – Not Over and Out

It is the ultimate “Feelgood” story.

Three years ago Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given 10 months to live after rejecting chemotherapy. Instead, the former Dr Feelgood guitarist embarked on the ultimate farewell tour with one of the final stops being the Wickham Festival in August 2013. It was expected to be one of his last ever shows – except that was not the end of the story. Astonishingly the 67-year-old is now clear of the disease following an 11-hour operation to remove a 3kg tumour and there won’t be a dry eye in the Big Top when he makes an emotional return to Wickham on Thursday August 9.


He said: “I am fit as a fiddle now. Last time I was at Wickham, I was dying of cancer. It will be really nice to be back because that is something I never expected.

“The last two years have been such an improbable series of events. Honestly, I’m not making it all up! It would be a hell of a marketing stunt if I was.

“I still can’t quite get my head round it. After I did Wickham in 2013, I played a few more gigs and then went into the studio with Roger Daltrey to make an album.

“We had talked about it before and never got round to it. He heard I had cancer and said: ‘Let’s do it!’ so I said we had better make it quick!

“And we did. We recorded it in eight days and it proved really popular and sold well and I thought it would be the last thing I ever did. I also thought it was a pretty good way to sign off.

“I had had a pretty good life and making a record with Roger Daltrey was a good way to round things off. I then did a couple of gigs supporting Status Quo and we were joking about old age. They said they were not getting any younger… and I said I was not getting any older!

“That was it as far as I was concerned. I had gone over the time I had been given so I just thought it would be the end after that.”

But Fate had one more twist in store as Wilko met someone who literally saved his life.

He continued: “I met this guy Charlie Chan at a festival. He was a cancer doctor and he was curious about the fact I was not dead. I had this tumour bulging out of my stomach – as I did at Wickham last time – and it made me look seven months pregnant.

“By all rights I should have been dead and he said something strange was going on and he urged me to contact Emmanuel Huguet at Addenbrookes Hospital to see what he thought.

“He said he thought he could operate but it would be major surgery so he did not want to pressure me into it. I said I had nothing to lose so I agreed.

“I went up to Addenbrookes in spring of last year and it was an 11-hour op. They removed a 3kg tumour – it was the size of a baby.”

The 11-hour operation involved the removal of his pancreas, spleen, part of his stomach, small and large intestines and the removal and reconstruction of blood vessels relating to the liver.

“When I woke up I was in so much pain and that is how life was for the next few months. I was very, very ill and kept getting secondary infections. They would put a tube through my back and into my chest and drain two pints of dirty water into a bucket. I was in agony.

“People would come in and visit and say the album was really good and it was doing well and I really did not care. I was somewhere else.

“There was one bright moment though. The album was on the Chess label and I got a silver disc for it. They brought it into the hospital and put it on the wall and the nurse came in and asked what it was. I said it was a kind of award and she asked if it was for playing chess!”

Ironically the album was called Going Back Home – and after months of painful recuperation, Wilko finally returned to the Canvey Island base he feared he might never see again.

“What can I say about Addenbrookes? They were simply wonderful. They saved my life and no words I could ever say would do justice to their expertise and care. I owe them everything,” he added.

“It was such a tough time. Even when I finally went home, I was in so much pain I thought I would never get better but Mr Huguet was on the phone every day saying I would get better – and I did.

“I went to Japan for a holiday and when I came back I was feeling better and decided to start playing again. Obviously the first gig I did was a benefit one for Addenbrookes and that went well. I had not touched my guitar in months but being back on stage was just fantastic.

“Then I did a couple of gigs in Manchester and Glasgow and then supported the Who at the Royal Albert Hall and now I have a few more gigs lined up and I am delighted to be coming back to Wickham.

“It is a great festival with a fantastic atmosphere. I remember the fans gave me a wonderful reception last time and I hope they will be just as pleased to see me back.”

The outpouring of goodwill was a key factor not only in his recovery but also in giving him the strength to face what he thought was going to be the end.

He laughed: “I never realised how popular I was until I was dying! It was a strange thing really. I received so much warmth and love and support from all around the world which really did help.

“After I was given the original diagnosis I went to Japan because I like it there – and they seem to like me. I am quite popular there for some reason and I played a couple of benefit gigs after the Fukushima disaster and then came back with literally bagfuls of letters. Many were written in broken English which made them all the more touching.

“I remember last time I was at Wickham one family flew all the way from Japan just to see me. I got to meet them and they said they felt they had to come over and see me play one last time. Maybe I should give them a refund as I am still here?

“But that kind of warmth really helped. People would come up to me in the street and shake my hand. It was very emotional but I really was ok about dying. It is a lot harder to get my head round the fact I am now still living. I am still coping with that.

“When I got the original diagnosis it took one second for someone to say I had cancer and to turn my universe upside down. But it honestly was not really a negative thing for me. I did not freak out; I was very, very calm.

“I walked out of the hospital and got this fantastic high looking at the sky and the trees and feeling glad to be alive. It was a real surge.

“I thought maybe it was shock and it would all come crashing down but it didn’t. I went through my time with that high and awareness of being really glad to be alive. Apart from the physical suffering and the stomach swelling I was OK.

“I was at ease with the idea of being dead; it was the thought of dying which I did not like. I did not want to be ill and in pain.

“It actually made me a nicer person. I used to be a bastard but now you could not meet a nicer guy. It made me much more tolerant of everything as I was just happy to be here.”

Wilko accepted the initial diagnosis with remarkable stoicism, an outlook which proved an inspiration to all who met him or who read his uplifting interviews.


Although he was at ease with the idea of dying, he has found it much more difficult to adjust to the idea of living.

He added: “While it takes a second to say you have cancer and to accept you are dying, it takes a lot longer to accept that I am OK.

“Coming out the other end and finding I don’t have cancer still takes a lot of getting used to.

“When people talk about plans for the summer, I still can’t do it. I can’t get out of the mindset of only looking a few weeks ahead.

“For a year anything more than a month in the future simply did not exist for me. It is still a bit like that for me now as I am still finding my way back.

“It was incredible though. A week after the op Mr Huguet walked into the room and said he had my results and it was all gone; they had got the whole thing.

“I was with my brother and we just started cheering. I recently went for a check-up and everything is fine. I still hardly dare say the words but I am cured.

“Now I have to decide what to do with all this time I have been given. I am just starting to get back into action and I will be wanting to get back in the recording studio.

“Maybe that might be with Roger Daltrey again, that is one possibility. But I have started to get out all my old notebooks and I am going to start writing some songs now that I am going to be here to sing them.”

Wilko might even return to the hit television series Game of Thrones where he won many admirers as an eerie executioner.

He said: “The Game of Thrones people have enquired about me appearing again. They said it would be possible to write me back in and I would like to do that.

“I did not know anything about it; I was just asked to audition. I thought it was going to be like Xena Princess Warrior or something but when I got to Ireland where they were filming I thought: ‘This is big!’ but even then I did not realise just how big and successful it would be.

“In America they see me as an actor who plays the guitar a bit – which is not quite how I want to be remembered!”

Back in the UK he will be remembered as much for his inspirational outlook on life – and death – as he will for his music and his trademark machine-gun style of playing the guitar.

So, when he strides onto the Wickham stage on August 6 and announces he is delighted to be here, you know he will really mean it!

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    Nice write-up from Kimberley Barber and picture gallery from Stuart Martin for the Hampshire Chronicle

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    Comment on Facebook

    7,000 seems a bit low - is that per day? Were numbers a bit down in previous years? If so they missed a treat. A special year indeed!

    Lorna Colquhoun you and Lynne feature in the photos!

    Claire-Willow Jackson , you're in the press.

    Check out photo 5 Scott Doonican and Alan Doonican

    All good things must come to an end... but oh what a wonderful Wickham weekend this was! We hope you enjoyed it. Thank you to everyone who made it possible. Don't forget you can save £100 by booking 2023 earlybird tickets now via www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/tickets ... See MoreSee Less

    Comment on Facebook

    John and I would like to thank you for a wonderful festival and for all the volunteers that made it possible. We made a point of thanking litter pickers who did a sterling job, and other operatives (both volunteers and paid people as they worked tirelessly in scorching conditions. Talking of ‘scorching’ we’d like to see The Trouble Notes return with their high energy high impact set. They & so many other bands showed their thanks and appreciation for inviting them to Wickham and after recent years it seemed even more heartfelt 💕 You’ve put on a great festival Peter and we look forward to next year with excitement and anticipation. Well done. 👏👏👏👏

    Ooh and can I request 3 Daft Monkeys for next year please, thank you! 😁😍❤️

    Thank you for a fab weekend. Very impressed by cleanliness of the site due to the diligence of the volunteers. Lovely to see the wooden picnic benches everywhere. Will these be a permanent fixture as we loved them and I'm sure others did too. Only downside to weekend was cost of drinks at the bars. £6 a pint was over the top.

    A fabulously well organised and run festival with something for everyone. It struck me on Saturday how clean the site was which was testament to the hard working litter picking volunteers. I made sure to thank them when I met them as it made such a difference.

    Thankyou to everyone involved x We had a wonderful few days. The location is so beautiful and the organisation fantastic. Wonderful to listen to such talented musicians. My first ever music festival ( A bit sad as aged 55 😩!!) Will definitely return x

    Well done all involved - lots of fun 👌👌 - fave moment was the a-cappella version of Donna by 10cc, just magic 🤩

    Great festival disappointed no quay West tent acoustic tent was great as was tea rooms Hope they will be there next year alongside Quay West...

    What a fantastic festival! It was our first Wickham but it won't be our last.

    We had a fantastic weekend! Bounced back with vengeance after last year. Probably the cleanest and tidiest festival we've ever been to. Thankyou and well done!

    Absolutely brilliant festival - thank you. Lots of highlights but The Men They Couldn’t Hang were fantastic. Looking forward to next year.

    Wickham Festival over for another year 😢.....but we have had a great festival; thank you to Peter Chegwyn and everyone else involved with the planning, organisation, stewarding and performances, etc over the four days, we so appreciate all your efforts and hard work. See you next year, tickets already purchased!! X

    My first music fest at 70 and I doubt I could have chosen a better one. From the line up to the stage crew, the volunteers, the staff, the atmosphere, the weather and the reason I came. .. The Saw Doctors. Incredible. God willing I'll be back next year. Thank you to all concerned.

    Well where do I begin so many people I want to thank especially Peter and to say I had a really amazing time seeing some incredible music and food and drink and seeing fiends and meeting some new people and chatting to lots of nice people but that’s only the beginning once I get myself together again after just getting back now I’ll do More comments and posts about this years and I been thinking just as an idea there needs to be some sort of wickham festival Facebook group where we can all chat about this amazing festival and also keep in touch with everyone who we meet there and post videos and photos form this year and previews years and talk about are dream line up just an idea for now see what you all make of it

    We loved the whole event. Great to see this fabulous festival back to full strength. The layout was perfect and intimacy returned. I loved Undertones Show of Hands Waterboys and the magical sharon shannon whom i have followed since Out The Gap in 1994. I will be buying tickets for next year confident it will be as good as this year.

    Was sad to leave last night after arriving Wednesday afternoon.. as always a great time had, great festival, great organisation and nice to see all the staff and helpers were so helpful.. Will be back again next year without a doubt! Such a friendly venue even seeing Johnny Kalsi and Steve Knightley spent a few days out with the rest of us... Well done Peter Chegwin and all the staff that make this one of the best festivals going and the volunteers that keep it so clean compared to a lot of the other festivals that have the mindless litter strewn everywhere by the 'other persons job to clean up after me' mentality of the majority now ... well done all ... see you next year rain or shine.

    A great festival, from the bands, to the volunteers, to fellow festival goers,excellent food choices, rhubarb cider ❤ & great weather. We will back next year for sure!

    A fantastic festival and the improvements made to make it a better experience for disabled weekend campers were a resounding success. Congratulations to all involved

    So enjoyed it 3rd time and although last year was so wet I still enjoyed it but this year was just great loved 10cc

    I am so lucky to live 20 minutes away for this absolutely wonderful festival..Saw so many great bands that I have never heard before..loved cut capers who I saw at Jurassic fields festival a few weeks before,such a friendly festival,apart from the few who put there chairs right in front of some so they had no leg space,,which I also saw with a few other people,my only gripe.

    1st time at Wickham Music Festival ....bloody brilliant ... 👌 Music, volunteers, staff, tradespeople & nearly all the other festival goers - shame about the 2% that feel they're more entitled than everyone else. Was great to have so many places with seating and some much needed shade... thanks for all the help from the stewards, see you next year!

    Fabulous weekend! Thanks so much team..so much fun on so few stages! Wonderful. The atmosphere was so positive and protective too, so thank you all! 😍🥰🥳

    Fabulous festival 🎉🎶🎉🎶🎉🎶 and fabulous weather 🌞😊

    Perfect weather for packing up after a fantastic weekend... Tuneless Choir had a true blast on Sunday morning... Thank you!!!

    Brilliant weekend, thank you everyone who put so much effort into all the planning and making it possible 😁👍🎵

    Absolutely brilliant isn't enough. The range of music was extraordinary. So glad I opted for Gilbert as my finale. Two suggestions please 1) Could The Magic teapit not be do close to a stage with amplifiers 2) Please could we have screens in Big Top 2. I was lucky to be in the front, but others would havd loved to have seen Megan's magic feet (Saturday) and Sharon's hands (Sunday). I can't wait until next year. The cheque is in the post! Congratulations on a wonderful event I have loved it

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    Big shout-out to MLD Event Management group whose staff worked so hard to build the site, to run it, to keep us all safe... and whose staff are now toiling in blistering heat to dismantle it all. Huge thanks too to all the volunteers from the ticket office and entrance staff to the production team, backstage crew, lighting and sound engineers, stewards, litter pickers and everyone else. ... See MoreSee Less

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    A big round of applause for the guys and gals who kept the toilets and showers clean and topped up with loo roll. A horrible job for them but a fabulous effort on their part. Some peoples toilets habits have a lot to be desired !!!! 👏 thank you 😊

    My first year volunteering as a steward, great team, wonderful experience and will definitely be helping out again next year! 😊

    Excellent organisation and friendly helpful Stewards. We live locally so drive in daily but had such a good time! Thank you1😉

    A big thank you to everyone involved, it was a great festival. 👏👏 Looking forward to next year and need to book it asap x

    I have been working alongside the MLD Guys Providing the Medical Staff since they became part of the Hampshire Festivals Team at Stokes Bay a good few years ago. They are so hard working and efficient, Ihave witnessed them deal with many problems quickly and efficiently and despite how busy they have been they have always been there to assist us whenever required

    Our first festival bringing our motorhome... was very impressed with the organisation, all the staff and volunteers. The site was so clean. You all worked really hard and it was amazing!! Just booked for next year!!! 🙌 thankyou!!!

    They have done an amazing job. I think this year was one of the very best.

    I watched 2 guys from MLD heaving the picnic tables onto their backs from infront of Stage 2 on Thursday afternoon, couldn't believe they were doing that, let alone in the heat, clearly superfit!

    Agreed it was excellent and awesome and so mi d and friendly ♥️

    Richard Charidge bihar up for mld

    You're all amazing 👏 ❤

    Well said thank you

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    Such a sad sight. Just a few hours ago the party was in full swing, now the clear-up is well under way 😭
    We had a blast!
    Don't worry, we'll do it all again next year August 3-6. Book now and save up to £100 on a weekend season ticket. Book online at www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/tickets or print off this form and send it in to save even more!
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    Hi, this is how festival sites should look at home time!Just saying!! Proud of my generation .

    We had an absolute blast! Superb organisation, great mix of music, friendly atmosphere- can’t wait for next year! Any chance you could separate the stages so the sound doesn’t transfer? The heavy base from Big Top 1 drowns out the quieter acts in the other big top. Also site plan in the programme please.

    Great chilled out festival made even better by the weather ☀️ thank you. And a HUGE thank you to the guys controlling the traffic ensuring we all got across safely 👏👏 to campsite 🏕

    can we have less volume next year many acts were distortedly loud! And more sun please

    Massive thank you to all the crew, security, toilet cleaners, bin emptiers, litter pickers, and anyone else I’ve forgotten. The atmosphere was amazing.

    Wonderful as always!! Cheque's in the post for next year. If you missed my earlier post, I 'm sure all attendees will join me in thanking the wonderful comperes, Alistair and John who did sterling work as always but rarely get the thanks and applause that they should.....

    Fantastic weekend. Glad you kept the acoustic stage, saw some great local acts on there. Just one thing….. I think the magic teapot and the twisted tea rooms were too close and it affected the magic teapot a lot as they were being drown out by amps etc. the magic in the teapot is the sing alongs. It can have an amazing unique atmosphere. Please consider separating them if they return next year. 😁

    Thank you sooo much for an amazing, brilliant,fantastic festival. We enjoyed ourselves very much 😀. So much choice of music and things to do. Well done to everyone involved, you excelled our expectations again. Looking forward to next year already. Xxxx

    it was a fantastic festival. East Kent Morris were privileged to dance during the weekend. We hope you will have us back! A special shout out to the paramedics who looked after my wife yesterday when she tripped (over someone's bag in an aisle, ahem!) and dislocated her finger badly. They were brilliant.

    Thank you all so much, had a wonderful festival, discovered new bands to listen to. The grass site and the sun were brilliant( especially the sun ) such a change from last year, my Wickham wellies sulked at being left at home !! See you all next year xxxxx

    Brilliant festival well done to everyone involved enjoyed all the bands and the magic teapot had some good times in there and Folk Orc as well as the story teller the kids had a great time with the silent disco only one thing could you supply a site plan please . Will be booking for next year 🥰

    We had a great time! For me, the Spooky Mens Chorale were the highlight. Please make sure you get them back here as soon as possible! But please do something to reduce the sound from Big Top 1 leaking through to Big Top 2. Maybe (perish the thought!) turn down the volume on Stage 1. Oh, and it would be great to have a big screen outside Big Top 2.

    Fabulous festival - Fantastic Acts- Friendly staff and visitors - No aggro - No massive police or security presence ( though I'm sure some undercover boys in blue about 😘) Couple of requests for next year please: NO chairs whatsoever in Big Top 1 & 2 ( so many people "reserved" their "spot" by leaving chairs never to return for the night - with crowd pullers such as The Levellers, the tent, being packed with empty chairs not people, was very frustrating !!) A block of toilets positioned to the left hand side of Big Top 1 would be really appreciated for the less mobile Consider placing the guests who paid most for their tickets ( campers/tents with EHU) closest to the festival arena - not furthest away. Adopt a more relaxed approach to a reasonable amount of personal food and drink being allowed inside festival - when you are there from Midday to Midnight - 12 hours worth of bought food and drink really adds up financially over 4 days for those on a budget ( and would probably fill up the festival with people sooner in the day 😊) Thank you.

    Fantastic weekend, thank you to all you lovely people who make it happen 👍

    Another fantastic Wickham. My highlights were Grace Petrie, Levellers, The Men They Couldn't Hang, Dhol Foundation, Ferocious Dog. Best new find was The Trouble Notes - cracking high energy set. Tickets booked for next year already. Thanks to everyone.

    Another well organised festival with great artists and superb staff. Heard lots of people complaining about the high volume levels inside both main stages from Friday onwards and I agree. I've never seen so many people with earplugs and ear defenders. This must be a major contributor to the sound "bleed" between main stage 1 and main stage 2. Does it really need to be so loud. Some may tell us to sit outside instead but that wasn't a realistic option in the sunshine and heat.

    Fantastic long weekend, great lineup, well organised/management, brilliant campsites (loos and other facilities), the event team and volunteers were helpful, cheerful and caring. I didn’t see any trouble, minimal litter, thanks to the team and festival goers who were diligent in tidy up after themselves. Oh, and the person who was in charge of ordering the weather is around for next years festivities. THANK YOU EVERYONE x

    Superb festival. Been volunteering for ten years now come rain or shine. Having experience at seeing a little of what it takes to hold the festival behind the scenes is enlightening and quite scary. Every team backstage work really well together to keep the festival rolling. Hats off to everyone involved 🎩

    Thank you to all the organisers and everyone involved, in putting on one of the BEST festivals, got our tickets for next year! Can’t wait! ❤️❤️

    What a fantastic weekend. Thanks to all the organisers and artists. Just bought next years tickets 😀👍

    It was fabulous! I've been to six festivals this year and this one was the best. Well done to the organisers, the artists, the crews, and the volunteers! xx

    Fantastic from start to finish! Thanks to all concerned, I’m sure it took a lot of work from everyone, but hopefully it was a good deal less stressful than last year.

    It was a brilliant one - the best yet ...we really loved playing it this year ...x Thank you for having us ...

    Not until you stop the chairs in the stage area!!! And move the big stage down in the dip ! Much better! ✌️☀️

    Thanks to all involved for a great weekend! We arrived Wednesday, left this morning, wish it was longer 🤣

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    I had such a great time at Wickham Festival... but somehow I got separated from my owner 😭
    If you recognise me please message these nice people who are looking after me very well.
    (They also found this tankard, it's not mine... I'm not old enough to drink) t.co/0I5AvxuvuQ
    ... See MoreSee Less

    I had such a great time at Wickham Festival... but somehow I got separated from my owner 😭
If you recognise me please message these nice people who are looking after me very well.
(They also found this tankard, its not mine... Im not old enough to drink) https://t.co/0I5AvxuvuQImage attachment

    Comment on Facebook

    Thank you to everyone who handed in lost property ❤️ over the weekend we lost so many things and got them all back safely! Last minute dash up to get my bank card this morning! Very grateful!! 🙏🙏🙏

    Ah, thats my tankard! Thank you for rescuing it. Could you let me know how I can collect it. Thanks again

    I hope you find your friends soon 🤗 I wonder if you could ask the nice people if they have some brown sunglasses please 🙏

    I lost a set of keys with a VW key and a Nissan fob on it ( with other keys ). I was a volunteer on the Andys Man Club Stand Saturday and Sunday and didnt miss them until we started to pack up sunday night. it was a NIGHTMARE! I have also sent in a PM to you guys. I am DESPERATE to get the keys back. REALLY hope you can help. 🥹🙏🙏🤞🤞🤞🤞

    Hi , I hope you find your friends/ Owners soon too 🤞

    Anyone seen my ducks? They all flew when the Donicans played but never came home!!!

    I lost a few pound and two pound coins, so if find any of those….. there all mine! 😉

    if anyone finds my innocence .....

    i saw him and a few others flying round the doonicans mosh pit

    I lost a silver earring if anyone happened across one?

    Bit of a tacky tankard eh?

    Kim Wing

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