Organisers overwhelmed as return of Dereham Blues Festival proves a big hit

Punters enjoying Dereham Blues Festival at The Bull pub

Punters enjoying Dereham Blues Festival at The Bull pub - Credit: Danielle Booden

The organisers of Dereham Blues Festival were over the moon after the musical extravaganza proved a big success on its return after two years away. 

Venues across the town were packed with punters from Thursday to Sunday as thousands of blues enthusiasts descended on mid Norfolk. 

The Journeymen playing at The Bull as part of Dereham Blues Festival

The Journeymen playing at The Bull as part of Dereham Blues Festival - Credit: Danielle Booden

A "bigger festival than ever before" had been promised in the build-up to the event, and it certainly delivered following a two-year, Covid-enforced absence.

Around 70 bands and artists played in 20 venues, with some, such as Darby's in Swanton Morley, getting involved for the first time. 

Acts included headliners When Rivers Meet and Kyla Brox, who got proceedings off to a flying start on Wednesday (July 6) night.

When Rivers Meet performing at Dereham Blues Festival's opening concert

When Rivers Meet performing at Dereham Blues Festival's opening concert - Credit: Colin Collis

Doreen Aitken, festival secretary, said the whole organising committee was delighted with the outcome after months of hard work. 

"We wanted something that would raise everybody's spirits after Covid, and I think we did that," added Mrs Aitken. 

"It was incredible to see so many happy, smiling faces.

A scene from The Cock pub during Dereham Blues Festival

A scene from The Cock pub during Dereham Blues Festival - Credit: Colin Collis

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"The festival has been tremendously missed. There were some people who were massively impacted by Covid, and this was a release for them.

"With something of this size we did of course have some teething problems, but just about every problem was solved one way or another."

It wasn't just fans who came from far and wide for the blues festival, but artists too.

People in the sunshine enjoying Dereham Blues Festival 2022

People in the sunshine enjoying Dereham Blues Festival 2022 - Credit: Danielle Booden

Some travelled from as far afield as Ireland and Scotland to be involved, demonstrating just how much the event has grown since the inaugural edition in 2013. 

Mrs Aitken said she was pleased to see so many young people enjoying a genre often stereotyped as being for "old timers".

She added: "There is this thought that blues is miserable and depressing, but it is about life in all its forms. 

Around 70 bands performed at Dereham Blues Festival 2022

Around 70 bands performed at Dereham Blues Festival 2022 - Credit: Danielle Booden

"You can see how much joy it brings to people."

She also reserved special praise for Ross Stewart, 18, who fronted the Ross Stewart Trio.

Mr Stewart attends jam sessions run by Norfolk Blues Society and is already making a name for himself.

Thousands of people enjoyed Dereham Blues Festival at 20 venues

Thousands of people enjoyed Dereham Blues Festival at 20 venues - Credit: Colin Collis

"He absolutely blew everybody away," said Mrs Aitken. "It is like he has been performing for 50 years.

"It is amazing to see somebody so young with so much musical talent and maturity."

A scene from The King's Head pub during Dereham Blues Festival 2022

A scene from The King's Head pub during Dereham Blues Festival 2022 - Credit: Colin Collis

The Journeymen playing at The Bull as part of Dereham Blues Festival

The Journeymen playing at The Bull as part of Dereham Blues Festival - Credit: Danielle Booden