‘We want Dereham to be like the Nashville of Norfolk’ – The stage is set for the 2014 Dereham Blues Festival

The Dereham Blues Festival is this weekend. Picture: Ian Burt

The Dereham Blues Festival is this weekend. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

The stage is set for a musical celebration which organisers hope will establish Dereham at the heart of the blues scene, just like the 'Nashville of Norfolk'.

The second Dereham Blues Festival takes place this weekend, promising a 'whole mess o' blues' from Mississippi swamp through R&B, Chicago and the laid-back grooves of the Deep South.

One of the major improvements to last year's inaugural event is the appearance of an international star to open the proceedings, with Manfred Mann frontman and BBC radio presenter Paul Jones playing a sell-out show at Dereham Memorial Hall tomorrow night.

The 2014 festival will also feature a more staggered programme of events, ensuring that gig-goers can see more bands for free, with performers from across the country playing at 10 venues around the town, including pubs, bars, hotels and the railway station.

Doreen Aitken, treasurer of the Norfolk Blues Society (NBS), said: 'There is more of a buzz around the town this year. Last year, nobody knew what it was all about, but the buzz afterwards has more or less continued all year, so it has maintained that momentum.

'We have got traditional blues and all of its development, encompassing rock, Chicago, Deep South, experimental – everything up to today. It is the full spectrum, and it is the core of modern popular music, so anyone who likes music will find something they like here.

'We want Dereham to be like the Nashville of Norfolk, with people going from pub to pub watching bands.'

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Mrs Aitken will also be singing with the festival's Community Blues Choir, which brought 21 singers to workshops to learn songs to perform in the town on Saturday. The first performance will be outside the Hollywood Cinema on Market Place at 11.30am on Sunday.

Sunday will also feature jam sessions giving aspiring singers and musicians the chance to perform with a live band.

One singer who took that opportunity last year is now fronting his own band – which will play in public for the first time at this year's festival.

Dominic Coleman will sing with the DC Wilson Band at the King's Head on Saturday afternoon. The 60-year-old, who lived in Dereham until moving to Wymondham in September, said: 'It just proves that anyone can get involved.

'I had never sung in a band before – I did karaoke but I got up and sang at a jam session, and now I'm in the festival. It can happen to anyone. You can just turn up at a jam session and do your thing.'

At the other end of the experience scale is Tony Edwards, the guitarist and vocalist with blues/rock outfit Workhorse, who will be playing at the Plough and Furrow on Saturday night.

The 42-year-old said he had been playing since he was seven years old. He said: 'This is the first time we have been at the festival – I wasn't sure that we were appropriate for it because we are a blues rock band, but we were asked to come and play at the Plough. It shows that there is not much separation between blues and rock music, and you can hear the blues in most great rock music.'

Bob and Julie Bones, of the Beautiful Days Society, will be performing acoustic blues with their house band, as well as making recordings of other performances.

Mr Bones said: 'We will be recording stuff all over the place and doing some interviews to be aired on community radio – the recordings that people have already sent me shows the amazing diversity of what is out there.'

For a full list of gigs and more details about the bands and venues, see www.derehambluesfestival.org.

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