‘Memorable’ Kenilworth Arts Festival comes to a close

John Smith playing at the Tudor Stables. Photo by Redwood Photography
John Smith playing at the Tudor Stables. Photo by Redwood Photography

The second edition of the Kenilworth Arts Festival came to a close last weekend, and was one to remember.

Starting with ‘Fiesta’ in Abbey Fields on Sunday September 17 and ending with a much-anticipated performance from singer-songwriter John Smith on Saturday September 23, the festival was a ‘memorable week’ for KWN reviewer Clive Peacock.

Hattie Whitehead, who supported John Smith at the Tudor Stables. Photo by Redwood Photography

Hattie Whitehead, who supported John Smith at the Tudor Stables. Photo by Redwood Photography

Clive already shared his thoughts on some of the earlier events, but he continued to sample the festival by seeing jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock perform an ‘exceptional’ show in St John’s Church on Thursday September 21.

Clive said: “As a massive fan of Chick Corea and King Crimson’s works, Simcock paid tribute to these legends with extraordinarily creative interpretations of their works.

“Kenny Wheeler’s “Everyone’s Song but my Own”, was given the Simcock treatment with great aplomb, followed by a dedication to happy northern people with “Northern Smiles”, full of delightful tumbling chords.

“Simcock proved to be quite a story teller in addition to being one of the most inventive jazz pianists on the road today.”

On Friday September 22, a ‘challenging’ evening of poetry was held at the Tudor Stables in Kenilworth Castle, which Clive had mixed feelings towards.

He said: “Shropshire lad, Ben Bransfield’s ‘Greenhouses’, Malaysian-born Cynthia Miller’s ‘Free Divers’ and Welsh resident Marvin Thompson’s mobile phone reading of his latest piece about the Grenfell Tower disaster were the best from the aspirants.”

But a profane line from Rishi Dastidar left many of the audience ‘as cool as the temperature in the venue’, according

The final day of the festival was headlined by Smith, supported by fellow singer-songwriter Hattie Whitehead.

Clive described Smith’s set as ‘witty, charming, confrontational and skilful’.

He added: “Many in the audience travelled long distances for this sold out event and were delighted with a long set displaying remarkable skill technically and using his, sometimes, gravelly voice to good effect.

“Favourites including ‘Tell me a Dream’, travelling songs ‘Joanna’ and ‘Desire’ and tributes to Jackson Brown built upon a very workman-like, yet enterprising opening half hour.

“And Hattie’s first half showcased her enormous capabilities as a fine vocalist, storyteller and excellent guitar player. ‘Ups and Downs’, ‘Patterns’ and ‘Moneyman’ evidencing why she a frequent UK festival favourite.”