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Written by: Pete Robson

Back in January we spoke with Ian Lyster about his vision to create Behind the Castle a new one day music festival held in the castle grounds of Sherborne. Ian had invested everything into this festival, so it was important that it was a success. We caught up with Ian after the festival to ask him for his thoughts on how it went and more importantly if there will be another Behind the Castle in 2015. But before we speak to Ian lets take a look at the festival and speak with some of the artist who performed.


From the very moment we arrived the festival spirit was in full flow, the gates had not yet opened but a congregation of eager festival-goers had arrived early to bask in the sunshine whilst waiting for the the gates to open. Before the first act ‘Jack McNeill and Charlie Heys’ started I had fifteen minutes to casually browse the site. I found a modest number of cloth/trinket stools but was spoiled for choice when it came to food. The main stage took pride of place against the beautiful backdrop of surrounding countryside, while the second stage and the Marnhall Acoustic Sessions stage were both undercover which offered shelter if it rained and shade if it didn’t.


The festival got under way with Jack McNeill and Charlie Heys opening on the second stage with their uplifting and innovative contemporary folk songs. The Marnhall Acoustic Sessions stage got into full flow with Lizzyspit and Paul Brady was the first act to grace the main stage. Paul Brady looked genuinely pleased to be performing and towards the end of his set invited special guest Lisbee Stainton on stage. Ian Lyster had previously explained that the main stage acts would be given the festivals full attention. To do this all other music would stop during each main stage performance. This proved to be exceptionally successful, as it created a sense of community making everyone part of the same experience.


This community spirit made it easy for me to talk with festival goers and ask if they were enjoying their day. Everyone I spoke to had an overwhelming appreciation for the clean toilets which came equipped with clean running water and wash-basins. The second most common thing people were delighted by was the outstandingly beautiful setting. Unfortunately there was some dissatisfaction with the slow bar service, however we were spoilt for choice when eventually served.


From the customers perspective the festival was well organized and enjoyable, but what were the artists experiencing? I asked Cara Dillon if she was enjoying the festival. “I take my hat off to Ian, he has found an amazing setting and booked amazing artists. I have played loads of festivals over the years and they don’t get any nicer than this. Back stage has been such a huge consideration, there is fresh coffee, cake and even a play area for children, it is amazing here”. We also spoke with Mark Chadwick from the Levellers who said “Festivals like this are what we need, I’m sure it will be a huge success”.


Behind The Castle can boast they have a happy audience and happy artists. This combination made for electrifying performances! Newton Faulkner performed a memorable set where he encourage the entire festival to jump to his music. Cara Dillon on the second stage delighted the audience with songs from her new album ‘A Thousand Hearts’.  And The Marnhull Acoustic Stage saw muti-guitarist (that’s right multi-guitarist, the dude plays two at a time) Rodney Branigan perform an energetic set with accompaniment from violinist Tim Snider. The finale was left in the capable hand of the Levellers who performed a set which felt like a celebration. The entire festival erupted while an impressive light display illuminated the stage. (Next month we have interviews with the The Levellers, Cara Dillon and Rodney Branigan).


A few days after the festival once Sherborne Castle had been restored back to its tranquil state. I meet up with Ian Lyster in a sun soaked beer garden to discuss all things Behind The Castle. Ian wasted no time in telling me who had helped him with the festival. “My family have been amazing through this, putting up with me organizing the festival for the last year especially as my office is at home. Eli Mead worked as my right-hand woman for the last three weeks and Kerry Bartlett worked incredibly hard on site. There were countless other people involved. I must also give massive thanks to all the artists who were all amazing”.


Ian also confirmed that next year 2015 Behind The Castle festival will return! Not only will it return but it will be improved upon. The bar will be larger with more staff to cope with demand. Family tickets will be available, and inturn the range of children's activities will be expanded. Ian explained “It is very difficult to know exactly who your target audience is until the day of the festival, we discovered that a large percentage of our customers where between the ages of 30-50 with young children, hence the introduction of family tickets”.


Behind the Castle was an exceptionally good festival, attention had been given to small detail which made all the difference. I’m sure over time, as people from further afield hear about Behind the Castle it will sell out quickly. Remember Behind the Castle out trending the Isle Of Weight Festival on Twitter which was held on the same day. So you may want to buy your tickets early. Ian also runs regular music nights and smaller festivals, which we have provided links to below. Don’t forget next month we will have interviews with The Levellers, Cara Dillon and Rodney Branigan.

North Dorset Folk Festival

Behind The Castle

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions