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How Ramblin Man Fair became the UK's most interesting rock festival

Crowd at Ramblin Man Fair
(Image credit: Will Ireland)

The summer festival season is approaching. You love your rock and want to get involved, but don’t really fancy three days of a) wall-to-wall heavy metal, b) rivers of mud-caked kids, or c) some snoozefest at a stately home headlined by Coldplay/Keane/Toploader. 

Where do you turn?

In 2015, Spirit Of Rock Productions noticed this gap in the market and created Ramblin Man Fair – named after an Allman Brothers track, but designed for lovers of all shades of rock, set in the green, tree-dotted Mote Park in Maidstone. 

Whether you’re camping, glamping or coming in from off-site, it’s the best of both worlds: a weekend of proper rock music, plus the kind of picturesque, thoughtfully catered setting often reserved for hipster festivals. 

“The main plan with the festival was to try and create a unique atmosphere for older rock fans, where a mix of great food, real ales and quality rock music were all equally important!” says founder/Spirit Of Rock CEO Chris Ingham. 

“And it was vital that if we were attempting to hold the attention of lifelong rock fans that we put real effort into sourcing a diverse set of artists each year.”

Ramblin Man Fair is a classic rock lover’s dream, but it’s no purist setting either. With stages offering blues, prog, country and southern sounds – and rock’s foremost heroes heading things up on the main stage – there is something for everyone. Where else can you sunbathe with The Temperance Movement, mosh in front of Monster Magnet, cry (in a good way) with Beth Hart and discover bands you might end up liking for the next 20 years? And do it all in attractive settings, while enjoying something delicious, surrounded by good people?

“We work hard at selecting artists that offer something different whenever we can,” Ingham says of the festival’s ethos today. “I think that leads into attracting an audience who are there because they love discovering new music, and sharing that experience with the people around them. In five years we haven’t had one arrest on site, so people must be getting along!”

So what are you waiting for? Get your tickets and head on down to Mote Park this July. Bring your shades, grab a lip-smacking beverage from one of the real ale tents and stroll across the grass, soaking up a rich cocktail of sounds as you go. Find your inner outlaw with the Allman Betts Band, listen to new tunes from Inglorious, have a bloody good knees-up with Airbourne – and cap it all off by singing along to I Want To Know What Love Is with the legends responsible for it.

Summer festival plans, sorted. Here are just some of this year's highlights:

Cheap Trick live

The mighty Cheap Trick (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The classic rock royalty…

Ramblin Man Fair has serious form when it comes to A-listers, and this year is no exception. If you’ve never seen Cheap Trick live (and even if you have) you’re in for a huge treat, as the Illinois pop rockers bring I Want You To Want Me and the rest of their arsenal to Maidstone, followed swiftly by Kentucky’s finest Black Stone Cherry. If that’s not a recipe for a great Saturday night, we don’t know what is.

And on Sunday the whole weekend will be capped off with headliners Foreigner – the classic rock icons behind such earworms as Waiting For A Girl Like You, Cold As Ice, I Want To Know What Love Is and so much more. We’ll be the ones singing along down the front...

The Wildhearts live

The Wildhearts: back and totally on form (Image credit: Will Ireland)

The homegrown heroes…

On Friday there’s The Wildhearts, hot off the release of their first album in ten years (spoiler: it’s awesome). Also on Friday is The Darkness, who rocketed to stardom with the immortal I Believe In A Thing Called Love and have continued to put out full-on bangers ever since, while the Grooverider Stage on Sunday welcomes Orange Goblin – one of the most riotously riff-tastic, beer-throwing live acts around. And if you fancy something truly individual (and utterly compelling), head to the Prog Stage to catch Anathema, the Liverpudlians responsible for some of the UK’s most innovative, incendiary rock.

Kris Barras live

Bon Jovi-voiced blues rocker Kris Barras (Image credit: Will Ireland)

The rising stars…

They’ve turned a few heads already, and now this lot are flying high – but still new enough to be ‘hungry’. Heavy, funky Pennsylvanians Crobot will showcase old headbangers and new material at the Grooverider Stage. For a masterclass in Bon Jovi-voiced blues rock Kris Barras (over on Friday's Main Stage) is your guy. Progressive types KOYO will blow your mind with soaring Radiohead-rivalling sounds (Prog In The Park). Peterborough’s Austin Gold with open the Main Stage on Sunday in Bad Company-meets-Foo Fighters style. 

And much more besides...

The Lazys

Where Airbourne meets Lizzy: The Lazys

The next big things…

Ramblin Man is a great place to discover new music, with 16 brilliant new bands playing the festival’s Rising Stage across the weekend. Get ahead of the curve and check out the hard rock of Gin Annie, bluesy stylings of Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts and the arena-ready chops of Ryders Creed – before everyone else does.

And there’s more. On Friday you can check out Australia’s exciting new rock’n’rollers The Lazys, as they follow in Airbourne’s good-time footsteps with added Thin Lizzy-esque bite. And if you head over to the Blues Stage on Sunday, you’ll find Sweet Crisis, Cambridge’s soulful, 21st century answer to Free and The Rolling Stones.

Plus, the food is really good…

Forget dodgy burgers and sad watery pints. Instead, think steak sandwiches, mouthwatering falafel wraps, mac & cheese, wood oven pizza, chunky chips with tasty toppings, pulled pork and Texas ribs… Oh yeah, and their own f***ing beer festival. You’re welcome.

For more info and to buy tickets, visit the Ramblin Man Fair website