There’s a saying – ‘Life’s what you make it’. The organisers of Codfest must live by this mantra as they certainly make life great for a day for those lucky enough to get a ticket to this small, but lovingly crafted music festival in Codsall Wood. In its 8th year, Codfest improves each year but stays close to its original blueprint. It doesn’t grow beyond the field boundary it sits within, and the location of the arena and stalls stay in more or less the same place year on year – but tweaks to the way the festival is ran through to improvements in the selection of food and drink available are noticeable.
This is a top festival on a small scale. Musicians are, in general, local, as are those in attendance. The music is a heady mix of rock, pop, folk and, this year, the acoustic dub reggae sounds of Birmingham duo, BEAR were thrown into the mix. There’s something for everyone – highlights for us were the brilliant The Arrangements and the fun (check out the costumes) sing along crowd pleasers, The Pale Aliens – who also had a rather tasty Morton Brewery beer available in their name at the Hail to the Ale mobile bar.
Sam Draisey played on the main stage during the afternoon, with songs from his new album As I Live and Breathe (review here) going down well. Organised by Sam and father, Roy and team, Codfest is a family orientated festival. Prime evidence of this could be seen in the queue for the face-painting stall, in the merchandise on sale, but most of all by the amount of families with children in attendance.
Codfest’s tagline is ‘The Friendly Festival’. It certainly is. The festival is a safe, fun place for families to attend, the sort which breeds warm childhood memories for us to look back on fondly as adults. Many people wore fancy dress – this year’s theme was heroes & villains; amongst them was Superwoman, Michael Jackson, Freddy Mercury, a man dressed as a banana and more. Despite Roy making mention of a few setbacks late in the day during organisation of Codfest 8, they certainly weren’t noticeable to hundreds enjoying themselves into the night, many camping out, helped on by a beautiful sunny early September afternoon.
The main benefit from events like Codfest and Codsall Beer Festival (the third is to be held next month) is what it brings to the area – a sense of community; local people who care about each other sharing a good time in pleasant surroundings. Every area could do with their own version of Codfest – but not every area has dedicated people willing to volunteer their time to put on an event that will last in the memories of those in attendance. It’s a shame we have to wait a year for Codfest 9!
If you live in Wolverhampton or South Staffordshire and like music, chances are you’ve heard of – if not seen – Sam Draisey. Sam’s been about for a few years yet hasn’t quite reached the grand old age of thirty yet, which will come as shock on hearing new album, ‘As I Live and Breathe‘. Draisey sings with a real conviction, you feel his words come from the heart, from experience, at times from personal anger about politics, greed and the state of England. There are echoes of Frank Turner here, modern folk and protest. But this is far from just a protest album, there’s plenty of love and upbeat melody here to raise a smile – even the songs that deride modern society, apathy and negative attitude such as ‘Scarecrows‘ play along to a positive rhythm – that feeling of “hey, despite how it looks, life isn’t all bad so keep your chin up! Things will get better.”
A favourite of ours, ‘The Worst Lie Of All‘ tells a story that many from the working class will be familiar with, trying your best to get somewhere but having the world against you, of the wealthy turning a blind eye to the plight of those struggling to make ends meet and of people in power treating the rest of us as political pawns rather than thinking, feeling people.
‘Used To Be My Hero‘ bounds along at quite a pace, another familiar theme for listeners – musicians that had a powerful message and gained a fan-base but ended up middle of the road once they’d become successful – and comfortable, losing their edge and putting out music just to keep people happy and the money rolling in, never regaining that original passion. ‘I Won’t Ask Why‘ is a thoughtful ballad about unexpectedly falling in love and cherishing it now it’s here, come what may.
There’s a lot of experience behind ‘As I Live and Breathe’; as well as having several albums under his belt, Draisey is a regular live performer. if you haven’t seen him live, it really is worth tracking him down – a recent Facebook post on Sam Draisey Music tells us that he’s approaching his 1000th gig since he started out in 2005 (both solo and in bands such as The Replicas). This includes the Molineux, Codfest, various festivals and pub gigs such as the Newhampton Inn and The Crown, Codsall. Live, Sam holds an audience captive – we’re looking forward to hearing some of ‘As I Live and Breathe’ in person.
‘As I Live and Breathe’ is being released on 23 July at The Crown in Codsall, South Staffordshire. Entry is free and the gig starts at 20:30.
There was a lot of local hype on social media and chatter in pubs prior to the sixth Codfest, Codsall’s own ‘Friendly Festival’. Codfest didn’t just live up to the hype – it chewed it up, spat it out and saw the likes of The Replicas and Ronin destroy it.
It wouldn’t be a lie to say that Codfest gets better year on year – its only limit being its capacity – but this isn’t necessarily a handicap as it ensures that the event stays intimate and attracts the right sort of people – mostly by word of mouth. Codfest doesn’t need much in the way of advertising. There’s no doubt that the festival could be huge, but as it is, things work very well.
The choice of artists and bands was perfect, each building up as the sun dropped behind the distant Wrekin to a final crescendo as a large crowd gathered to watch and sing along to The Replicas – who are so good it’s amazing they aren’t working on their own material (I won’t run through all the acts here, but the likes of Luke Wylde & The Japes and Sam Draisey were all worthy of their respective stage – see a list of some of the acts here).
In fact, the whole festival was a showcase of local talent – the best of the Midlands, from the music to the organisation, from Morton Brewery’s real ale (festival special Speedwell Bitter sold out in a few hours) to the merchandise. If you haven’t yet been to this September annual, you really should – if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a ticket.
We caught up with one of the festival organisers, Roy Draisey, for a quick Q&A session.
WW: Saturday’s event was the sixth Codfest; where did the inspiration to start a local festival initially come from?
RD: If you check out the Codfest Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CodfestOfficial page there’s a nice little video (based on Starwars) that tells the history. It was a few (3 or 4 pals who were fairly regular festival goers) having a drink and talking about how nice it would be to run your own festival. At around the same time I was approached by a local field owner about the possibility of putting some live music on for a gathering of friends. (my son Sam is a local musician and runs open mic’s in the area and we spoke to him about getting performers) It turned out the gathering was for quite a few people so our group of friends said we would help as long as it was done properly, with Licence application and insurance etc. So we did the first Codfest in 6 weeks, charging £5 to cover costs and had £15 left over after expenses.
WW: Where would you like Codfest to be in another six years?
RD: Same place and size as it is now. It was tongue in cheek, but the last thing I said on Saturday night after The Replicas had finished was ‘don’t tell your friends’. If we could have the same crowd back year on year that would be great. The crowd is the right size, they are all friends, or friends of friends, they behave well, and give us the income we need to put on the show, and have something left over to give to good causes. Codfest is run by a group of volunteers who do it because of the ‘buzz’. It’s great when the day goes well and local bands and acoustic artists get to play in front of such a crowd, but equally giving £600 to a local infants school to buy 20 ukuleles and percussion instruments was a great feeling. We hope to do the same again this year with another local school. Also we’d like to look back in a few years and see someone who played at Codfest deservedly making it in the music industry. Long live Live Music. We had around 60 performers at this year’s festival and we are very grateful we get supported the way we do. Without them there is no Codfest. We are always looking for new acts, with the emphasis being on fairly local and fitting a balanced line up. We think the stalls are a nice balance of arts crafts with interest for adults and kids.
WW: What is it that makes this festival such a popular and positive event?
RD: The organisers are all local and have links in the community. Several of the organisers kids are musicians as well as being on the organising committee. Sam Draisey, Joe McKim and Dan Boyce all performed at this year’s Codfest, and they have all been through Codsall and Bilbrook schools. Codfest is not for profit, and we keep the cost to a minimum, although the fact that tickets sell so well gives us the opportunity to improve things like the stage and lighting, which was our big intention for Codfest 6. We also like to think that our attitude towards putting Codfest together and engaging and helping our supporters rubs off helping create a happy atmosphere. There are a lot of musicians in the local area, both young and established. Codfest is a great platform for them to perform and be supported by people who want a good day out. Pretty much the last thing we do is publish who’s playing at Codfest, and that’s always way after the tickets are sold. So it’s the Codfest day out rather than who’s playing that brings people back. Someone called it the ‘Friendly Festival’ a couple of years ago, and we adopted that description as part of our logo. A large number of our attendees have been to all 6 Codfest’s so far, so we must do something they like.
WW: The greater Wolverhampton area – including South Staffordshire – regularly receives negative press. Is this justified?
RD: Maybe some of it is, but equally we should be sharing what is done well and for the good of the community by members of the community. Having said that we don’t want to advertise wider. Codfest has grown by word of mouth and that way we hope we get folk coming who understand and respect what is we are doing. We are a few friends who enjoy putting Codfest together, but there are Community groups doing great stuff, and also Codsall is putting on its first independent beer festival in October, https://www.facebook.com/Codsallbeerfestival and we are happy to support this kind of event as they have similar values to ours. We don’t do this for recognition or as part of larger voluntary initiatives because other services have been withdrawn. We just do it because we want to, and people enjoy it.
WW: Events like Codfest, Tettenhalls ‘Make It or Bake It’ market and local attractions such as award winning pubs like Hail to the Ale & Codsall Station raise the profile of Wolverhampton and the South Staffs border area. If you could do any three things to enhance our area to put it in a positive light, what would they be?
- Encourage pub chains and owners to have more live music for community enjoyment.
- Encourage schools regarding the development of musical talent and having fun with music.
- Ban the X Factor