Wadstock and two smoking barrels

Olivia Arigho Stiles talks to the artists and organisers behind Wadham’s outdoor music festival

Didn’t get those coveted Glastonbury tickets? Student loan unable to stretch to a stint at Outlook? Well, worry not because other than the prospect of a term long library lock-in for beleaguered finalists, Trinity term, crucially, means WADSTOCK. Featuring a diverse line-up of musical acts and activities, including face painting and a bungee run, Wadstock traditionally marks the unofficial start to the summer’s festival season. This year, with perennial favourites Dot’s Funk Odyssey, Marvellous Medicine and Garfunkel  playing as part of a fourteen strong line-up of artists peddling reggae, rock folk and soul, Wadstock ‘13 looks set to continue the mini-festival’s reputation for promoting a vast array of local student talent. Taking place in Wadham gardens, retro enthusiasts and aspiring hipsters should gleefully note that there will also be a vintage clothes stall on site.


But what do the bands themselves think of Wadstock? With Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts declaring last week that he was reluctant to headline Glastonbury because of the “wind”, how do the Wadstock artists approach al fresco gigging?

Anna Ploszajski, of Dot’s Funk Odyssey is unfazed, boldly claiming: “We embrace logistical difficulties like we embrace clap choruses and slap bass. At Wadstock 2010 the electrics were cut off on stage because the crowd control guys didn’t anticipate such a reaction to Free Nelson Mandela and got a bit cross with us and shouted at us to stop. Drums and horns continued with the crowd singing the tune in the darkness. The upper layer of the crowd then stormed onto the stage, breaking our music stands and knocking over our microphones and we were forced to retreat via a back exit from the stage.”

John Glanville from jazz and blues band Government Man is equally sanguine, observing: “Open air gigs are always tough, but we’re planning on falling back on our experience from years and venues past, and Wadstock is usually one of the better-sounding outside gigs in Oxford. Plus, Wadham is not known for its open spaces and hilltop winds, unlike Glasto – even Charlie can probably cope with a light breeze.” Joe Bedell-Brill of both DFO and Dorothy, chimes in with gusto “A tornado wouldn’t stop me.”

Asked how it feels for DFO to have nabbed the headline slot at the iconic festival, Joe Bedell-Brill adds ‘You know Oxstu, we just do it for the fans. The fans and the children.’

However, as part of the lesser known blues-folk band Dorothy (the self-professed “bad-boys” of the Oxford music scene) Bedell-Brill hasn’t always been privy to such noble impulses. He reveals that while playing at the Union, Dorothy collectively shouted “Fuck the system!” and were banned from playing Exeter bar. “These were the Feeder/Journey days. A lot of anger back then.” Bringing their anti-establishment antics to Wadstock for the third time running, Dorothy pinpoint up-and-coming St Peter’s folk band The Manatees as ones to watch.

John from Government Man disagrees. “Hannah Ross ft. Guido and Marvellous Medicine [are both] seriously good bands, and we harbour sneaking suspicions that both might make it big in the next few years, so we want to be able to say we saw them before they got famous. We love their music, too.”

Although the organisers politely insist there is no dress code [see interview below] Wadstock attendees might be well advised to wear waterproofs (‘It has rained the last five out of six Wadstocks.’). Channelling the Woodstock ‘69 spirit, the more zealous revellers amongst us will be opting for all-out hippie attire, featuring kaftans, unwashed hair and copious amounts of LSD.


Wadstock 2013 takes place on Saturday 27th April (1st week) in Wadham Gardens.

Olivia Arigho Stiles