Whispering Bob’s first ever festival is a Northamptonshire homecoming

Broadcaster Bob Harris, who lived in Northampton until he was 19, is set to host his first ever festival in his home county.

Broadcaster Bob Harris, who lived in Northampton until he was 19, is set to host his first ever festival in his home county.

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Northampton-born broadcaster “whispering” Bob Harris is set to return to the county that fed his love of music to host his first ever festival – 50 years after leaving for the bright lights of London.

The broadcaster rose to fame throughout the 1970s as host of the alternative music programme the Old Grey Whistle Test, but despite four decades at the forefront of bringing new sounds to the masses, the 69-year-old is taking his first steps as a curator this year.

Harris, whose passion for music was stirred listening to Buddy Holly records in an Abington basement, is to host Under the Apple Tree roots festival with his wife and son in the Silverstone Woodlands over the Spring Bank Holiday.

The two-day affair will feature a host of big name folk and county acts, many of whom have appeared on the DJ’s midweek BBC Radio Two show and a series of video sessions at his Oxfordshire home.

But Mr Harris says his first foray into the festival circuit marks a long overdue homecoming, having left Northampton for the bright lights of London, aged 19.

“There is something about central England I still absolutely love,” he said.

“For me, it goes further than that, I still have such a strong affection for this county.”

Bob Harris

“One of the things about this site is that it’s extremely accessible, it’s not far from the M1 and the M40.

“But for me, it goes further than that, I still have such a strong affection for this county.”

Just over two years ago Harris and his son Miles Myerscough-Harris began hosting acoustic sessions at the family studio in Oxfordshire, situated under a large apple tree.

The videos became so popular the father and son went on to record more than 300, uploading them to their dedicated Youtube channel.

“We got a really positive reaction from the musicians,” Bob said, “people started saying to us we should do some kind of festival.

“That really sowed the seed, so we began to explore the possibilities.

“We started speaking to some of the artists to see if they would be interested in taking part in an Under the Apple Tree Festival, and almost without exception, everyone said ‘yes’.

“The bill that we have put together is really stunning - it is all the people Miles and I really love.”

The festival will see music across four stages, with the likes of Scott Matthews, Beth Neilsen Chapman and Hunter & the Bear on the billing.

BBC Radio Two’s resident ‘Foodie Thursday’ cook Nigel Barden, will be creating dishes for an on-site food village, complete with banqueting tables and a pub.

All-in-all Harris is hoping around 5,000 people will descend on the Silverstone Woodlands between May 27 and 29.

“I am 90 per cent excited and 10 per cent fearful,” he said. “You can have the best line up in the world, but if no one buys a ticket, you don’t have much of a festival.

“But we want to crate a real legacy here. If this one goes well, we are hoping it will be a yearly thing.”

The seeds of Mr Hariss’s illustrious career were sown while lived in Ardington Road in Abington, where the aspiring disc jockey converted his cellar into a makeshift studio.

The son of a policeman, Harris went on to live in Delapre and Kingsthorpe before moving to London in the 1960s, where he soon became friends with David Bowie and later helped to found Time Out magazine.

“I used to have friends round and we would play singles and Buddy Holly records,” he said of his Abington adolescence.

“I used to live it, we would call them record ‘hops’.

“I’m convinced I am still doing that now.”

For more information on under the Apple Tree Festival and to buy tickets, head to www.undertheappletreefestival.com/