Review: The Laugharne Weekend 2017

The Laugharne Weekend has been going for ten years and I think I’ve attempted to go for at least the last five. One year I’d even packed the car and then I looked at the weather forecast and it was so wet – it’s Wales after all – that I lost my bottle. Last year I was determined and then couldn’t get a ticket, despite appeals on their Facebook page. What I didn’t realise was that organiser Richard Thomas had mailed me saying he could sort a ticket. It had landed in my spam box and I missed it.

So this year nothing was going to keep me away. The arts festival in the breathtakingly beautiful town* where Dylan Thomas spent his final fruitful years usually has some great comedians such as Josie Long and Robin Ince, but somehow I managed to spend two days there and – while plenty of laughs were had – not see any stand-up comedy. Alexei Sayle had just started as I arrived and was full, which was a shame. Jeremy Hardy I missed. And just after a spotted Sofie Hagen walking past Brown’s Hotel in the run-up to her Sunday gig I left. The two events are not connected.

Instead it turned into a chance to enjoy some different events in a very different environment. The sun shone and there were so many people sitting outside the various pubs that it was often a surprise to see people in the actual venues watching actual events.

The vibe is very different to the Edinburgh Fringe. Not just because there is not a hint of trade fair about Laugharne but because of the scheduling. There is almost always an hour between events, which is not just handy drinking/chatting time, it means that there is none of that Edinburgh stress of hurtling from gig to gig. The pace could not be slower. Laugharne makes Kilkenny’s Cat Laughs and north Wales’ Machfest feel like shameless corporate sell-outs by comparison (they aren’t of course).

The weekend also had the feel of the 1980s New Musical Express in exile, with legendary scribes James Brown, David Quantick and illustrious BBC6 Freak Zone presenter Stuart Maconie chairing events. Brown was plugging his eminently readable book about football, Above Head Height: A Five-A-Side Life (I missed the talk but my friend said it was great and bought the book). West Country wag David Quantick – who bagged an Emmy as one of the Veep writing team and has written for Chris Morris and many others – chairs an annual quiz (missed it but was assured by those present that it was a hoot). 

The first excellent show I saw was Stuart Maconie interviewing iconic record producer John Leckie, who has worked with pretty much everyone from various ex-Beatles to The Human League and Muse. It was particularly gratifying to hear Leckie echo a theory I’ve often droned on about, that the Beatles were not rated that highly straight after they split. One of Leckie’s first jobs was as tape operator at Abbey Road where John Lennon and George Harrison were recording their debut solo albums. Leckie was living with a bunch of Zappa and Beefheart-loving hippies in Notting Hill back then and was embarrassed to reveal who he had been working with…

Review continues here.

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