Bluesman Mike Francis

Bluesman Mike Francis on playing Colne R&B Festival

Sunday 28th August bluesman Mike Francis Played The Great British R&B Festival, Colne Lancs for the 25th time in 27 years of the event. Here is an overview of his experiences and recollections.

Bluesman Mike Francis with Sisters in Grease Colne R&B Festival 2011 Photo by Ray Hattrell
Bluesman Mike Francis with Sisters in Grease Colne R&B Festival 2011 Photo by Ray Hattrell

A friend stopped me in the street “There’s going to be a festival, blues festival in Colne this summer”. At the time I was living in Yorkshire but knew the Colne area pretty well and recall my excitement on hearing the news. The year was 1990 and at the time was something really special as very few dedicated blues events existed in the UK. I still have the original programme; there were just 2 venues with the main stage only running for one day. The rest of the action was held at Jim’s Café and you could even camp off the bottom of the main Albert Road!

Things evolved quickly in coming years with Paul Jones and the Blues Band headlining a subsequent festival and by 1992 five stages included a second dedicated acoustic blues event hosted by Perry Foster. I didn’t play the festival in 1996 but 3 years later a special Anniversary show celebrated 10 years of Colne blues and by now the legendary Albert Collins and Buddy Guy had graced the festival.

Venues have come and gone (I expect many fondly recall being at the Hendley and North Valley Hotels) and sadly many original performers are no longer with us. My own personal highlight of the past is probably seeing the late Son Seals in 2000 and enjoying a beer afterwards with bassist Richie Hite at the Oaks Hotel where back in the day many of the performers stayed. Also finishing a mid-afternoon show in 2008 and getting mixed up in an Olympic medal ceremony being staged outside the town hall, is probably the most unusual.

By 2014 Great British R&B Festival very much lived up to its name and celebrated 25 years. I played an acoustic set with Andy C of Sisters in Grease having personally just been nominated in the European Blues Awards finals. This year there were 9 official stages and with Bex Marshall and Wilko Johnson I was lucky enough to be asked to play an awards showcase at what is now voted the best festival in Europe. 2016 is my 40th year performing and for 25 of them, Colne Festival has been an absolute pleasure to be involved with as an important part of the continuing story of the blues.


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