A message from Bellowhead’s John Spiers

Bellowhead bid farewell

Having announced their intention to split after over a decade together, Bellowhead will play their final music festival appearance as part of Towersey Festival, in their home county of Oxfordshire, on Saturday 29 August 2015.

Since their formation in 2004, Bellowhead have sold out the Royal Albert Hall, released five increasingly lauded albums, and picked up over 20 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominations (including eight wins, five of which were for Best Live Act).

The 11-piece contemporary folk band has a long association with Towersey Festival, having last appeared there in 2012 following two electric performances so charged, the spirited audience broke the dancefloor!

Band co-founder and melodeon player John Spiers, who has visited the festival many times as a performer, retailer and camper, says: “With Bellowhead, I have played some of the most high-energy and blissful gigs at Towersey, there’s just something about a marquee in this rural setting towards the end of the Summer season that encourages care-free, energetic and blissed out dancing audiences. As a performer, that is a godsend!

“And now I’ll get to play the last festival gig Bellowhead ever do at Towersey, where else? Although that will be sad in one way, it will also be incredibly joyful.”

  • Read John Spiers’ personal impressions of Towersey Festival in full on the festival website: www.towerseyfestival.com

Other Towersey Festival News

Grace Petrie

Recent additions to the festival programme, which is headlined by Joan Armatrading, Bellowhead, Show Of Hands and Stornoway, include Talisk, Grace Petrie and Laurel and Hardy.

Winners of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award 2015, Talisk mix Scottish and Irish musical traditions and will be performing at the festival several times over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Songwriter, activist and performer Grace Petrie (29 Aug) has toured with such acts as Billy Bragg and comedians Robin Ince and Josie Long. Since her emotive 2010 protest anthem Farewell To Welfare, Grace’s songwriting has continued to mature with new album, the politically charged Whatever’s Left, brimming with personal observations.

The most famous double-act of all time, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy still have the power to enthral audiences over 80 years after they first teamed up. At Towersey, a selection of some of their best films, including the 1932 Academy Award winning The Music Box, will be screened on Sunday 30 August courtesy of the Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society.

The festival has also announced its programme of international street theatre performers, among them Reckless Invention’s Comedy Waiters, Bite-Sized Circus’ Lukey Luck and Evie Mischievey, the unhinged Sid Bowfin, and ground-breaking dance company Folk Dance Remixed, whose performances fuse traditional folk dance with hip hop styles and live music.

Finally, festival-goers are now able to plan their trip with the launch of the new Towersey Festival app. Available free for iPhone and Android, the app includes complete programmes for the main stages, allowing users to build their own personal calendar. There’s also a site map, artist biog’s, social media feeds and the ability to share content.

For full details, see: www.towerseyfestival.com [or scroll down to bottom of page for full transcript].


Friday 28 August to Monday 31 August 2015
Towersey Festival
The Thame Showground, Kingsey Rd, Thame, Oxfordshire OX9 3JL

Weekend Adult £135; Conc £110; Youth £95; Child £55; U5 free.
Day Tickets from £30 (Adult); £21 (Youth); £14 (Child); U5 free.
No booking fees. Discounts for Thame and Towersey residents – call for details.
Festival Taster Experience Tickets (showground only) £9 (on the gate) or £8 (advance from Thame Town Hall) & £4 (Conc, Child, Students) per day.
Car Parking: Free.
Bookings: 01629 827016.
Web: www.towerseyfestival.com

  • The Towersey Festival app (iPhone & Android) and Towersey Festival 2015 18-track compilation album are both available for free download via the festival website.


Friday 28 August 2015

The Treacherous Orchestra, The Spooky Men’s Chorale, Kim Churchill, The Dovetail Trio

Saturday 29 August 2015

Bellowhead, Stornoway, John Smith, Phil Beer, Lisbee Stainton, Blackbeard’s Tea Party, Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra, Van Susans

Sunday 30 August 2015

Joan Armatrading, Show Of Hands, Sally Barker, The Travelling Band, Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, Tom Figgins, Kizzy Crawford

Monday 31 August 2015

Birmingham Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, Keston Cobblers Club, Chris While and Julie Matthews, Roy Bailey, Mishca Macpherson, Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar, Luke Daniels, Anxo Lorenzo

See festival website for full day-by-day listings.



For press/ media images of key acts see: Towersey Festival 2015 Media Assets

For interview requests with artists (and festival) and more information, contact us.

A limited number of review tickets are available for legit channels/ media.

A Message from John Spiers

The son of a morris dancer, music was always part of John Spiers’ life, as he grew up in Oxfordshire. But it wasn’t until university that, unable to fit a piano in his student digs, he picked up his first melodeon. Teaming with fellow musical traveller Jon Boden in the early ‘00s, performing widely as Spiers and Boden, the ‘two-Jo(h)ns’ launched their big-band, Bellowhead, in 2004. The 11-piece band have since sold out the Royal Albert Hall, released five acclaimed albums, and picked up over 20 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominations (and eight wins). In June, they announced Bellowhead would soon be no more, but not before a Farewell Tour, and one final folk festival appearance: Towersey – scene of many triumphant performances for the band (most recently in 2012) and two incredible floor-breaking gigs!

John Spiers, who still lives in Oxfordshire, sent us this very special message:

Hi there,

There’s something about Towersey Festival that is just ‘right’. It’s been a fixture on the summer folk scene for far longer than I’ve been playing and it has a unique blend of excitement and familiarity that makes you feel like you’re part of a throbbing, living tradition for the whole weekend. Obviously the fact that it’s in my part of Oxfordshire makes me very proud, but it’s the way it’s helped to shape and guide the whole next generation of musicians, singers and dancers through its Shooting Roots programme of workshops and events that give me the most delight. This encouragement of younger participants in folk music has been there since I first went, and I’d go so far as to say that without the support of festivals like Towersey I doubt that a band like Bellowhead could have ever formed!

Then there’s the entertainment on offer. The perfect blend of star-packed concerts, sessions, ceilidhs, morris and street entertainment has always been one of Towersey’s trademarks. The music on offer is steeped in the folk tradition, but there’s always something exotic in the mix too – whether it’s Zulu dancing alongside Morris dancing or a top notch international act. This year will see Anxo Lorenzo rocking out with virtuoso licks on the Galician bagpipes! There’s always something new and exciting. This year sees Towersey moving to a new improved site – but in keeping with the traditional nature of the festival … it’s only about 2 fields along the road from where it was!

Personal Account

I’ve heard about Towersey Festival ever since I first got in to playing folk music, it’s just one of those words that goes hand-in-hand with folk. The 1969 cult album Festival at Towersey contains not only one of the first recordings of my squeezebox hero John Kirkpatrick, but also two songs sung by Bob Grant, the man who acted the part of the Turkish Knight at nearby Headington’s Boxing Day mummer’s play for the first 25 years of my life. That sums up the festival for me. A big name festival where superstars are formed, and yet incredibly friendly, local and personal at the same time.

John SpiersWith Bellowhead, I have played some of the most high-energy and blissful gigs at Towersey, there’s just something about a marquee in this rural setting towards the end of the Summer season that encourages care-free, energetic and blissed out dancing audiences. As a performer, that is a godsend! Of course as a professional you should always try your hardest to play all the right notes in the right order, but music is so much more than that, at it’s best it is a full-on two way connection between the band and the audience and with a Towersey audience in full throng, well, life doesn’t get much better than that!

But it wasn’t always quite so glamorous for me. I have experienced Towersey from many different angles. First I was there as a fresh-faced youngster playing melodeon for a morris team who couldn’t believe his luck with all the exciting sessions and concerts on offer. Then for many years as a downtrodden melodeon salesman working long, hard days on the instrument stalls and playing long, hard nights in the depths of the festival. I’ve played the smallest venues with Spiers & Boden and supported some of the biggest acts in folk. At Towersey I’ve camped in torrential thunderstorms, fallen in ditches, endured day-long hangovers in the baking sun, been chased by wasps, invented musical drinking games, disguised myself as an exotic Cajun musician and played in seemingly endless sessions with some of the best musicians in the world.

And now I’ll get to play the last festival gig Bellowhead ever do at Towersey, where else? Although that will be sad in one way, it will also be incredibly joyful. I’ve grown up with it, and now I’m a little more grown up and can bring my children to the festival I have seen the other, brilliant side of things there. Although I never noticed it as a “younger person”, it’s a brilliant place for families too. The site is not huge, so it’s not an intimidating place to bring your family at all, in fact the street entertainment, circus skills tent and kids workshops are fantastic. Last year saw me learning to hula-hoop for the first time since I was in short trousers and although it wasn’t great for anyone watching, it was another reminder that Towersey caters for all sorts. It can be the festival where you go from being a cool 20-something to an embarrassing 40-something dad without it feeling any different, and judging by the broad range of ages apparent at last year’s festival it’s somewhere I can continue to feel part of well in to my retirement! Not that that’s any time soon, by the way, I’m working on my amazing solo album as we speak … you’re not getting rid of me any time soon Towersey!


John Spiers

  • Bellowhead appear at Towersey on Saturday 29 August 2015.