This Suffolk music festival has become one of UK’s finest

This weekend another of my favourite Suffolk music festivals returns. A couple of months later than usual Maverick is back – much better late than not at all. Founded in 2008 by musician and film maker Paul Spencer, Maverick is a celebration of alternative country with a lots of folk and other genres thrown for very good measure.

In short, it’s a rip roaring stampede of scintillating songs and superb musicianship with a huge smile on its face. The very first Maverick took place in 2008 at its spiritual home – Easton Farm Park – and I was there to cover it for BBC Radio Suffolk doing dozens of interviews and recording many of the acts for future broadcasts. I soon found myself doubling up as compere.

An almighty bust-up involving the organisers and the original emcee saw me drafted in at the very last moment.  There began my long association with an event which has grown into one of the UK’s best festivals. Some might call it a boutique festival.

Nothing wrong with that of course but that description suggests something a lot smaller in size and vision than what Maverick has become over the past decade or so.

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Paul Spencer’s Americana jamboree has attracted hundreds of musicians from all over the Western world including one who has become a global superstar – Ed Sheeran.

One of Ed’s very first public appearances was at Maverick when he performed on the back of truck to one man and his dog. He returned the following year by which time he was starting to make a name for himself. I recall doing a Saturday afternoon interview and session with him backstage behind The Barn before he had to dash off to the bright lights of Norwich for an evening gig.

As good as he was, none of us could have imagined then what a huge name he would become just a year or two later. Another star I’ve always enjoyed talking to and listening to is Dr. Sam Hutt, better known as Hank Wangford.

Hank Wangford

Maverick mainstay Hank Wangford with Foz at BBC Radio Suffolk in 2013 – Credit: David Butcher

He has rightly become a Maverick favourite. It’s a perfect fit for him given that he was flying the flag for country music in the mid-1980s when quite frankly it was a genre which had gone out of fashion, if indeed it had ever been hip on these shores. Hank rides back into town this Saturday when he’ll no doubt lasoo many more hearts and minds to the alt-country cause.

Maverick also gave the country-duo Ward Thomas one of their first appearances. Back in 2013 sisters Catherine and Lizzy and their family drove up to Suffolk from Hampshire. I caught up with them after their short set on the green at Easton Farm Park and was taken by their love and enthusiasm for country music which at that time was not often seen by others in their age group.

I’m back at the ‘ranch’ this weekend to host some of the online coverage of the event. I’ve become very fond of my visits to Easton Farm Park which has long been one of Suffolk’s best tourist attractions. For a few years I also hosted the Suffolk Fun Festival and on one occasion found myself part of the Punch And Judy show presented by the hugely talented Miraiker’s World Of Puppets.

The Maverick Festival has provided me with so many happy broadcasting moments. As is so often the case, watching the acts has been a small part of my time there. My radio commitments often gave me little time to let my hair down but rest assured with a beer in hand I usually found time to catch a few of the acts.

After all, it would have been incredibly rude not to.