The country’s longest running independent music festival – Towersey – returns for its 55th year over this bank holiday weekend.

Headliners include legendary rock band Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Bruce Foxton’s From The Jam and shanty singers Fisherman’s Friends – who had film success earlier in the year with the release of their biopic movie.

Also up are Oysterband, Hothouse Flowers, The Selecter, The Unthanks, Melrose Quartet, Emily Mae Winters and more.

Aside from the music, Towersey, which begins today, also boasts dozens of workshops, films, a dedicated dance tent and a lantern parade. Over the course of the weekend, there will be dedicated activities for the younger festival-goers, who will be able to learn a new instrument, get stuck in crafting with clay or learn circus skills.

Towersey Festival has taken place every August Bank Holiday since 1965, when it was first held in founder Denis Manners’ back garden.

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Steve Harley's Cockney Rebel

Despite its modest beginnings, the festival has grown from a handful of music enthusiasts to a staple in the folk calendar. The organisation has been passed down through the generations and is currently run by founder Denis’s grandson, Joe. Since 2015, the festival has grown away from the village of Towersey and is now held at Thame Showground.

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Sadly the festival will lack a performance by one of its patrons, English folk singer and authentic working class hero, Roy Bailey.

The renowned singer died in November last year at the age of 83, just a few months after his last appearance at the festival. Mr Bailey appeared at the very first Towersey festival, held in 1965 and performed there for the next 53 years. His annual Monday afternoon concerts regularly drew a crowd of around 1,000 and was a favourite amongst many of the festival goers.

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Roy Bailey

Having begun his musical career in a skiffle band in 1958, Mr Bailey later joined folk supergroup the Three City Four featuring Leon Rosselson. His first solo album was released in 1971. In 2003, Mr Bailey and Tony Benn were awarded Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for their programme Writing on the Wall, which became an album. Mr Benn cited Roy Bailey as “the greatest socialist folk singer of his generation”.

Mr Bailey released his first live album, Live At Towersey Festival in 2016. It was recorded in secret at the festival the year before and featured guest appearances from son-in-law Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting.

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In the 2000 Honours List, Mr Bailey received an MBE for services to folk music, although he returned it in 2006 as a political protest.Mr Bailey was an Emeritus Professor of Social Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. Along with Towersey Festival, he was also patron of Shepley Spring Festival and the Music on the Marr Festival, based in the village of Castle Carrock, Cumbria.

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Kitty Mcfarlane

To celebrate Mr Bailey’s life, there will be a special concert held on the final day of Towersey. The one-off show on Monday will feature insights into his music, interpretations of his material, stories and history from his amazing journey with Towersey and the wider folk music world. Acts such as Tom Robinson, Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting and John Kirkpatrick will contribute.

Details and ticket details from