About The Festival.


It is sad to announce that 2019 will be the last Festival after 13 years. So if you have never been or are one of our stalwart attendees, this will be your last chance to enjoy the wonderful music, atmosphere and overall camaraderie and friendliness of this legendary Festival.

Over the years the Orwell Festival has grown to become one of the major Bluegrass and Old Time Festivals in the UK. Situated at the Hallowtree Scout Centre in Nacton, just outside Ipswich in Suffolk, and 3 minutes drive off the A14 the venue is very popular with festival goers. Hallowtree is a truly amazing place – an undulating wooded site of approximately 42 acres set in beautiful quiet woodland and meadows off the north shore of the Orwell estuary, with plenty of space to pitch your tent, caravan, motor home. There is a dedicated “quiet area” for those wishing to temporarily retreat from the driving musical scene! The air is full of birdsong (the early morning nightingales competing with the odd musician who refuses to go to bed!), and there is a marvellous view over the river Orwell and plenty of walks along the waterside or in the woods to enjoy. Dogs are allowed on site, but must be kept on a lead at all times, and are not allowed inside the buildings or marquees (guide dogs excepted).
The main building is an impressive brick built L shaped complex which offers a reception area, large main hall with a well stocked real ale bar, free toilet and shower facilities and many rooms which are used for rehearsals, workshops and jamming (although most jamming happens outside in and around the green. Also in the building is a café/restaurant where tasty and reasonably priced meals are cooked by our professional caterers, and tea and coffee is available at all hours from an urn and honesty box. Later in the evenings, our caterers provide an outside barbeque cooking burgers and hot dogs for sale well into the early hours.
. Completing the rectangle around the green the main marquee forms one arm and the Picking marquee the other arm- a very convenient arrangement which is easy to negotiate so you don’t have to walk very far from one place to another. Each marquee is pristine, with plenty of chairs to sit and enjoy the concerts, and if the weather turns chilly we are kept warm with hot air blowers.
Our Bar offers a variety of Real Ales, lagers, West Country Scrumpy (which is always a favourite), and the usual spirits and wines. All are reasonably priced and the bar is open from 11.00 a.m. until 2 or 3 a.m. the following morning.
Free camping for weekend ticket holders only (except Thursday night).   The site is open from Thursday midday and closes on Monday midday (all campers to have vacated by then please). If you are arriving on the Thursday and camping that night, there is a charge of £7.50 per person on arrival that is paid directly to the Ipswich Scout Group for their help with security etc over the weekend.     Concerts commence at 1.30 pm on Friday afternoon in the Main Marquee and continue throughout the weekend.  Instrument workshops begin on Saturday morning and in the afternoon the ever-popular open mic sessions will be held on the Bar Stage.   Our ever-popular Sunday morning Gospel session will be in the main marquee hosted by The New Essex Bluegrass Band, starting at 11.00 am and all are welcome to come along and contribute.
So,  click on “Buy a Ticket”, where you can purchase tickets either on line by Pay Pal, or download a Booking Form and post to us with your cheque (For the Download please add it to your basket and follow the checkout through where you will be able to download it).  Tickets are also available for purchase by cash at Reception when you arrive. We know you will have a fabulous time, and look forward to meeting you at Orwell !!

About The Music

Bluegrass music is considered a form of American roots music with its own roots in English, Irish and Scottish traditional music. The name of the genre is derived from the Blue Grass Boys, the name of Bill Monroe’s band. It has been inspired by immigrants from the British Isles, as well as the music of rural African-Americans, jazz, and blues.
Like jazz, bluegrass is played with each melody instrument switching off, playing improvised solos in turn while the others revert to backing. Bluegrass relies mostly on acoustic stringed instruments. The fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, and upright bass are sometimes joined by the resonator guitar. Instrumental solos are improvised, and can frequently be technically demanding. At times the musicians may perform gospel songs, singing four-part harmony and including no or sparse instrumentation.
Besides instrumentation, one of the distinguishing characteristics of bluegrass are the vocal harmonies featuring two, three, or four parts and an emphasis on traditional songs, often with sentimental or religious themes.