MILFORD ON SEA: Surprises upon surprises

John Illsley web

John Illsley (right) and his band at Milford on Sea Music Festival


By Tim Saunders

“It’s the unexpected things that can be really rewarding,” says the driver, who delivers our food shopping. We’re talking about how the day before we went for a walk to Milford on Sea and stumbled, quite by accident, across Milford on Sea Music Festival, which we’d never heard of before. We later discover this is a three day free festival (the organisers ask that you buy a £3 programme, if you can afford it).

This festival had been a regular fixture until Covid and 2023 is the first year that it has taken place again. The organisers and volunteers, who gave their time for free were not sure how well it would be received and when we arrive in the pouring rain on the Saturday afternoon to watch the Bob Rees Band, there are some revellers on the village green but not many. The weather really does impact events such as this. It’s only when we return home and Google the event we discover that John Illsley, co-founder of Dire Straits, and Hampshire resident, is the headline act and will be performing on Sunday. Well, this is too good to miss so we get making our sandwiches and pile back into the car to really make the most of the last day of the festival.

The whole village comes alive and there’s such a wonderful sense of community. The organisers really must be congratulated (and they only came up with the ideas in January). Getting there for just after midday we’re able to watch all the bands:

12noon Dog Ruff

1330 The Heartbreakers

1500 John Illsley

1700 Emma Hardy Band

1830 Skamageddon

2000 Lady Winwoods Maggot

We have the time of our lives dancing and singing along. Henry loves the drums, Heidi the piano and guitars and Harriett is pretty impressed with John Illsley as we all are. What a privilege to be able to watch these superb talented musicians and for free. This is on a par, if not better, than any festival we’ve previously attended. We like the fact that it is small – there’s only one stage – but it’s intimate and generally everyone’s well behaved. We arrive back home, not much before midnight and have had a fabulous time.

So, we don’t mind too much that the treasure trails walk we went on – the purpose of our trip to Milford on Sea in the first place - was pretty hopeless. We couldn’t make head nor tail of the directions. The highlight of the walk before we discovered music was Henry finding two sticks and using them as swords. It was a joy to watch him lost in play for a moment. But at least it introduced us to Milford on Sea Music Festival and we’ll pencil it in our diary for next year.

Prior to discovering the Music Festival we found ourselves inside the Norman church where there was some excellent accappella followed by a local choir. This helped to prepare us for the musical journey that was our trip to Milford on Sea.

Milford on Sea Music Festival
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