You know it's going to be a beautiful day when it's Levellers' party time
Jackie Butler celebrates the return of the mighty Beautiful Days next weekend.
Whether skies are blue or grey, it's always a beautiful day when a certain summer celebration bursts into life. Of course, I'm talking about Beautiful Days, the music, performance and visual arts festival hosted by folk rock ensemble Levellers and held in the green and pleasant grounds of Escot House at Ottery St Mary in East Devon.
There's something uniquely charming and old-fashioned about this gathering of like-minded, easy-going, party-loving folk and, as has become the norm, it sold out months ago before the line-up was even announced.
Now in it tenth year, the annual weekend of merriment commences next Friday. The long-term weather forecast is for a predominantly sunny and warm festival, and the bill is, as usual, an eclectic, carefully chosen mix with entertainment value at its heart.
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Levellers will, true to form, be headlining Sunday night's fancy dress firework finale – which this year boasts animals as its theme. They have a knack for picking fellow headliners who may be old school, but are making their mark on the contemporary scene.
Step forward Scottish psychedelia-fuelled alt rockers Primal Scream – responsible for the classic Screama-delica album as well as the 2006 anthem Country Girl – who played just before the Rolling Stones on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in June.
Led by flamboyant frontman and singer Bobby Gillespie, they released tenth studio LP More Light to critical acclaim earlier this year.
Ocean Colour Scene are a Britpop band whose public presence has waxed and waned since they emerged from Birmingham in the mid-1990s to tour with Oasis.
What they may lack in current chart action, Simon Fowler, Steve Cradock et al make up for in captivating live shows, with singalong tunes like The Day We Caught The Train to pull out of the bag.
Two of my other personal picks for the weekend are female country folk acoustic trio The Staves, whose sibling harmonies have a delicious, ethereal quality, and the feisty Dublin singer songwriter and firecracker Ms Imelda May, whose rockabilly can't fail to get your hips moving.
In and around these highlighted sets, there's an abundance of delights to enjoy right across the board.
With a capacity of only 15,000, an easily walk-able site and just two principal stages to choose from – the outdoor main stage and the tented big top – plus a handful of smaller venues, it's easy to swing from one to the other and catch anything that takes your fancy.
As genres go, the musical field is wide open, but there's an honest, rootsy feel to the whole affair spanning dance, new folk, old folk, Celtic folk, punk, rock and roll, pop, blues, dub, reggae and hip-hop of all vintages.
The criteria used by its Brighton-based pioneer curators is an act's ability to offer crowd-pleasing live performance. This year's melee of long-established, cult and emerging acts is guaranteed to offer plenty of those.
Contemporary celebrity names are never the focus at Beautiful Days, but there are plenty of recognisable and notable ones on this year's list. Main stage and Big Top contenders include Sinead O'Connor, Australia's finest punk rock export The Living End, instrumental post-rock band 65daysofstatic, pop-rock trio Dodgy, former InMe frontman Dave McPherson, Arrested Development, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Roy Harper, The Selecter, The Skatalites, The Wonder Stuff, Clannad, Babylon Circus, Irish duo Hudson Taylor, punk-rock band Goldblade, Spiers and Boden, Molotov Jukebox, Cornwall's Brother and Bones, Sharon Shannon, Thea Gilmore, Sheelanagig, Heidi Talbot and Sunday hangover cures The Fabulous Good Time Party Boys.
Additional artists tread the boards of four slightly more modest performance spaces, including the seated Theatre Tent where, among many others, Robin Ince, Felix Dennis and Exeter clowning troupe Le Navet Bete can be witnessed.
The Band Stand will have some great offerings, including troubadour Martin Harley and his band, and folkie singer songwriter Lisbee Stainton, who has done some live performance with Seth Lakeman recently. The Bimble Inn line-up has yet to be announced, but it often showcases some of the best up-and-coming Westcountry artists.
Amazing site art, a huge children's area in the centre of the festival, comedy, a healing area, family camping, licensed real ale bars from Otter Brewery and carefully selected local food and craft stalls are also on the menu.
So what's missing? Well, if you don't have a ticket by now, then I'm afraid it will be you...