Review: Hardwick Live (Saturday)- 17/08/19 – Hardwick Hall, Sedgefield


With a cloudless sky and a beaming sun, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d left the North-East at Hardwick Hall. Even the lineup for Saturday – Manic Street Preachers, Sister Sledge, and Stiff Little Fingers to name a few – suggests the makings of a much larger festival, and one typically far from the North-East…

However this is Hardwick Live. The event has been a pillar in our local music scene since it launched in 2013. The weekend of festivities offers live music (obviously), food and attractions with a family-friendly atmosphere.

When I get there, the discovery stage is already in full swing, and has no shortage of talent or diversity. I get there in time to catch the captivating opening act Mano Mclaughlin, and stick around afterwards to see BLOXX – an impressive alt rock band that performs with a fierce passion.

The discovery stage proves magnetic throughout the day. I find myself drawn back to hear some incredible performances from Zuzu, Saint Agnes, and Catherine McGrath. Every artist that graces the stage is spectacular, and it would be no surprise to see any of them soon seizing much larger stages.

Over at the main stage, I arrive for local band The Lake Poets. A spellbound crowd of hundreds eagerly support the band. The act sing their praises for the North-East that they – and most of the crowd – call home.

A few hours later, and the crowd has snowballed into thousands. With an entourage of instrumentals and dancers, Sister Sledge shine brighter than the sun above them. They perform classics like ‘Lost in Music’ and ‘We Are Family’ and at times bring up excited members of the audience to dance alongside them. 

Stiff Little Fingers follow, and quickly pivot the crowd from disco to punk rock. Unapologetically loud and electric, the Northern Irish band inject more chaos into the festival than any other. Frontman Jake Burns frequently entertains the crowd with anecdotes ranging from heartbreaking to hilarious, and speaks sincerely on mental health to rousing applause.


Between main acts, I took the chance to check out the BBC Introducing stage. In the top corner of the festival, the area was lo-fi and relaxed both on-stage and off. This stage was reserved for local bands to share their music, and through the evening I was lucky enough to hear music from Nel Unlit, The Yada Yada Yadas, and Plaza. 

Back on the main stage, The Zutons performed popular hits like ‘Valerie’, ‘Zuton Fever’ and ‘You Will You Won’t’, backing them with growling instrumentals and bursts of British charm. Confident and experienced in handling festival crowds, The Zutons proved one of the most popular acts of the day.

Finally, headliners Manic Street Preachers were guaranteed to close the day with a bang. Songs like ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘You Stole the Sun from My Heart’ sound like they were made to be performed at festivals, and the crowd sings each song alongside them. After almost twelve hours of music, Manic Street Preachers wrapped up the day with ‘A Design for Life’ to a crowd equal parts electrified and exhausted. 

Saturday was a massively successful opening day for Hardwick Live, and felt like a loud celebration of the country’s thriving music scene. With another day of music still to come, no doubt Hardwick Live 2019 will leave many feeling proud to be local. 




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