It’s party time down at Magna this March as the Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival celebrates its silver anniversary with baa’s, bands and a big birthday bash.
From Thursday 1st to Saturday 3rd March, thousands of revellers will be flocking down to mighty Magna to join festival mascot Baa’sil the sheep and his team of loyal volunteers as they celebrate 25 years of beer festivals.
Since starting up in the dining hall at Oakwood School back in 1992, the event has gone on to become the largest indoor beer festival outside of London, with last year’s visitors amassing over 14,000 people.
Some of you may be a seasoned regular with a glass in the cupboard from every year, while others might have fond memories of beer festivals gone by; some might have met their significant other over a half pint, while others may have found a new true love in what’s inside the glass.
Having missed only one year since its inception, this year will be a huge celebration as the volunteers host the biggest and best party in town to commemorate their continued success, sponsored by Best Solicitors in Sheffield.
Not just a pint-dream
The original idea to host a beer festival came from Jan Charters and her husband Jim; after starting as Oakwood’s head teacher in 1991, she knew they needed to raise more money to improve the Moorgate Road school’s surroundings.
“I walked into the school and the walls were bare. There were no photographs up, no record of any student achievement,” Jan says.
To coincide with the school’s 40th anniversary, Jan and a group of teachers and parents voluntarily organised the first beer festival in spring 1992, with 18 beers on offer to the 150 people who came.
“We lost money in that first year which didn’t help the walls. We bought transfers for the glasses that came off in the dishwasher. But it was a learning curve. The following few years, we invested a lot of the money we raised into equipment which made a real difference year on year as the popularity grew.”
At the third event, the volunteers decided to introduce music after facing backlash from parents and the local authority about holding a beer festival in a school environment.
“Education has always been an important part for us; we’ve worked with so many students over the years – including musicians and technicians – who have helped with staging and production for the professional acts we’ve had on. Some have even gone onto having a career in the industry.
“The equipment we bought also meant that we could host charity and community events all year round to continue to raise money,” says former health education co-ordinator and volunteer, Dave Homer.
By introducing the Battle of the Bands concept into the event, it has also meant up-and-coming local bands and young performers have had the chance to introduce themselves and their musical talents.
Have ewe seen Bass’sil?
Each year, the event has always had a theme, with everything from a beach-themed Baa-Watch to last year’s cheers to the coal industry with Mines a Pint, with beers and real ales tailored around each theme. Baa’sil the sheep first appeared in 2004 and has been a main stay ever since; ewe will have probably seen his tasting notes and jokes around the festival.
Local breweries have launched seasonal new ales at past events, while around six local breweries have used the beer festival as their inauguration; Masham’s Black Sheep actually first introduced themselves as a brewery at the second beer festival 25 years ago.
After almost 20 years at Oakwood, the festival ultimately outgrew its venue and so moved to Magna in 2011. While the punters always behaved themselves in the school – probably in fear of corporal punishment – the huge volume of attendees meant that volunteers were concerned for the health and safety of the event.
While the core involvement of volunteers is still ex-Oakwood students, the move to Magna has enabled the festival to grow exponentially from its humble beginnings; last year, there were 240 beers on sale from various local and national breweries.
Raising the bar in 2018
This year, along with the popular cask ales from the many breweries who attend, there will also be a new KeyKeg bar thanks to Abbeydale brewery, with 30 different craft ales which are colder and smoother with a more intense flavour.
If beer isn’t your beverage of choice, not to worry – there are also a variety of real ciders, fruit ciders and perry along with a bottle bar. Wine is on the menu for another year, with a new prosecco and cocktail bar too.
A coveted award, the Champion Beer of Yorkshire award is back and this year it’s the Champion of Champions. The best beers from the past 12 years will battle it out in a blind tasting competition to be crowned overall winners and the best of the best.
The BEST party in town
Along with the beers, this year’s silver anniversary shindig will once again see a variety of live music acts take to the stages with genres to suit all tastes.
Kicking things off on Thursday night, the popular nine-piece soul band, The GMen, will be performing their authentic soul sound.
Oh, we’re half way there as Bon Giovi, the world’s premier tribute to Jon Bon Jovi and his iconic rock band, will be headlining the main stage on Friday with their amazing sound-alike and look-alike performance.
Songwriters Buffalo Skinners will be bringing the folk and blues with their original set list on Friday night.
Something a little different for the Saturday afternoon, RotherHop are offering taster swing dance lessons, with Dave and Krissy bring their love of jazz music with a vintage tea dance from 2pm.
Back for a second year, John Reilly will be performing with the Acoustic Angels on Saturday night as the Sheffield band prepares to rock your soul with their covers and originals.
Bringing rare music well done, Ribeye are also back for another year on Saturday with rock and funk songs performed by vocalist Andy Birks of Andrew’s Butchers and his rip-roaring band.
Brass sounds will be echoing around Magna thanks to Dearne Valley Big Band; The Basement will liven it up with some Northern Soul classics; and John Fox is back with the Yard Dogs having played almost every festival under varying guises.
With a busking stage also, there will be an opportunity for local bands to get involved too.
Cheers to charity
And continuing their charitable spirit, the event still supports a worthwhile cause each year, having raised over £150,000 for various charities since its move to Magna in 2011.
This year, the Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival is proud to support Rotherham Cancer Care for the second year, with all proceeds going towards helping people in Rotherham who use the complementary therapies service while going through cancer.
For more information about the event, visit their website
Thurs 1st and Fri 2nd March – 6pm-11pm
Sat 3rd March – 12pm-11pm
Tickets: £10 (or £8 in advance for Thurs and Sat)
Would you like to win a pair of golden tickets that allows you and a friend unlimited entry to the event?
Answer one simple question and you could be in with a chance of winning one of 2 pairs we have up for grabs.
The festival currently takes place at Magna but when did it move here from its first home of Oakwood School?
Send your answer along with contact details and address to firstname.lastname@example.org
One entry per person
Entrants must be 18 or over and entry closes 12pm Friday 23rd February 2018
All entrants must be available for the event on Thurs 1st to Sat 3rd March
Two winners will be drawn at random and these will be notified on Friday 23rd Feb by 4pm
All entries must be accompanied with an address for tickets to be sent out in the post.