The biggest and best folk/roots music festival in the north of England chalks up its 14th feast for the ears this summer, and organisers think they've put together the strongest line-up yet - the bill reads like a 'who's who' of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards past and present. The awards - known as the Folk Oscars - are a handy indicator of what's hot in the acoustic music world, and Brampton has a glittering array. 2008's Best Live Act Bellowhead, and Best Duo John Tams and Barry Coope are there, and there were nominations for Richard Thompson (Best Original Song) and newcomer Bella Hardy (Horizon Award). Elsewhere in the mix you'll find Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands, both past winners.
The big headliner, of course, is Richard Thompson, back in Brampton for his second appearance after a storming solo set in 2005. "He's the artist who took us into another league back then," says Mick North of Carlisle City Council, who organises the festival with Ken and Sue Braburn from the agency Emerging Music. "We tried getting him for years and either the dates didn't match or the budget didn't. When we finally made it that sent out a big message to audiences and to the rest of the business that we were serious players. And once he'd been, and enjoyed himself, it was a foregone conclusion he'd be back before long."
The veteran Thompson headlines the final night of the festival on Sunday 20 July, while on the first night (Friday 18) he's neicely bookended by a young tiger who's sudden emergence has had a massive impact. Seth Lakeman pretty much symbolises the confident Britfolk revival that has taken the scene by the scruff of its neck and extended the audience way beyond woolly jumpers and real ale, attracting a younger crowd with sheer charisma, raw energy and obvious passion.
Between these two key performers is a programme of huge variety in which just about anybody would be hard pushed not to find something they like. The great thing about festivals is that people often go to see someone they know and love but end up making new discoveries. Hot tips of that sort at Brampton this year might be Devon Sproule - quirky, sexy Americana - or The Chair, coming down from Orkney with a big brash sound that defies any kind of romantic-remote-island-Celtic-cuteness tag.
Fancy a bit of dancefloor carnage? That's there with Fiamma Fumana's heady collision of Italian trad and electronica, and the big grooves of gobal big band Rafiki Jazz (both on Friday night). Edgy singer-songwriters more your bag? They don't come much better than dark-hearted Thea Gilmore. Bit of unbridled daftness and stage spectacle? Try the phenomenal Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Need a few more big names to give you confidence? Official festival patron Maddy Prior MBE has been mining the archives for a new show called 'Back to the Tradition', and everybody's favourite tub-thumping anarchist rabble-rousers, Chumbawamba, make their Brampton debut.
Debut acts are a bit of a theme this year. Some festival bills seem to rely on old favourites and staples who seem to come back every year, but the big majority of performers at Brampton are appearing for the first time, including some top artists like The Demon Barber Roadshow and the fabulous Irish outfit Kila.
For the full line-up see the festival's website at www.bramptonlive.net
. Book online or call 01228 618700. Full weekend tickets are £65, but you can also book for individual afternoon or evening sessions, or single days, or two days, with prices ranging from £16 to £57. There are generous concessions for under 16s and 5-11 year olds, and kids under 5 go free. Camping (for weekend ticket holders only) is free too. Most of the music's undercover, in two massive marquees and an indoor hall, and it comes with all the trimmings you'd expect - bars, good food, market stalls, music and singing workshops, open mic sessions, lots of activities for kids and much else besides.