AFTER a summer of big music events, festival-goers will this weekend be flocking to an event which prides itself on his small, family-friendly approach and lack of commercialism.

The team behind Charlbury's Riverside Festival are looking forward to opening the gates on Saturday to what is possibly Oxfordshire's loveliest festival.

More than more than 40 acts playing everything from folk music to blues, rock, ska and hip hop will perform to a crowd of locals and music-lovers from further afield – and all for free.

Organiser Andy Pickard, who lives in the town, said: "Riverside is still the friendliest, most relaxed music festival in Oxfordshire and, astonishingly, still completely free to enter."

Bands include indie-rockers Zurich, The Standard, The August List, Flights of Helios, Two Tone All Skas, Brightworks, Daisy and Self Help on Saturday and Oxford supergroup The Prohibition Smokers Club, Knights of Mentis, Black Hats, The Duckworths, Death of Hi Fi, Water Pageant, Mighty Redox and Chipping Norton Battle of the Bands winners Gray Keys.

The festival, held on an island in the River Evenlode, has grown year on year since it began life 22 years ago, with more than 40 acts playing everything from folk music to blues, rock, ska and hip hop, attracting thousands of music lovers of all ages, and yet Riverside is still the friendliest, most relaxed, and certainly cheapest music festival – with costs covered by food and drink concessions and all profits going to charity.

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Andy said: "We’re very proud we’ve managed to keep Riverside uncommercial, and kept the festival free despite it growing in size and success. This is almost entirely because of the enormous support we have from local musicians. They all play for free because they love the festival and many come back year on year to play and listen.

"We also couldn’t do it without the support of the local community who volunteer to work at the festival. The weather’s looking good for the weekend and we’re going to be putting on one of the best shows ever.

"Once again Riverside has put together a fantastic line up. Post-punk band Zurich top the bill on Saturday, bringing the rock to Riverside. Guaranteed to get the crowds dancing on Saturday is one of the best party bands around, The Standard. Highlights of the Sunday line up include power pop punk artists the Black Hats and hip-hopsters The Death of Hi Fi with the ever-popular Prohibition Smokers Club closing the festival with a large dose of funk, and fun."

Independent record stores Rapture in Witney and Truck Store in Oxford are running the second stage which transforms into the Riverside Disco tent at the end of the day. A third stage, named Ben’s Fringe Stage – in tribute to Riverside volunteer Ben Wright, who died in 2016 – will host a variety of other acts.

Andy says: "Ben was completely bald and would have been greatly amused to have the Fringe stage dedicated to him."

This year Riverside will be raising awareness of the decline of the bee population. Local bee keeper Tom Worsley, will offer honey tastings in the festival’s Green Field area and advice on how to help the country's struggling bee population.

A Green Field will also give festival-goers the chance to find out more about traditional crafts from spoon carving, stone cutting and to ironwork, meet local artists and take part in yoga and mindfulness sessions.

The Riverside bar will be serving Wychwood Brewery craft beers – with a dedicated Riverside ale – and more classy souls can indulge themselves at a Pimm’s and Tins tent and Riverside Gin and Tonic lounge, while those with a sweet tooth should make a 'bee'-line for the Pre-School Tea and Cakes tent.

There will also be burgers, pizza, curry and a traditional hog roast.

Oxford’s own 'maffrobeat' quartet Bright Works are returning to the festival for a third year with new material including their own take on some traditional sea shanties.

Guitarist Pete Hughes said: “Riverside is such a mad festival – you drive for ages out into the Cotswolds then just when you think you’re lost, this little festival pops up out of nowhere.

“There’s a real Alice in Wonderland feel about this entire universe hidden in the trees by the river and you feel that in the crowds too: it’s feels that much more special than the big commercial rivals.

“Playing in grimy bits of London most of the time these days it’s really nice to come back to Oxfordshire and play in this magical fairy kingdom.”

  • *Riverside Festival takes place on Saturday (Noon-10pm) Sunday (11am-8pm). Entry is free