Wilko Johnson, Toploader, The Roving Crows and Cara Dillion perform at the ‘festival in a night’


Words, photographs and video by Jamie Gray


In its 450th year, Rugby School has celebrated its milestones with various events aimed at throwing the gates open to the wider public. In July Laura Mvula and Lesley Garrett performed to sellout crowds on the hallowed turf of the Schools playing field, known as The Close.

wilko johnson
Wilko Johnson

This weekend saw another spectacular show put on in the form of an open-air music festival. Picnic blankets and deckchairs were spread out across the field in front of the stage as the warm summer evening closed in.

There were food stalls and bars keeping the summer revellers going, and a special gin bar was available in the courtyard.

Toploader roused the crowd with many of their hits from summers ago. The Roving Crows brought a fresh sound in the form of folk-blues, something which got every foot tapping on the historic grass. For some Wilko Johnson was the main attraction. The legendary performer showed how remarkable his health was – he had previously embarked on a farewell tour after facing terminal cancer. The head swivels, thrusts and stares were all there while his bass player gave a lesson in the art of perfect rock riffs.

Closing the event was Irish folk singer Cara Dillon who nobly stood in when Imelda May cancelled. The sultry warm evening air became filled with bluesy folk from a songstress who won a new army of fans. Turning up from her holiday in Cornwall ‘without any clothes’ just hours before the show, Cara proved every inch the professional singer she stood in to replace.

rugby school music wilko johnson cara dillion


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