THE sweeping brushes were out, the water was cleared and with some noisy chords from Molly Bloom — and a bit of impromptu MCing from Mark Radcliffe — the first Ramsbottom festival had begun.

Based at Ramsbottom Cricket Club, the festival was truly “boutique” — it took fewer than 15 minutes to walk round the perimeter fence — but was packed full of treats.

Musically, the first night’s line-up of Molly Bloom, Radcliffe, Steve Cropper and The Animals was enough to get the tastebuds watering, but the real action was to follow on Saturday.

Unsigned band winner Stephen Hudson provided sunny melodies despite the rain, while The Travelling Band and Cherry Ghost proved that the local area has some of the best musical talent in the country — the latter’s set, one of the last we’re likely to see from the band for a while as singer Simon Aldred is focusing on his side project (see page 20), was a highlight for almost everyone I spoke to, and there couldn’t be anyone more charming on stage.

Almost as popular was Badly Drawn Boy, although Damon Gough launched into a foul-mouthed rant at the fact the Guillemots had been asked to headline rather than him. The songs themselves were crowd-pleasers, but recent form suggests this sort of mouthing off is becoming an unfortunate habit for the Bolton-born singer.

Despite the criticism thrown at the Guillemots, the multi-national band provided the perfect closing set with their raucous performances of Trains To Brazil and San Paolo, causing even the most reticent audience members to dance.

The T’Other stage, which was basically set up in the bar area of the cricket club, was well filled all day thanks to the terrible weather, and highlights included the Kate Bush-esque vocal stylings of Lizzie Nunnery and the talented and entertaining Harp And A Monkey.

Sunday’s folkier line-up was typical of what The Met, who were on the team of organisers, regularly offer.

American Otis Gibbs combined the vocal range of Tom Waits with tales of the deep south to showcase just why his occasional appearances at the Grant Arms, just down the road from the festival site, have become so popular, while Mike McGoldrick and pals got the crowd dancing with glee.

Ahab proved that folk bands can also be genuinely swoonsome, before Capercaille rather stole the show from Sunday night headliners The Waterboys.

As ever, some of the best moments were also the most unexpected, such as the Lazy Maybees singalong set on the tiny acoustic stage tucked round the side of the beer tent — although the crowd should be ashamed for not knowing the words to Folsom Prison Blues.

A host of charming food stalls, including the fantastic Tibetan Kitchen and incredible ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, kept the crowd well fed, and thirsts were quenched by a range of specially-brewed ales. Craft stalls, rides and a charming performance, titled Pig, set inside a giant pig, from Whalley Range All Stars, completed the weekend.

Click on the link below for our photo gallery.