It’s one of the longest-running music festivals and possibly the only one in Britain going ahead this holiday weekend, owing to the island being coronavirus-free since the end of April.

Internationally-known for its famous cow with creamy milk, Guernsey is an island where the last detected case of the COVID-19 virus was recorded more than 100 days ago, so no social-distancing measures will be required at this festival.

In the shadow of a 600-year-old castle on Guernsey, up to 3000 islanders are gathering for the 44th Vale Earth Fair—and the 12-hour music festival might be the biggest one yet.

With no visiting performers invited this year, the all-volunteer Vale Earth Fair Collective is taking the festival back to its roots. Where, in the past, headliners have included Roots Manuva, the Buzzcocks, or the Neville Staple band, this year the line-up will feature 70 all-local acts, just like the early festivals did.

With university students still home, plus teenagers sticking around who would normally be piling onto ferries headed into the UK’s major festival weekend, this homegrown edition may be one of the biggest Earth Fairs yet.

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“Ticket sales haven’t been this good for years, and there’s really good vibes surrounding it, says Jade Kershaw of the Vale Earth Fair Collective. “We’re fantastically lucky that we can go ahead—and the island feels like it’s buzzing for it.”

Keeping the spirit of the very first festival in 1976 (when a full line-up of 12 local acts was secured in 2 days) this year’s Earth Fair, with six stages of local music, spoken word, live arts and entertainers, and as always, a children’s corner, is set to be a celebration of both Guernsey’s eclectic live music scene and the ‘Guernsey Together’ spirit which has bolstered islanders throughout the lockdown.

Sunday’s line-up includes Clameur de Haro, a rock group named after the island’s ancient, Norman custom of crying for justice, which is still occasionally invoked by islanders, and the Cor Damme Lars, a feisty folk 5-piece, named for the common Guernsey patois expression.

The group says it will be live-streaming the music at www.valeearthfair.org

The Vale Castle, evoked in Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea, proves a spectacular setting for a music festival. Musicians duck their heads into a former storage tunnel for the most unique backstage access, while in the ramparts, a former gun battery proves the perfect design for a Real Ale bar.

Beyond the music and the drinking, it’s the ethos: it’s the little festival with a big heart.

The all-volunteer collective eschews corporate sponsorship and gives all profits to charity. This year’s proceeds will benefit Burma Campaign UK, Free Tibet, and Safer Guernsey.

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