Man behind Rhythms of the World bands speaks ahead of festival

One of the most anticipated music events of the year - Rhythms of the World takes place over the coming weekend with 140 diverse acts across seven stages in the grounds of Hitchin Priory. Here performance director Steve Smither gives his personal take on the festival.

“I think I’ve got the best job at the festival, choosing the music that will grace the stages at this year’s Rhythms of the World. It’s a year round activity and has included travelling across the UK as well as to Copenhagen in search of the best music from across the World as well as the local community.

We’re very proud to have received national recognition with The Telegraph naming us one of the top 20 festivals of the year and Songlines magazine naming us in their top 10. These are tremendous accolades when you consider the festival is pulled to together by a team of volunteers who are doing this on top of day jobs and our low ticket price compared to the other festivals on these lists.

We had some good triumphs this year in securing such a strong line up, as well as adding comedy and a barn dance, and we’ve expanded our musical diversity across the festival. Our Rhythms Presents programme has taken music out into our local community as well as taking local performers to The Great Escape Festival in Brighton and The Bull and Gate in London.

There’s been a few trials and tribulations along the way, the biggest headache came two weeks ago when Junior Murvin, who was due to headline the Main Stage on Sunday, broke his leg and cancelled all of his European shows. To replace such a prestigious artist at short notice was a real challenge but we’re very pleased to have Little Roy as a replacement - he comes to ROTW in the middle of a string of festival slots including T in the Park, Secret Garden Party and Camp Bestival.

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Icehouse Stage has two new innovations for 2012. On Saturday, Last Minute comedy club has a two hour session and on Sunday the stage hosts a good old fashioned barn dance with a caller.

The Family Area, with its space and planets theme - offers music, storytelling and entertainment. And across the festival look out for the new Indie Bar at the BBC Introducing Stage offering soft drinks as well as a place to meet and get up close to the bands who will be doing signing sessions. The Arcadeclectic Archway is a new piece of art which will add colour and be a gateway to the stage.”

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Steve’s band lowdown:

“On the Main Stage our Saturday headliners are the award winning Juju - who are also Robert Plant’s house band, Sunday headliner, Little Roy, performs reggae interpretations of Nirvana songs as featured on Later with Jools Holland. Add to these Mercury Music prize winner Speech Debelle, bhangra superstar Jassi Sidhu, the UK festival debut of Poland’s RUTA and the amazing talents of UK innovators The Boxettes and Molotov Jukebox. We’re also pleased to welcome back our local community samba band Toque Tambor.

Across the rest of the festival Nettlebed Stage features punk legends The Damned, as well as Tom Hingley, lead singer from The Inspiral Carpets and Radio 2 favourites Miss600, along with a rare appearance from The New Town Centres.

BBC Introducing Stage on Saturday is headlined by indie gods Young Knives, along with a hip hop from Dizraeli and the Small Gods, live dubstep from Coda, as well as The October Game and rising urban star Kaleem Taylor. Sunday headliners are local stars My Passion ably supported by Don Brocco and The Birthday Suit featuring Rod Jones from Idlewild.

On St Mary’s Stage one of the highlights of the festival will be Soumik Datta and Bernhard Schimpelsberger presenting the audio-visual spectacular, Circle of Sound. Sunday sees the ROTW debut of Randolph Matthews and Byron Johnston, and also look out for the multicultural crossover of Village Well.

Arcadeclectic Stage on Saturday sees the one and only Edgar Broughton, as well as blues legend Skip ‘Little Axe’ McDonald and on Sunday we have the return of local comedy heroes Spandex Ballet.

On Priory Park Stage, look out for the legendary DJ Derek on Sunday.

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