The high-octane Teddy Rocks Festival is a not only a life-affirming celebration of rock and roll, it also has a life-saving purpose. Every year the heart of rural Dorset lights up with a host of rock and rolling stars and music legends to both entertain and raise money for children with cancer.
The festival started in 2011 when festival founder, Tom Newton, became inspired by his little brother, Teddy, who died of a rare bone cancer aged just 10. He put together a couple of gigs in The Greyhound pub in Blandford Forum to raise money for the children’s cancer charity Teddy20. The festival title and slogan, “Fighting Children’s Cancer with Rock”, is a testament to him.
Since then Teddy Rocks has expanded at an impressive rate, and in 2018 moved to a much larger venue at Charisworth Farm.
Along with a huge variety of local bands, the festival was able to get some big names on the list this year, among them The Darkness and The Zutons.
Why go to Teddy Rocks
Teddy Rocks somehow manages to create an electric, boozy atmosphere while still being family friendly. This year kids were given ear defenders to protect them from the loud music while enjoying the fun activities and the plenty of green spaces where families could relax.
At full capacity the festival can accommodate 5,000 people per day. There are four stages (two indoor and two outdoor) – my favourite was the Merry Woodland stage, located under a pretty canopy of trees with a bar selling delicious cocktails for just £6.
What makers Teddy Rocks truly special is their commitment to raising money for charity. All profits from ticket sales go to Teddy20, as does the profits from alcohol sold by local brewery Hall & Woodhouse. It all adds to the lovely, positive vibe, and affirms the kindness of humanity.
This year, the festival smashed their record, raising more than £107,000 for Teddy20.
The well-organised camping area was located right next to the festival, so in less than five minutes we could walk from your tent to the main stage. There’s also a separate area for family campers needing a bit of quiet. Plenty of portaloos are conveniently located nearby.
During the weekend, temperatures plummeted to 1-2 °C, despite it being sunny during the day. It was very cold at night, and so I would recommend bringing plenty of blankets and layers, even if you think all you’ll need is a sleeping bag and a onesie.
On a positive note, the Festival almost sold out of Teddy Rocks hoodies, so at least our chilly state did some good for charity.
What’s the music like at Teddy Rocks
The majority of bands performing at Teddy Rocks 2019 are local bands, with a few bigger names thrown into the mix.
I was able to see more than 25 performances during the weekend as the stages were in such close proximity. At the Onbuy main stage, I loved watching the all female band The Franklys, who rocked out with high energy and attitude.
Elsewhere, the Merry Woodland stage was buzzing with energy and excitement during Chris Payn’s performance. The Bournemouth-based singer belted out some epic hits, culminating in an electric performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Covers were a popular theme of the weekend, and the Greyhound stage was almost entirely devoted to cover bands. My personal favourites from this stage were Blinked 182, Tenacious G and Foo Forgers, all of whom drew quite a crowd.
Indie, folk, ska, punk, metal and grime all made an appearance too while Black Water County, who resembled a merry band of dreadlocked pirates, combined punk and folk with aplomb and ended in a frenzy of energy.
Saturday headliner, The Darkness, put on a cracking show accompanied by some impressive pyrotechnics. Lead singer Justin Hawkins was on fabulous form, bedecked in a multi-coloured catsuit while singing nostalgic hits such as “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” with his epic falsetto voice.
What else is going on?
Smaller festivals tend to have quite limited options when it comes to food, shopping and non-music activities, but Teddy Rocks is an exception. There were dozens of stands selling clothes, funky hats and children’s toys.
There was a glitter bar, hairdresser, fake tattoo stand and even a real tattoo stand. In the mornings, festival-goers could partake in yoga and circus games, and watch a series of interesting talks on subjects including the extinction rebellion.
For the kids (and kidults) there were dodgems, a haunted house, a bucking bronco and bungee trampolines. Giant teddy bears were dotted around the festival and kids could follow a map to try and locate them all (some were even hiding up in trees).
Food and drink
Food was in vast supply at Teddy Rocks with options for everyone including vegans and vegetarians. Wood fired pizzas, hog roasts, deep fried chips, lamb burgers, burritos, curries and Halloumi chips were all on the menu.
Most dishes cost between £5 and £8 and many of the stands were serving food made with fresh, local ingredients.
Drinks were also in abundance, although by Sunday some of the beers had run dry. Pints of beer from Hall & Woodhouse and Cranborne cider cost between £4.50 and £5, a very reasonable price for a music festival.
I spent most of Teddy Rocks with a big smile on my face, delicious food in my belly and a sore throat from singing along to so many bands. With the added bonus of raising money for charity, what’s not to love?
How much: 2019 tickets were £81 for weekend camping, and 2020 tickets are already on sale. Early bird tickets are also £81 for adults and £21.60 for ages 6-13 (under 5s go free).
Getting there: Charisworth Farm is about a mile from Blandford Forum, and the venue is easiest to reach by car. You can either park on-site or there will also be a shuttle bus to the festival from the town centre.