BOXSTOCK, THE UK CIGAR BOX GUITAR FESTIVAL - A BRIEF HISTORY
It all started a long time ago. Back in 2009 I’d been making cigar box guitars for a few years, having made my first one in 2005. At that time, the main point of contact of most people in the UK was the American based website www.cigarboxnation.com. There was (and still is) a UK group on there, and I’d also seen a few people on YouTube playing cigar box guitar. At that time I was running a weekly blues club in Birmingham, called “The Crossroads Blues Club” at The Tower Of Song, a small music bar. I played there regularly with my band Chickenbone Blues, and used my cigar box guitar during our set.
There was obviously some interest in cigar box guitars, as by then I’d made and sold over a hundred of them, and somebody on CBN said it would be nice if we could have a UK festival, as they seemed to be able to run them in America. I said that I had a venue which might work, and before I knew it I was organising the first UK Cigar Box Guitar Festival. I’d seen this guy “Hollowbelly” on YouTube, and so I invited him to play (little did I know it, but he'd bought his first cigar box guitar from me on eBay).
I also tracked down a young firebrand performing under the stage name of “Bluesbeaten Redshaw” and “Tinqui8” from France’s Basque Country. I decided to run it as an all day event with a sort of meet and greet, demos, stalls and talks, rounded off with an evening gig. A few of us met up on the Friday night and went for a curry, which was a great opportunity to put some real names and faces to the people that we only really knew by their internet “handles”. It all panned out pretty well, we had a busy day, and the place was packed for the evening gig. The only disappointment was that Tinqui8 couldn’t make it as the guy who was arranging a lift for him had let him down - he’d made it all the way from the Basque Country to Calais only to be left stranded. All in all it was a success, there were some great performances, everyone seemed to have good time, and I didn’t loose any money.
Throughout the years that I’ve run Boxstock, my aim has been to run it as a fun get-together for the cigar box guitar community and to spread the word, rather than as a commercial venture, so my philosophy has been to try and give people a good event and to try and break even.
Here’s a quick summary of the past editions of Boxstock.
2009 Tower of Song, Birmingham
Hollowbelly, Bluesbeaten Redshaw, ChickenboneJohn
2010 The Public, West Bromwich
Hollowbelly, Tinqui8, Bluesbeaten Redshaw, ChickenboneJohn
2011 The Public, West Bromwich
Ben Prestage (USA), Hollowbelly, Tinqui8, (France), Andy Bole and the Khalghani Dance Troup
2012 Band on The Wall, Manchester
Dave Acari, Babajack, Blackriver Bluesman and Bad Mood Hudson (Finland), Mike Snowden (USA)
2013 The Musician, Leicester
Vinylhed, King Size Slim, Lewis Floyd Henry
2014-2016 No festival
2017 The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
Hollowbelly, Dusk Brothers, Chickenbone Blues, Cap’n Catfish (Germany)
2018 The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
Blackriver Bluesman & Bad Mood Hudson (Finland), Dusk Brothers, Bemuzic, Chickenbone John & Dave Smith
2019 No festival
2020 Postponed due to Covid
I‘ve tried a few different things for the festival - a couple of times we’ve run an informal Friday night open mic. gig, and this year we are again reinstating the Friday night gig. On several occasions we’ve had international artists from the USA, Finland, Germany and France. It is not an easy task to run these events, and indeed after the 2013 edition I felt I needed some time out from it. I did try to run the event in 2016 and had got things all arranged but unfortunately the venue closed and we had to cancel. Determined to revive the event, I contacted the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton and struck a deal with them. It worked well for the event, and so we ran it there again in 2018, which had the extra bonus of having Virginia Heath and her film crew there, which resulted in the UK cigar box guitar scene getting national TV exposure on BBC 1 and BBC 4 in the film "Cigar Box Blues - The Makers Of A Revolution".
I let another year pass without organising the event, as we were very busy developing the business, having a busy summer season of festivals, shows and overseas touring, but managed to get everything in place to run Boxstock again in the spring of 2020 - and of course Covid 19 put paid to that.
So, here we are with another edition of Boxstock lined up - back at The Slade Rooms, Friday night 15th October with Hollowbelly and Philbilly One Man Band, Saturday 16th October all-dayer with workshops, demos, film show, trade stalls etc, and an evening gig with Kevin Brown and The Dusk Brothers. I’ve still got plenty of other goodies up my sleeve which I am in process of finalising, so watch out for more news!!!
- John Wormald