This couple's anniversary bash sparked an annual festival in Sheffield

Twenty years ago, a Dronfield couple's silver wedding party grew in to festival proportions, and spawned an annual family event that went on to raise over £100,000 for charities.

Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 13:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th August 2019, 12:04 pm
Dronfest 2008 - crowds enjoy the sun and music

This year's Dronfest is a celebration of live music, the great outdoors and a friendly vibe that unites the whole festival community.

Organiser in chief John Aspinall looks back in awe at what has been achieved.

He said: "For my and my wife Jackie’s wedding anniversary in 1999 we wanted to recreate a day from a family holiday, when we followed a trail of smoke in Whitstable, then enjoyed live music on the beach until we sat watching the sun go down. The smoke was from the barbecue....it was a great day.

John and Jackie Aspinall in 1999

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"We ended up with so many guests we made it an event - a party on the pitch. It became a charity gig to support motor neurone research, as we had recently lost a friend, Ken Mulcrone, to that disease.

"Derek Dooley was there and sang My Way, then New York, New York. I was learning guitar and wanted to sing Clapton's song, Wonderful Tonight, to my wife, but ended up singing with my friend on guitar...

"A friend who'd had a bit to drink suggested we did it all again the following year, and it went from there. We missed only 2004 in the past 20 years, due to issues with a venue.

"It's hard work but it's worth it. In 2015 we had Andy Fairweather Lowe. He did two major gigs miles apart, then came over here to do a field in Dronfield. We've had some great acts.

Carus entertain in 2007

"This year there's Ferocious Dog, who I've seen three times at Glastonbury.

"I feel humbled by how it's grown….and happy. There are three main reasons we continue....to promote live music, which unifies people of any age or nationality, to give some of the talent out there a chance to shine, and to raise money for charity through ticket sales.

"We have people from four days old to 96 years here - it's families and friends together. I get a warm feeling seeing everyone enjoying the day.”

Dronfest takes place on August 10, 2019. Tickets are available at a cheaper rate prior to the event but can be bought on the gate on the day.

Andy Fairweather-Lowe at Dronfest

Visit the Facebook page ”Dronfest” or the website www.dronfest.co.uk for full details.

Dronfest has two stages, and this year hosts 17 acts in total, with action kicking off at 12.30pm and finishing at 11pm.

Headliners Ferocious Dog are known as the only unsigned band to have sold out the renowned Rock City in Nottingham.

A first ever festival tribute band, The Stereosonics, will play, along with Ariele and her band who bring their sound from Austin, Texas, USA, and local lads Clear Vinyl who seem to be making waves with local radio stations, having made a name for themselves within a few short months.

Festival goers in 1999

The raft of local talent playing throughout the day includes returning favourites Firecracker Vida, along with Blast Lane, The Tin Soldiers and Mollyanna.

On the ‘Other Stage’ you will be blown away by the likes of Contrabanned, Dronny Bottom Buskers, Rogue, The Buddies, The Natterjacks, Mark Mathews and The Cabronitas.

An array of outlets will serve up food for all, with Woodfired Pizza, Mexican street food, Crepes, Authentic Greek food, The Noodle Bar and their Burger Bar.

Drone Valley Brewery will provide real ales with all profits from the bar added to charity funds Other offerings include massages, face painting, henna tattoos and tombola, a children’s treasure hunt and fun inflatables, a Spoon Bashing workshop, and art exhibition.

AJS Woodwork will display guitars and unique instruments. There will be jewellery-making and rock painting.

Entertaining the crowds at Dronfest
John Aspinall on stage with Cozy Jack , 1999