Herts Life: Feb 2019 Article

A new festival for Herts is all about family fun, great local talent and big tribute acts, dancing, delicious food and drink, and hilarious competitions – all in a boutique setting in lovely countryside.

Whether it’s because of the seemingly endless cold, dark days of our long winter, or, as a nation, we’re just passionate about alfresco drinking and dancing in fields – the UK manages to pack a lot of festivals into the summer months. And Hertfordshire now has another great festival to add to the summer schedule, Todd in the Hole, supported by Hertfordshire Life.

The inaugural Todd in the Hole event was staged last year, when more than 6,000 people descending on countryside at Todds Green between Hitchin and Stevenage over two sun- soaked July days packed with live music, international food stalls, entertainment and a 60-foot bar serving a selection of real ales and cocktails.

Ahead of its second festival, to be held over three days on July 19-21, the team behind Todd in the Hole is already busy planning what promises to be an even bigger and better event. Here’s what to look forward to…

Marvellous music

Last year’s festival featured everything from popular tribute acts to talented local musicians performing at a festival for the first time. This year’s line-up is set to be even better, with acts covering everything from rock to folk, gospel to pop. Showcasing some of the best musical talent from around the county, this is a great chance to see the next big thing, as well as dance to the sounds of David Bowie, The Beatles, Oasis and Fleetwood Mac. And there will be some of the UK’s best Elvis impersonators battling it out in the hilarious and fabulous Great British Elvis Off to win a holiday to Las Vegas. AND there’s a Friday night 70s and 80s disco.

World food

While the festival’s three stages showcase an extensive list of musicians over the weekend, there’s no shortage of entertainment and activities across the festival. For those looking for great food, the only problem is deciding on what to opt for. From South African cuisine to Indian vegan dishes, a classic BBQ banquet to a tempting Greek menu – all washed down with something refreshing from the festival’s huge bar – you will be spoilt for choice.

Family fun

Unlike some festivals, Todd in the Hole places great emphasis on being family friendly – offering a variety of activities and entertainment for younger festival goers. As well as free entry for under-threes and weekend tickets at just £10 for under-11s, there’s no shortage of fun to be had for children of all ages – meaning this isn’t just a great weekend for parents, but also for kids too.

Luxury camping

Another addition to the 2019 festival is camping. And if squeezing you and a friend into a one-man tent isn’t your thing, don’t worry, the festival will provide glamorous camping or ‘glamping’ – about as far from traditional camping as it’s possible to get. This is as luxurious as sleeping outdoors can be.

Want to know more?

With VIP tickets as well as regular weekend tickets on offer, whether you’re looking to get right up to the front of the stages or watch the fun from the comfort of the VIP area, Todd in the Hole 2019 really does cater for everyone.

Tickets info: Todd in the Hole takes place on July 19-21 at Todds Green between Stevenage and Hitchin. To buy Early Bird Weekend Tickets for just £38.50, visit BUY Todd In The Hole Tickets!

WIN a £1,ooo ViP Package & weekend tickets!

HERTFORDSHIRE LIFE have 15 pairs of weekend tickets to the festival to give away worth £77 a pair, and a star prize VIP package for five worth £1,000 which includes bubbles and breakfast, private parking, fast-track security, access to the VIP bar, chill-out area and festival merchandise. For your chance to win these great prizes, go to their dedicated Todd in the Hole competition webpage at Herts Life Competition and answer this question: David Bowie had a number one hit with a) Let’s Dance, b) Let’s Get it On, c) Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear. Closing date for entries is May 21. Over 18s only. Archant terms and conditions apply. Good luck!

Focus on: Mind in Mid Herts

We’re so proud to have Mind in Mid Herts as one of our charity partners at Todd in the Hole 2018. They offer a brilliant service out of four centres in St. Albans, Stevenage, Hertford and Welwyn Garden City and work to support everyone in our community who needs their help – whether that’s a one off consultation or somewhere to go more regularly.

We’ll be raising money for this worthy cause on our Village Green on Sunday 22nd July where we’ve got plenty lined up from egg and spoon races, three legged races and much more! Plus the Mind in Mid Herts team will have a stand with lots of useful information to take away and we’ll be giving you the chance to have a photo with Elvis and the Todd in the Hole Cadillac (part of the Great British Elvis Off) all for a £10 donation which will go straight to the charity!

In the meantime, we had a chat with Sharn Tomlinson, CEO, about the wonderful work they do, as well as breaking down those barriers to get people to go and see them even before they become unwell.

Getting creative

Alongside the traditional counselling and mental health awareness work, Mind in Mid Herts offers a range of fun group activities from yoga and meditation, to art and crafts, drama and music. We like to think we’re a creative bunch here at Todd in the Hole (who else would bring you welly wanging on a weekend?!) so we were keen to find out from Sharn how these sorts of activities can make a difference.

“It could be that a one-to-one counselling session is too much for someone at the time, but they are happy to join a yoga class, for example. It’s about doing what’s best for them. The activities offer a stepping stone into the service where they can get more support if they need it, but they’re also there as ongoing support for long term conditions or to build confidence back up after someone has been unwell.

“We have just been awarded funding to add a female yoga class to the already running mixed group yoga class. We’re also showing the World Cup matches at our centres. People can just come in and watch the football, perhaps if they want company, but don’t want to be in a pub or elsewhere.”

Five of your five-a-day

Sharn told us that the Mental Health Foundation has done some fantastic research on what people need to stay mentally well. Did you know about the Five Ways to Wellbeing, which we can all do everyday?

  • Connect – talk to the people around you
  • Be active – go for a walk at lunchtime or take the stairs
  • Take notice – of things around you, such as the birds singing
  • Keep learning – something new every day, however small
  • Give – do something nice for someone else

“Mental health is equal to physical health and so prevention should be the same. These five things are actually really easy to do everyday,” said Sharn. (By the way, you’re doing one just by reading this blog!)

The Mind in Mid Herts team will have postcards on their stand at Todd in the Hole with the ‘Five Ways’ printed on, so make sure you head over and get your copy. Why not stick it on the fridge and see how easy it can be? We think possibly even easier than getting your five fruit and veg a day!

Community spirit

Finally, we asked Sharn what a difference it makes having a presence in the community at events such as Todd in the Hole.

“These events are so important for breaking down that barrier. We want people to come and see us and to stay well.

“We’re also hoping to meet lots of young people at Todd in the Hole and help give them a healthy coping mechanism. Sadly North Herts is the highest region in the county for self harm in young people and we would love to be able to support more young people, but also talk to them about how we can make the service we offer better for them.”

What it’s all about

Sharn has worked with the charity for 10 years and became CEO three years ago. She is also a practising family therapist.

“I spend most of my time finding funding and thinking strategically about the direction of the charity, so sometimes I do have to sit back and remember why I’m actually here. My practice as a family therapist helps me to put things in focus, but so does seeing people who come to our centres. I saw someone the other day laughing while playing table tennis; I hadn’t seen him laugh before. That’s when you remember what it’s all about.”

Mind in Mid Herts couldn’t continue its good work without the support of its 80 or so volunteers and vital funding. Don’t forget to head over to the Village Green on the Sunday and offer them your support in any way you can. If you’ve still not yet got your tickets online, you can get them here

Viva Las Vegas!

In the summer of 1953 Elvis recorded two songs at the Memphis Recording Service. Fast forward 65 years – and around 4,500 miles across the pond – and the fabulous Elvis Tribute Act (ETA) Lee Grindey is performing at the Whitwell Steam Fair in preparation for his big showdown at Todd in the Hole Festival’s The Great British Elvis Off!

Yes, the team were out in force last weekend promoting the festival, which meant we also had chance to grab a few words with Lee before he started his set!

Lee will be competing against four other passionate Elvis aficionados for the 2018 title and prize of a holiday for two to Las Vegas! Oh, and it will be up to you guys to pick the winner. We’re going to be recording the audience cheers and screams to every live Elvis number that our competitors sing. At the end of the competition, the Elvis with the loudest cheer wins. No pressure then!

In between selfies with fans in front of the Todd in the Hole Cadillac, Lee treated the Whitwell Steam Fair goers to all the classics including Burning Love, Sweet Caroline, and the one he said we’d all know from the AA advert – all together now… “A big wheel keep on turning…”!

No stranger to the stage, Lee’s been singing and performing since 1998 – anything from Neil Diamond to the Bee Gees to Robbie Williams – but only recently became an ETA full time in 2015:

I was brought up on Elvis – my parents were huge fans. So becoming an Elvis Tribute Act was a natural progression really. I’ve performed at concerts, events, charity events, weddings – it’s massive and I don’t have a separate day job; I’m performing three or four times a week!”

Lee’s competed in Blackpool, Wakefield and, for the first time last year, at the Porthcawl Elvis Festival in Wales. If you haven’t heard of this, Google it. It’s huge with 40,000 – 50,000 people coming from across the world to this little seaside town for their Elvis fix!

Heading back home to Stoke for a gig that night (before driving back down to Hertfordshire to see us for the second day of the steam fair!), we asked Lee what keeps his passion and dedication alive:

It’s wholesome, clean music that is just timeless. Some modern music can have pretty rude lyrics, but this stuff is pure. It attracts all ages and everything has a story to it.”

It feels amazing every time I perform. I put the suit on and am ready to go out – it’s just awesome.”

In between performing, Lee enjoys football, cars and spending time with his kids. He went over to Memphis in 2003 and, who knows, if the audience love him just as much at Todd in the Hole we could be sending him back to the States and heading for Vegas!

There’s no doubt the life and work of Elvis impersonators has kept the soul and sound of the King himself alive all these years later… let’s face it, these guys are awesome and they are committed! So good luck to Lee and all our other ETAs at this year’s Todd in the Hole.

You can catch them in action on Sunday 22nd July so get your tickets online today!

The Stones are coming to Stevenage!

They’ve performed for royalty, multi-millionaires and celebrities all over the globe, from the top of a mountain in St Moritz to the top of Tower Bridge. And now, in less than two months’ time, they’ll be performing for the good people of Hertfordshire – right here, up close and personal, at the one and only Todd in the Hole Festival!

Yes, it’s actually happening and we couldn’t be more excited for our headline act – the Counterfeit Stones! In fact, we couldn’t resist catching up with band manager and lead singer Steve Elson, aka Nick Dagger this week, to hear about their history and 27 year journey to the day the ‘Stones Come to Stevenage’!

Tell us a bit about how and when the Counterfeit Stones formed

The band formed on 13 October 1991 in San Diego, USA. I had a mate involved in the Del Mar Grand Prix in the city. He was organising a bash for all the celebs and looking for an English rock band to play at the after party banquet. I’d played the guitar for 20 years and thought it would be fun to put a band together – thinking it would just be a one-off thing…

I’d met some of the guys on a 12 week Rock School course I’d been on and the others I knew already. We played at the event and after that it just took off! I had no idea we’d become a band, but we just spent more and more time playing together and it went from there.

What was that first year like for you?

We did 200 gigs in that first year! Everything from universities to corporate events… we earnt a good reputation. It was in the early days of tribute bands when there was mainly just us, Bjorn Again, the Bootleg Beatles and an Elvis impersonator.

Give us a little taste of your rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle

Since those early days we’ve done the weird and the wonderful! We’ve performed at Skanderborg Festival in Denmark in front of 65,000 people and alongside big names like Tom Jones and Joe Cocker. We’ve done a three week tour in Japan with the Bootleg Beatles… the Stones and the Beatles are so popular out there – we performed in the centre of Tokyo where they have memorabilia shops four storeys high! And we’ve done our smallest gig at the top of a mountain in St Moritz for a prince and 25 of the richest people in the world.

Any more really memorable experiences?

I’ve watched Led Zeppelin and Cream perform at the Royal Albert Hall and I always thought what a scary stage it looked to perform on. We’ve now performed there twice ourselves and the stage actually feels very small when you’re on it – not like looking at it from the audience!

Another really small gig was at the top of Tower Bridge for an American guy’s 60th birthday. Because the venue is basically just two long thin walkways (you might remember seeing it on The Apprentice) we didn’t think we could play there. In the end we got a special PA company in to line the walkways with speakers so people could hear us from one end, and then they sat and ate along the other walkway!


So what can our wonderful festival goers expect from you guys at Todd in the Hole?

People know they will get a joke and plenty of humour with us, but the music will be spot on too. They can expect the cheapest Stones festival gig they will see with all the big hits played in the right key at the right speed, just as people remember on the records!

Well, we think this sums it up just nicely. Basically, it’s going to be epic and you don’t want to miss out, so get your tickets online today and share #TheStonesarecomingtoStevenage far and wide!