If merely dining well on a rich variety of cuisines, drinking fine real ales and wines, playing darts or the local 9-pin table skittles, and listening to the locals’ Cock & Bull stories are just not enough for you, then Stony can offer a great deal by way of arts, music, literature, fairs and general entertainment.
Doubtless, there were minstrels and bards in Grilke’s Inn back in 1317, but the live music scene as we know it today got going in 1968 with the Stony Stratford Folk Club, when guests like Jasper Carrott received the princely sum of £8.00 (and that was a lot of shillings in those days). One of the original hosts, veteran folk singer and songwriter, Matt Armour, then developed the club into “The Song Loft" in 1976, and top-line acts from the world of folk are still performing there at The Cock Hotel on alternate Friday nights. (And we MEAN top-line: Waterson/Carthy, Noel Murphy, The Battlefield Band, Derek Brimstone, Show Of Hands and many others have delighted full-house audiences).
Meanwhile, in 1971, local musician, Rod Hall, was the inspiration behind a music and dance event on Horsefair Green, and “Folk On The Green” was born amidst bales of hay, fiddles and banjos, and the jingle of Morris Men’s bells. It is now the longest-running annual outdoor live music event in the country, attracting thousands, and providing an opportunity for budding musicians to play alongside established performers and big names. AND IT’S STILL FREE!
In 1993 a mysterious stranger rode into town, bought the quaint little two-bar local, The Fox & Hounds, and transformed it into a major centre for real ales and live music reflecting the stranger’s taste for blues, folk, and “roots” music. Over pints of Frog Island and Centurion’s Ghost, music-lovers enjoyed the delights of top-ranking musicians like Mick Abrahams (he of Jethro Tull and Blodwyn Pig), Paul Jones (The Blues Band and Manfred Mann – THAT one), acts with musicians from the likes of Paul Weller’s band, The Kinks, Mungo Jerry, The Specials, Yardbirds, Alexis Korner’ Blues Incorporated, as well as other festival headliners and touring American bluesmen.
This inspired something of an explosion and nowadays you can also find music, occasional or regular, at The White Horse, The Bull, The Crown, The Forresters, The Duke of Wellington, and The Cock Hotel, as well as at some of the restaurants. Just have a look at the events calendar.
Then, there’s StonyLive!, which started as a modest long-weekend of music back in 1999, and is now a 40-50-event ten day festival encompassing all forms of visual and performing arts as well as talks, walks, and family occasions.
StonyWords! is the town’s annual literature festival, dating back to 2005, and providing up to twenty events relating to, as the organisers put it, “literary stuff”. So, if a Burns’ night supper, literary quizzes, an evening without Spike Milligan, a talk on Ronald Searle or Mervyn Peake, a chance to meet and chat with published authors, and that kind of thing appeal, then look in the events calendar for goodies around the end of January each year.
Watch out, too, for occasional mini-festivals such as StonyDead! (around Hallowe’en).
Have we mentioned the Town Fayre? It’s every August Bank Holiday Monday, and is yet another excellent family day out.
Stony’s Christmas Lights display, launched with a magical family day of Christmas fun, is one of the best around!