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The rock festival that pulls in thousands to the Valleys

A classic rock festival that pulls in fans from as far afield as the US, Japan and Israel will once again sell out in the Valleys over the weekend of July 26-28 with a UK festival exclusive by Thunder, and a worldwide exclusive from rock legends Thin Lizzy – but in Wales it is a best kept secret.

Steelhouse, officially the UK’s highest festival, has been staged on a hilltop working farm overlooking the former steel town of Ebbw Vale since 2011, and this year increases capacity to 7,500 per day to accommodate the influx of classic and contemporary rock fans from across the country and abroad. But despite gaining an international reputation for its great value and grassroots appeal, Steelhouse has largely remained under the radar in its Welsh heartland.
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Co-organiser Mikey Evans, a local from Ebbw Vale, said: “Rock fans from far and wide love the fact we’re on a mountain on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, it’s a spectacular location for some spectacular music, but surprisingly over the past eight years the take-up from local crowds from the Valleys has been lower than rest of the UK, despite the strong rock traditions in the area – maybe they just don’t know what’s right on their doorstep! With the line-up we have this year, the likes of legendary, genre-busting Living Colour, Scott Gorham leading Thin Lizzy through a world exclusive set, and UK classic rockers Thunder – a band that’s filled Caerphilly Castle and Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena in recent years, maybe this is when we’ll see a larger proportion of Welsh rock fans come and enjoy the weekend.”

Mikey, who had been managing entertainment for Virgin Atlantic and Qatar Airways amongst others, helped set up Steelhouse with old school friend Max Rhead, also originally from the area and who had a background in events management. They have seen it grow organically from a monthly club night at Ebbw Vale Rugby Club to its permanent home of Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm, where the cows watch on half a mile away.

Max Rhead said: “With the invaluable support from an army of passionate people, who provide their time for free and give the festival it’s grassroots feel, we’ve been able to create something quite special in the classic rock arena, a truly unique festival that gets a great reaction across the world. Both myself and Mike had been to rock festivals all round Europe.

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“We wondered why there shouldn’t be something like it in our own backyard. To be honest if we knew the obstacles in our way before we started on this journey, we probably wouldn’t have done it! It’s been hard work and we couldn’t have done it without the help of ‘The Steelhouse Family’ – our amazing volunteer workforce. As well as a festival, we’ve built a community who come together for a common purpose. Seeing what we’ve achieved together makes it all worthwhile. It’s a great story.”

The bill this year features headliners Thunder on Saturday July 27, with support from Temperance Movement; Gun; Crobot; The Wild!; Hollowstar; Wille & The Bandits and Ryders Creed. Sunday’s line-up features Living Colour; Uriah Heep; Danko Jones; Tax The Heat; Amorettes and Liberty Lies before Thin Lizzy play their classic album, ‘Black Rose’ in its entirety – the first and only time they will do this anywhere in the world.

In addition to this, ‘Four Nations Friday’ kicks the weekend off on July 26 featuring a band from each of the home nations. The opening evening is FREE to all weekend, Saturday and Sunday ticket holders and cements Steelhouse Festival as the UK’s best value rock festival. “We know where we are in the world”, says Evans, “value for money is a real driver for us. We’re intent on providing a proper, full scale rock experience that’s affordable for all the family to attend. Concerts are expensive, that’s why we let all children accompanied by a ticket buying adult into the arena for free. We’re also expanding our kids’ activities this year – they can scale the climbing wall and bounce on the castle, dad can enjoy the bands and mum can sharpen her aim at our axe throwing concession!”

Over the years Steelhouse has boasted memorable performances from the likes of Saxon, The Darkness, Skindred, Glenn Hughes, Feeder and Europe, with a Twisted Sister fan even jetting in from Australia to see front man Dee Snider headline in 2015.

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