3rd UK Blues Challenge 2016

UKBlues wishes to thank Mike Hamblett at the Robin 2 for his support and assistance in making this event possible.

Mike Hamblett – proprietor of the Robin 2: ‘I am very proud and privileged to host the 3rd UK Blues Challenge at The Robin 2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton on 12th November 2016. We all look forward to an extremely successful event…”

Ashwyn Smyth – Chair of UKBlues:  ‘We are delighted to be staging this event at the Robin 2, a superb and well known venue with a deserved reputation for putting on top class music events. We have made no secret of the fact that we are keen to see the UK Blues Challenge being staged at locations throughout the UK which this event evidences.’

Upton Blues Festival were the main sponsors of the event.

For Upton Blues Festival, Oliver Carpenter said: ‘The Upton Blues Festival is proud to sponsor the UK Blues Challenge night. Britain’s biggest free blues festival and Festival of the Year 2015 & 2016 in the British Blues Awards, Upton attracts over 20,000 visitors from across the country and contributes almost £1M to the small Worcestershire town’s economy. It shows how live blues can be mainstream and attract all ages and types of people to revel in the atmosphere created by the broad spectrum of this important type of music.  The volunteer organisation team wants to support the UK Blues Federation in all its activities to bring together the performers, venues, clubs, festivals, and media interested in blues music and to promote all aspects of blues, from the traditional to the new, the familiar to the unexpected and the intimate to the vibrant, to new audiences and new people across the country. ‘ 

For UKBlues, Ashwyn Smyth, Chair, said: ‘We are very appreciative of and grateful for the support being given to UKBlues, both financial and general, by the multi-award winning Upton Blues Festival. Their sponsorship of the UK Blues Challenge will help considerably with the costs thereof and mean that we will have more funds available to support some of the other activities of UKBlues, including providing some financial assistance to the winner of the Challenge towards their expenses representing the UK at both the European and International Blues Challenges in 2017.  With this support, Upton Blues Festival is demonstrating the kind of co-operation and support we are seeking to encourage and develop within the UK blues community and demonstrates the benefits of different areas of that community working together to facilitate and achieve similar aims.’


Dove & Bowevil

The Dove & Boweevil Band are Americana-Soul artists based in Norfolk.  Known for their memorable melodies and eclectic and energising music. Soaring vocals from Lauren Dove and raw, gritty guitar from Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes heading up a five piece band.


Kaz Hawkins Band

Kaz Hawkins is a Northern Irish singer/songwriter who has been in the music industry for almost 30 years. Kaz has made a name for herself through her fiery stage performances, honest lyrics and a vocal that has reduced grown men to tears. Songs strong with emotion, loaded with her personal history, placed on music that oscillates between folk, blues, soul and gospel.


Rebecca Downes

Birmingham based Rebecca Downes was voted Female Vocalist of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year 2016 in the British Blues Awards. The main influence of their music is blues, with elements of rock, soul, funk and jazz.


Wille & The Bandits

Hailing from the Southwest, Wille & The Bandits’ music cannot easily be categorised as they cross the boundaries of so many genres, with elements of blues, and roots rock falling into the ‘alternative’ with a freshness of sound which sets them apart. The trio comprises Will Edwards fronting the band on guitar, lap slide and vocals, Matt Brooks, on six string bass and a bespoke upright bass, and Andrew Naumann on drums.



Kyla Brox – Honorary Member UKBlues Federation

Alex Butler – of Red Butler who won the Challenge in 2014

Oliver Carpenter – Trustee of Upton Blues Festival (event sponsors)

Ruth Etheridge – Secretary of Upton Blues Festival

Mark Horsley – Organiser and Director of the Scarborough Secret Blues Festival

Peter Noble – MD of Noble PR Consultancy (Entertainment Agency)

Becky Tate – of BabaJack, European Blues Challenge contestants in 2013.


The Judges’ verdict was Kaz Hawkins Band.

Winners’ Opportunities

The winners were invited to represent the UK at the:

33rd International Blues Challenge in Memphis USA in 2017

Kaz Hawkins unfortunately didn’t proceed past the early stages.

7th European Blues Challenge in Horsens, Denmark in 2017

Kaz Hawkins Band WON the 7th European Blues Challenge.

The winners were also offered slots to play at Blues on the Farm Festival, the Great British R’n’B Festival at Colne, the International Blues Review Mini Cruise and the Upton Blues Festival during 2017.

Photo Galleries

Coming soon.

Reviews & Interviews

Click here for a Review of the 3rd UK Blues Challenge by Rosy Greer

Click here for a Review of the 3rd UK Blues Challenge by Bluesdoodles

Comments and Feedback

Kaz Hawkins: “Winning the European Blues Challenge in 2017 gave me the opportunity to explore my career outside the UK & Northern Ireland. I now live in France and have found great management who have helped me gain momentum in Europe. I believe that taking part in the UKBlues Challenge directly led to the amazing opportunities that have now come my way. I will always be grateful for the challenge and the UK Blues Federation”

Peter Noble: ’The UK Blues Challenge was wonderful.  It gave me the opportunity to see Wille & The Bandits live who I felt were the most original artist of the night.  I particularly loved the pedal steel guitar and Wille’s harrowing vocals.   Kaz Hawkins touched a nerve with the judges and after her performance you felt a definite emotional connection.   The biggest reaction of the night went to Rebecca Downes who really impressed everyone with her incredible powerhouse vocals and dynamic stage presence.   Dove & Boweevil were also impressive with their entertaining blues repertoire. All in all a great evening.’

Ashwyn Smyth, Chair, UKBlues Federation: ‘This was an excellent evening and our thanks go to everyone involved, the bands, the judges, the sponsors and all the team at the Robin 2 who made us so welcome and worked so hard to make the event such a success. The feedback we have received has been great and it is clear that those who attended thoroughly enjoyed the very fine musicians who played for them. I hope that we have laid the foundations for future UK Blues Challenges and that it will become one of the must attend events of the blues year.  This was a night that celebrated the best in UK blues and demonstrated only too clearly the quality and range of the talent that is all too often unsung in this too frequently ignored musical genre. The event also raised funds which we, UKBlues, can use to further our aims and to make a contribution towards the Kaz Hawkins Band’s costs attending the two Challenges.’


If any reader has memorabilia of the event please email alan@earlyblues.com