The CRF started in 2004 as a family run event (it still is!) and was known as the Rockinbeerfest, taking place at Huntingdon Racecourse, with the first headliner being Dr Feelgood; The Stranglers and Wishbone Ash also headlined that year. It quickly gathered wider support and a team of volunteers to help run it, many of whom are still involved today and without whom it would not be possible to continue. From there it moved to the Wood Green Animal Shelter in Godmanchester, before relocating again in 2009 to Haggis Farm Polo Club. An arrangement with Black Barn Records enabled the festival to move to Horseheath Lodge for 2017 and 2018, before returning to Haggis Farm for one year in 2019. For 2020, the CRF will start a new chapter, still based in Cambridgeshire as it always has been, at the purpose-built East Of England Showground near Peterborough.
The aim has always been to provide great entertainment, particularly in the classic rock and blues and prog genres, and avoid the corporate nature of many larger festivals as far as possible. All the proceeds from ticket and drink sales go to help fund the event rather than pay the organisers. Despite being run and stewarded by enthusiastic volunteers, who make it perhaps the friendliest festival you will find, many festival go-ers and indeed many bands have said it is one of the best run festivals they’ve ever been to.
The annual music festival has seen nationally and internationally well known acts perform on its various stages, but has also taken the opportunity to promote new and local bands too - the total number is over a thousand! The event has been short-listed for best medium sized UK festival. Many major acts have appeared in previous years, others include Asia, Uriah Heep, Focus, The Quireboys, Magnum, Thunder, Hazel O'Connor, Caravan, FM, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy, Eddie And The Hotrods, Snakecharmer, John Otway, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Mick Ralphs, Don Airey, Praying Mantis, Deborah Bonham, Barclay James Harvest.... the list goes on and demonstrates the pulling power of the event for both the artists and fans. York based Mostly Autumn hold the record for number of appearances having played every year apart from the first! Many bands have travelled from overseas – 2016 saw the T Clemente Band fly over specially from the San Francisco Bay area of California just to play - they've been back every year since!
The event has regularly featured up to three stages and has usually run for four days over the first weekend of August, from Thursday to Sunday, although in 2018 this changed to the last weekend of July, with anything up to one hundred bands appearing each year. 2016 saw an additional day added on the Wednesday to help raise funds for the world famous Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. The CRF has always been involved with the local community, with a fundraising collection for local charities each day of the festival.
The event has also supported many local breweries by running its own real-ale and farmhouse cider bar, with typically 80+ choices available each year - you can even try before you buy. The CRF has always offered a wide range of food and allowed people to bring their own without restrictions, although the policy of drinks was changed a few years ago to restrict own drinks to the campsite – sales from the festival’s bar are essential to ensuring the festival’s viability.