IT may be dark and cold out there but a feast of fun is in store.

Bridport Winter Solstice Festival returns to town in December, promising entertainment to welcome the shortest day and the return of the light.

Organised for the second year by Afro Celt Sound System and The Imagined Village founder Simon Emmerson, Bridport Electric Palace manager Susan Warren and local writer Margery Hookings, the festival will be held over three days from December 21 to 23.

The line-up features the mighty Dhol Foundation on Thursday December 21, followed the next day by folk superstars and local heroes Show of Hands and, on Saturday, an acclaimed film about lost folk singer Shirley Collins.

The festival kicks off with a return to Bridport for The Dhol Foundation. They got everyone up on their feet at last year’s inaugural festival’s Bollywood Night. They’ll be joined by The Bollywoodettes and Nachda Sansaar dancers, who’ll be taking the audience through their paces with a free Bhangra dance lesson at the start of the evening.

Master Dhol drummer, artistic director and music producer Johnny Kalsi steers the band. The musicians travel the globe with the mission of promoting and exposing the indigenous sounds of the Dhol Drum to the masses.

Performing at major world class events such as the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, The Queen’s Diamond Coronation Celebration Gala at Buckingham Palace and the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, the Dhol Foundation are Ambassadors of WOMAD & WOMAD International.

Johnny is also a member of Afro Celt Sound System and The Imagined Village.

Always engaging the audience with the full power and energetic performances, The Dhol Foundation are effervescent and wow the crowds with their dynamics, whirling arms and thunderous beats. Their musicality is formed from a rich tapestry of culture, passion and their love for World Music.

While they tour, they absorb influences from collaborators, record them on an album and deliver them on stage.

On Friday December 22, Show of Hands will be demonstrating that The Only Way is Wessex in a very special gig which sees them returning to their roots.

Featuring many of the Wessex-based songs that are their trademark, the gig will recall duo Steve Knightley and Phil Beer’s early days when they first performed in West Dorset more than 25 years ago. Their first CD was recorded live in Bridport at the Bull Hotel.

Back then they played hundreds of clubs, pubs and music venues within a two-hour radius of Bridport. It was to be the start of a remarkable musical journey. Peter Gabriel called them ‘One of the great English bands’ and with five sell-out Royal Albert Hall shows and numerous BBC folk awards under their belts, the duo is now one of major players on the English folk and roots scene.

Playing high energy, melodic, acoustic music their music draws heavily on the people, stories and landscape of their native Wessex.

On Saturday December 23 at 2pm, Bridport Winter Solstice Festival will be showing The Ballad of Shirley Collins, followed by a Q&A with Shirley Collins and the film’s director, Paul Williams.

Widely regarded as the 20th century’s most important singer of English traditional song, Shirley Collins stood at the epicentre of the folk music scene during the 1960s and 70s. But in 1980 she lost her voice in mysterious circumstances, and was forced to retire from musical life.

Rob Curry and Tim Plester’s documentary sets out to explore the story behind the icon, and chronicles Shirley’s battle, at the grand old age of 80, to rediscover that voice she lost so many years previously.

The film offsets this contemporary journey with a more literal one taken from the other end of her life, and makes fertile use of authentic 1959 audio-archive to recount the tale of Shirley’s seminal road-trip around America’s Deep South alongside her then-lover (and pre-eminent ethnomusicologist) Alan Lomax.

Featuring among others the comedian Stewart Lee, the film eschews a straightforward biopic approach and mindfully sidesteps any ‘rockumentary’ talking-heads. Instead, the filmmakers offer a meditative and richly-textured piece of portraiture, one which uses Shirley’s story as a prism through which to explore and reflect upon themes of heritage, posterity and the true ancestral melodies of the people.

It is a film about loss and redemption, about sacrifice, healing and rebirth.

All three events take place at the Palace – for full details, including ticket prices and group offers, please call in at the venue in South Street, Bridport Tourist Information Centre or visit