A THREE-day festival that began as a birthday party for a Dorset taxi driver has reached its own special anniversary this month.

The Swanage Blues Festival came of age at the weekend, with 21 appearances now under its belt in 14 years.

It first started to celebrate the birth of George Crane, who will turn 66 this year, but has become a much-loved event that draws in crowds from around the world.

Organiser Steve Darrington said: “We’ve had an absolutely fantastic time.

“It’s been like a summer’s day, with blue skies and warm temperatures. People are spilling out onto the streets. I can see people dancing outside now. It’s wonderful.”

This year, there were performances from more than 35 acts, including Paint it Blue, Voodoo Chilli, the Zoe Schwarz Blues Band and Will Killeen.

Steve said: “This is the 21st festival – we’ve had 14 in March and then seven years ago we wanted to do it in October too.

“It started off as a party for a local man and not as a festival.

“George celebrates his birthday on February 29, which means it only comes around every four years, and so he wanted to make it really special. But over the years it has grown and grown.

“This year, 18 venues in Swanage are involved, most of them in the High Street, so the whole town has got behind it.

“Even though it’s become bigger and better, it’s still retained the feel of a big blues party. People come from all over the world, and then make friends here and come back again.”

He said it’s more like a ‘relatives’ party’ than a festival.

“It’s got a very warm and welcoming feel,” he said. That’s one of the things that is so brilliant about it.”