Get set for three days of real ale

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GET your drinking arms ready! The 22nd Bent and Bongs bursts into hoppy life at the end of this month.

Last year, despite the economic gloom, the three-day charity beer festival raised a record-breaking £24,700 cash for The Meningitis Trust/Cardiac Risk to the Young.

And festival chairman Paul Hodson is confident that this year’s sessions (January 27/28/29) at Atherton’s Formby Hall will smash event that total.

Organised in association with Wigan and Leigh Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), drinkers can look out for 80 special brews to include 20 warming winter ales, a dozen ciders and a large selection of draught and bottled beers.

There will be plenty of foot-tapping between the supping, including Irish folk band Quare Craic on Thursday, rock tribute band Juke Box Heroes on Friday and Cracked Flag (folk and fun) on Saturday afternoon.

Five-piece blues rockers The Spider Monkeys – who headline on Saturday night – are appearing at Bent and Bongs for an amazing seventh year running.

The main beneficiaries of this year’s event will be The North West Air Ambulance and Childflight. Entry fees included a commemorative inscribed glass while Camra members enjoy a £1 discount.

Mr Hodson, of Hindley Green, said: “Last year’s event attracted record crowds from as far away as North America. We even had the pop impressario Pete Waterman down and he enjoyed himself so much that he is promising to become a Bent and Bongs regular.

“Festival goers will need quite a thirst to beat last year’s total, but we are sure that they can. In 2010 we almost drank them place dry, with more than 10,500 pints of real ale consumed, plus 2,300 pints of traditional cider along with 4,710 pints of foreign draught beers in addition to approximately 1,700 bottled beers.”

The total raised over the past two decades is a staggering £300,000.

Organisers Atherton and Tyldesley Round Table and festival chairman Paul aren’t expecting the recession to halt their progress.

In fact, some members are predicting even more enthusiastic elbow-bending as festival-goers try to forget about their woes.

Saturday night bill toppers The Spider Monkeys are certainly looking forward to the gig.

Bass player Sam Maiden said: “We’re really happy to be asked to play the festival, the atmosphere is always so good. Formby Hall also has great acoustics and it’s a wonderful place to play.

“We seem to go down well at our gigs. We made a decision when we got together that we would be one of those bands that played music we liked ourselves.

“We’ve all been in bands before when we have sang original material but this time, we just felt happy doing music that we know everyone likes, accessible music such as the Stereophonics, Kings of Leon and Biffy Clyro. In the New Year, we will be looking to think up a new set.

“We have been really busy the past few months and working full time means it can be hard to really think about new songs.

“So hopefully in 2011 we will get onto that and give people something new.”

OPENING times: January 27 (6-11pm); Jan 28 (5-11pm); Jan 29 (noon-4pm); Jan 29 (7-11pm).