More Southwest Folk Festivals.

We were well served with festivals in the Southwest during June. I was aware of seven, but I could easily have missed one or two. There was a rich variety too, ranging from the action-packed weekend of the International Shanty Festival in Falmouth (48 shanty groups, 21 venues) to the month long Tivvy Fest in Tiverton.

IMG_5044The pick of the bunch for me has been the 3-day Teignmouth Folk Festival. As a town it is perfectly suited to this kind of occasion. The long, traffic-free prom provides lots of areas for the morris dancing sides to entertain the crowds, while The Triangle and Little Triangle are two pedestrianised open spaces in the town centre that are good venues for the open air concerts. The four indoor venues are close together.

IMG_5070Throughout the festival in 2013 we were constantly looking at black clouds wondering if we were going to have to run for cover. No such problems this year; we had three days of glorious weather.

The main concerts all took place in the Carlton Theatre and they were very well put together with a big name supported by talented up-and-coming bands.

Vin Garbutt

Vin Garbutt

On Friday night we had Vin Garbutt supported by Skyhook – a stunning threesome who will undoubtedly be headlining concerts in the near future. Vin has been around a long time and has toured the world with his distinctive brand of folk. I have several of his cds, but I’d never seen him live before and I just don’t get a real feel for artists until I see them in action. Now I’ve seen Vin all I can say is that if you haven’t been to one of his concerts then I strongly recommend that if you get the chance – grab it!. For one thing he has one of those animated character-filled faces that grab the attention. He provides a delightful blend of moving songs linked by wonderfully entertaining patter. That patter is a mix of snappy one-liners, convoluted stories ending in excruciating puns and unusual self-deprecating humour – such as this comment that stuck in my mind:

“Don’t worry if there are any empty seats near you – the concert is definitely sold out. Over the years I’ve met so many people who really love me. Whenever I have a concert they buy up any tickets left. They love me – but they hate my singing, so they buy the tickets and don’t come. So don’t worry, it’s another sell-out.”

On Sunday we had another giant of the folk scene – Martyn Wyndham-Read. He won’t thank me for mentioning it, but Martyn will be 72 next month. His voice is unchanged; his singing appears effortless. He spent much of the 1960s in Australia, some of that time working on remote sheep farms where he became enamoured with the old songs of his fellow workers. He toured Australia being one of the drivers of their folk revival. Back in the UK Martyn researched the origins of those Australian songs realising that they probably derived from British songs. This led to the Song Links Project, cds of traditional English songs and their Australian and American derivatives. He has made forty-odd albums and performed all around the world. He’s another catch-him-if-you can recommendation.

The action has continued into July. Tivvy Fest runs until late in the month. Last week it coincided with the annual Two Rivers Music & Arts Festival in Tiverton and that was closely followed by the Tiverton Balloon Festival which in turn clashed with the South Brent Folk Festival. Several of our friends were performing at South Brent, but we had friends staying with us and they were keen to see the hot-air balloons.

The balloon festival is spread over three days. There’s a large central arena where the balloons take off and features displays such as falconry and model helicopter flying. The models were more entertaining than they may sound. Measuring up to about four feet in length they are capable of extraordinary manoeuvres including flying upside down trimming the grass, Flymo style.

Talented youngsters on the acoustic stage.

Talented youngsters on the acoustic stage.

There were a lot of trade stands, an area for youngsters with rides and bouncy castles, a wide range of food on offer, a big bar and two music stages. I was very impressed by some of the bands (particularly D’Lys), but as usual I was drawn to the smaller stage where the acoustic, folkie performers appeared.

Balloons took off in the morning, but in the afternoon the wind picked up and a second flight had to be cancelled. The crews, however, provided excellent alternative entertainment. Five teams invited the public into the arena to go through the process of preparing a balloon for flight and then packing it away again.IMG_5224 I was amazed to see these enormous balloons appearing from what seem to be relatively small holdalls. Powerful fans inflated the balloons with cold air. They stayed on the ground, rolling around in the wind. The hard work came in driving the air out again so that they could be got back into those small bags. Large numbers of children took on that challenge with great enthusiasm.

I assumed that the lightweight fabric must be delicate and I was expecting the crews to be very protective.

Inside a balloon.

Inside a balloon.

Not a bit of it! They didn’t bat an eyelid as scores of kids jumped up and down on their very expensive balloons. In fact, one of the crews re-inflated so that the kids could have another go and kept the balloon inflated so that their large team of small helpers could go inside and use it as a huge, and constantly moving, play dome. Great fun!


The July meeting of the Brixham Folk Club was rather special. IMG_5272 cropped We usually meet in the bar of Brixham Theatre, but this time we found that the organisers, Steve and Anne Gill, had booked the main theatre. They have been involved in folk music for many years, playing in lots of different bands. They had gathered together some of their playing connections to provide a special evening. The reason? After so long Steve has finally got around to recording his first cd and the evening was the launch party. A lot of those connections play on the cd. It’s lovely stuff. I hope we don’t have to wait so long for volume two.

Last month I blogged about Geoff Lakeman, patriarch of the Lakeman music dynasty. I’m delighted to say that Geoff has been booked to appear in concert at Brixham Theatre on 21st August and with tickets only £10 (£8 for old codgers like me) that has to be a bargain.

Keep singing!

Message in a Bottle by Kath Middleton

Message in a Bottle (2)I have to say that this novella is not of a genre that I would usually choose. I’d read and enjoyed another novella by this author and spotted this one being discussed on a couple of book forums. The brief blurb persuaded me to splash out 99p, but then I found that this is the sort of relationship story that I imagine fills the pages of women’s magazines and really not my sort of thing.

Guess what – I surprised myself and enjoyed it.

The writing flows smoothly along making this an easy, undemanding read with convincing characters and an absorbing storyline. Maybe I should be subscribing to womags.

You can read more reviews and buy the book at Amazon Message in a Bottle.

The Devil Will Come by Glenn Cooper

The Devil Will ComeI’ve read lots of positive reviews of the work of Glenn Cooper, but this is the first of his books that I’ve actually read. I’m sorry to say that I don’t think I’m going to be able to say much about it.

I did get through to the end. It’s clear that he is a more than capable author in that the writing is crisp and well-paced. The problem with this book is that the plot is so utterly preposterous that I can’t be bothered to talk about it.

I will, however, give Mr Cooper the benefit of the doubt and read another of his books. It’s bound to be better than this one.

If you want to see what others think of it, you can read reviews on Amazon The Devil Will Come.

The Magical Tragical Life of Edward Jarvis Huggins by Stuart Ayris

edward jarvis hugginsHere we have a fine collection of characters: some heroes, some villains, but mainly people doing what we all do – getting through life as best we can. A supernatural element runs through it and we are led to a finish that is signposted at various stages in the book. When the expected end duly arrives there was no sense of anti-climax; instead I nodded with approval and thought, ‘Yes, that’s how it had to be.’

If you haven’t yet read a Stuart Ayris book then I urge you to do so. But you need to set aside any preconceptions about what a novel ought to be, then relax and let the author take you on an adventure where you will laugh, cry and sing – possibly all at the same time.

Both the author’s exuberance and his concern for his fellow man shine through. If the precise word that he needs doesn’t exist, either for meaning or to simply sound right in the context, then he creates a new one – and we know instinctively just what it means. He breaks away from the storyline to have personal chats with the reader. Although this tale is set in 18th century England, lines from 20th century songs appear. This may sound like chaotic literary anarchy, but it’s hugely entertaining. In amongst the humour and pathos are very perceptive comments on what is generally referred to as the human condition.

It’s a unique style and one that really works for this reader. More reviews can be found on Amazon The Magical Tragical Life of Edward Jarvis Huggins