Southwest Folk Festivals 2016

Here we go with an updated list of folk festivals due to take place in the Westcountry in 2016. Sadly, we seem to have lost a few in the last couple of years – lack of sponsorship being the usually quoted reason. Nevertheless, we have lots to look forward to.

Have fun – and see you there!

January

16th & 17th – Bradford Roots: Bradford, Wiltshire

17th for 5 days – Halsway Winter Warmer: Halsway Manor, Crowcombe, Somerset. A residential break with a programme of English folk music and dance.

February

12th for 3 days – Folk 3 – Cheltenham Town Hall.

March

18th – Lyme Folk Revisited: not really a festival, just one night at the Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, but worth supporting a concert by young musicians, hosted by Jim Causley.

April

30th & 1st May – Bristol Folk Festival

May

13th, 14th and 15th – Credition Folk Weekend: Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon.

13th, 14th & 15th – Dart Music Festival: Dartmouth, Devon. Lots of folk mixed with other genres.

27th, 28th & 29th – Bude & Stratton Folk Festival: Bude, Cornwall. A fun festival right on the Cornish coast.

27th for 4 days – Chippenham Folk Festival: Chippenham, Wiltshire.

27th, 28th & 29th – Gloucester Shanty Festival.

June

3rd, 4th & 5th – Wessex Folk Festival: Weymouth, Dorset.

10th, 11th & 12th – Wimborne Minster Folk Festival: Wimborne Dorset.

10th, 11th & 12th – Bradninch Music Festival: Bradninch, near Exeter, Devon.

17th, 18th & 19th – Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival: Falmouth, Cornwall.

17th, 18th & 19th – Teignmouth Folk Festival: Teignmouth, Devon.

17th, 18th & 19th – Ukelele Festival of Grest Britain: Cheltenham

25th & 26th – Folk on the Quay: Poole, Dorset.

July

1st – 10th – Frome Festival: a 10-day general arts festival with lots of folk music: Frome, Somerset.

8th, 9th & 10th – Priddy Folk Festival: Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

22nd & 23rd – Chagstock Festival: Whiddon Down, Devon.

29th for 8 days – Sidmouth Folk Week: Sidmouth, Devon – the biggest and best!

August

5th, 6th & 7th – Dartmoor Folk Festival: South Zeal, Dartmoor, Devon.

6th for 7 days – Bath Folk Festival: a week-long festival with lots of workshops and chances to perform.

19th, 20th & 21st – Beautiful Days: Escot Park, near Ottery St Mary, Devon – such a lot crammed into 3 days with this family-orientated, camping festival.

25th for 4 days – Purbeck Valley Folk Festival, near Swanage, Dorset.

26th for 4 days – Cornwall Folk Festival: county showground, Wadebridge, Cornwall.

September

9th, 10th & 11th – Lyme Folk Weekend: Lyme Regis, Dorset

9th, 10th & 11th – Swanage Folk Festival: Swanage, Dorset.

10th – 24th – St Ives September Festival: St Ives, Cornwall – a 15-day music festival with lots of folk.

23rd, 24th & 25th – Looe Music Festival: Looe, Cornwall – mainly folk.

23rd, 24th, 25th & 26th – The Little Big Gig: Henry’s Campsite, The Lizard, Cornwall.

30th, Ist & 2nd – Riverside Beer & Music Festival: South Molton, Devon.

October

22nd – North Dorset Folk Festival: Marnhull, Dorset.

November

2nd-6th – Lowender Peran: Newquay, Cornwall – a 5-day festival celebrating Cornish Celtic Culture.

 

 

 

Sidmouth Folk Week – a day in the life.

Monday 3rd August 2015

10.00 a.m. From the campsite we head to Sidmouth Cricket Club for the best value breakfast in town: 2 rashers of bacon, 2 sausages, egg, 2 hash browns, beans, tomato, mushrooms, 2 slices of toast, marmalade, coffee – £6.

Customs and Exiles

Customs and Exiles

10.45 a.m. We stroll across town to The Hub (the open space at the eastern end of the prom) to watch a dance display. We pull out of our backpacks our lightweight folding stools and settle down to be entertained. Four Morris sides perform: Customs and Exiles, a mixed side from Berkshire performing traditional North West Morris; Fool’s Gambit, a very young and energetic mixed Cotswold Morris side; Moulton Morris Men from Northants who perform various forms of traditional English Morris, including sword; Star & Shadow Rapper, a women’s side from Newcastle.

Star and Shadow

Star and Shadow

Rapper is a form of sword dance performed by a team of five dancers, often with a sixth character called The Captain who makes announcements and keeps the crowd involved. It always looks dangerous to me and I can’t help wondering how much skin they lose in practice. Here’s a clip of a rapper side in The Hub at last year’s folk week. The white structure in the background is the Ham Marquee, a 1000-seater venue where three concerts are held each day – and that’s only one of twenty venues.

12.00. We walk along the prom, passing the numerous craft stalls and buskers, to The Bedford Hotel where we somehow manage to wriggle our way into the packed main bar famous for its jam sessions that begin about 11.00 a.m. and go on all day until around midnight. Musicians come and go. At one stage I count twenty-seven, all somehow contriving to play the same tune (or a close approximation). There are: strings – ukes, banjos, guitars and fiddles; wind – whistles, flutes, mouth organ, a saxophone and all shapes and sizes of squeezebox; percussion – bodhran and bones. From time to time staff appear bearing jugs of beer with trays of chicken and chips.

1.30 p.m. We wriggle back out of the Bedford and walk the short distance to Blackmore Gardens, a small park in the middle of town where events in the Children’s Folk Week are held and where the Music Tent stands. This is the marquee occupied by instrument retailers. It draws me irresistibly, but we bump into friends and spend our time chatting. DSC03662Emerging with wallet unopened, we head for the Anchor, pausing in Market Square to watch some extraordinary street entertainment provided by two gymnasts/acrobats. They combine strength, flexibility and dexterity in eye-catching ways. The young man, for example, balances upside down on his head while solving a Rubik’s cube.

3.00 p.m. We settle in Anchor Garden (actually the car park behind the Anchor Inn) where there’s a stage and a servery with sixteen real ales on offer. For the next hour we enjoy a free concert by The Drystones, two lads who look so young to me that I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear they still have paper rounds. Young or not, they are wonderfully talented and give us a very lively hour on fiddle and guitar.

4.00 p.m. We realise that the Cricket Club breakfast was so large that we haven’t even thought of lunch. We head back there. Their cake slices are as generous as their breakfasts. I work out the tactics of the cricket team. They clearly try to field first and during the interval fill the opposition with such an enormous tea that they can neither bowl nor field. We take our time getting outside fruit cake and tea, then realise that a jam session has started in the bar.

6.00 p.m. We head back to The Hub where another dance display is underway. It’s Moulton Morris Men that we saw this morning, but now they are joined by Crooked Moon, an Appalachian dance group from Brighton. Cheryl joined an Appalachian group years ago when we lived in Totnes and she’s always keen to watch a session. She tells me that each complex sequence takes months to learn. You can see a group in action here.

7.15 p.m. As a precaution against the unlikely event of our being overcome by hunger during the evening concert we’re enjoying one of Tom’s Pies at the bar outside the Ham Marquee.

8.00 p.m. We have moved inside the marquee for what proves to be one of the most enjoyable concerts we have ever attended.

The Devil’s Interval start us off with their beautiful three-part harmonies. The three are Jim Causley (who lives on Dartmoor, so we see a lot of him), Lauren McCormick and Emily Portman. They performed together years ago, but then went their separate ways. It’s great to hear them back together. Jim told us that it was so long since they’d sung together that they’d forgotten the songs they used to sing. They found that someone had illicitly recorded them (and many others) in concert and put the recordings up on YouTube. Each time they got together to practise they re-learned the words and harmonies from the internet, but they were horrified to discover that someone had complained and the recordings had been taken down. They had to trace the chap and ask him to send them the recording – which he duly did.

They are followed by the incomparable Vin Garbutt. He really is unlike any other performer I’ve ever seen. His character-filled, mobile features are riveting. Over the years he has written many powerful songs of protest and social commentary, but what really sets him apart is his humour. His relaxed chat between songs is truly hilarious – a mix of jokes and stories based on his experiences touring the world, in the telling of which he makes full use of his rich Teesside accent. As the years have gone by (he’s 67, one month younger than me) those stories increasingly relate to his health problems. He recently suffered arrhythmia and spent time in hospital. “The feller in the next bed said to me, ‘Hey, Vin, you’re a man of the world. What does it mean when one of your testicles is much smaller than the other two?’”

Check him out on his website and if he’s due to appear near you, give yourself a treat.

11.00 p.m. Uplifted by the concert we’re having a drink in the nearby Sailing Club before heading back to the campsite.

Will we have the energy to do it all again tomorrow?

Without a doubt.

 

 

 

Westcountry Folk Festivals 2015

There have been so many changes to the programme, both additions and cancellations, that I’ve decided to delete my original post and re-post the whole thing. As with the original, I’ve restricted the list to festivals south of Bristol.

January
2nd-4th : English Folk Weekend – Halsway Manor, Crowcombe, Somerset www.halswaymanor.org.uk
17th Bradford Roots Festival – Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

February
27th : Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival – Exeter University, Exeter

March
5th : Swanage Blues Festival – Swanage, Dorset (it’s not folk, but it’s fun)
14th : Lyme Folk Revisited – Lyme Regis, Dorset – www.lymefolk.com

April
17th : Crediton Folk Weekend – THIS HAS BEEN CANCELLED

May
22nd -26th : Scilly Folk Festival – www.scillyfolkfestival.weebly.com
22nd – 25th : Bude and Stratton Folk Festival, Cornwall www.budefolkfest.com
23rd – 24th : Don’t Wake the Fish – The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor, Cornwall
29th – 31st : Wessex Folk Festival – Weymouth http://www.wessexfolkfestival.com/
Note: Dulverton Folk Festival has been cancelled.

June
12th – 14th : Bradninch Folk Festival. Devon. – http://www.bradninchmusicfestival.co.uk/events/page/3/
12th-14th : Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall http://www.falmouthseashanty.co.uk/
12th – 14th : Wimborne Minster Folk Festival – http://www.wimbornefolk.co.uk/
13th : Behind The Castle – Sherborne, Dorset http://www.behindthecastle.co.uk/  CANCELLED due to disappointing ticket sales.
14th: Seaweed Festival, Clovelly, Devon. Here’s a new one: a festival to celebrate the health-giving properties of seaweed – with folk music throughout the day.
19th – 21st : Teignmouth Folk Festival. The usual main venue, the Carlton Theatre, is being re-developed and the United Reformed Church is being used instead. I imagine this has much lower capacity – so get your tickets early! http://www.teignmouthfolk.co.uk/
26th – 28th : West Somerset Folk Festival – Carhampton, Somerset http://www.westsomersetfolkfestival.co.uk/
27th – 28th : Folk on the Quay – Poole http://www.folkonthequay.co.uk/

July
3rd – 12th : Frome Festival http://www.fromefestival.co.uk/
4th South Brent Folk Day, Devon. http://southbrentfolk.org.uk/
10th – 12th : Priddy Folk Festival – http://www.priddyfolk.org/
10th – 12th : Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival. https://www.tivertonballoonfestival.co.uk/
22nd – 26th : Hatherleigh Festival – folk, pop & rock – http://www.hatherleighfestival.co.uk/
24th – 26th : Village Pump Folk Festival, Westbury, Wiltshire http://www.villagepumpfolkfestival.co.uk/
24th – 26th : Devon DubFest – music and VWs! Bicton College http://www.devondubfest.co.uk/
31st – 7th Aug : Sidmouth Folk Week, Devon http://www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk/

August
7th – 9th : Dartmoor Folk Festival http://www.dartmoorfolkfestival.org.uk/
8th – 16th : Bath Folk Festival. http://bathfolkfestival.org/
21st-23rd : ‘Beautiful Days’ Escot Park, Devon http://www.beautifuldays.org/
21st-23rd : Lyme Folk Festival, Lyme Regis, Dorset. http://www.lymefolk.com/#!festival/cjg9
27th-30th : Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. Swanage, Dorset http://www.purbeckvalleyfolkfestival.co.uk/
28th-31st : Cornwall Folk Festival, Wadebridge. http://www.cornwallfolkfestival.com/

September
3rd-6th : Burnham-on-Sea FolkFest. Somerset http://www.folkfest.co.uk/
4th-6th : The Wareham Wail – the 27th festival of traditional singing. Verwood, Dorset http://www.wail.org.uk/
11th-13th : Swanage Folk Festival, Dorset. http://www.swanagefolkfestival.com/
12th -26th : St Ives Folk Festival, Cornwall. A two-week celebration of music and the arts. http://www.stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk/
18th – 20th : The Priston Festival, near Bath. http://www.priston.org.uk/festival/18th – 21st Henry’s Little Big Gig, Kynance Cove, Cornwall. http://littlebiggig.co.uk/

October
14th – 18th : Lowender Peran. Festival of Celtic music. Newquay (not Perranporth!), Cornwall. http://www.lowenderperan.co.uk/?page=home
24th : North Dorset Folk Festival, Marnhull, Dorset. http://www.northdorsetfolkfestival.co.uk/
23rd-25th : Baring-Gould Folk Weekend, Okehampton, Devon.

Sidmouth: Hamboning with Five Finger Frank.

Sidmouth is a lovely town with many attractive Regency buildings, beautiful open spaces and a charming town centre full of independent shops. Down the eastern side of town the River Sid runs to the sea through a long ribbon of mature woodland called The Byes. Along the sea front is a traditional prom. It’s a rather refined, sedate little town.

Each year in the first week of August everything changes when Sidmouth Folk Week hits town. Those narrow streets and open spaces are suddenly thronged with tens of thousands of people, many of them with one or more instruments strapped to them; of the others a large number sport painted faces and wear the bizarre costumes of Morris dancing sides from all over the country.

2014 was the 60th Sidmouth Folk Week. When it started back in 1955 it was a Morris dancing festival organised by the English Folk Dance and Song Society that held an annual festival in Stratford-upon-Avon and wanted a second in the Southwest. In the early years the event was held in Connaught Gardens on the western edge of town and most of the residents were probably unaware that it was taking place. Now the whole town throbs with music. Even the residents of Sidmouth Parish Churchyard are probably aware that something is going on. Continue reading

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!

Westcountry Folk Festivals 2014

I’m looking forward to getting to a lot of these. July looks a bit thin. I’m sure I’ve missed something. Tell me if you know of a Westcountry festival that I’ve left out.

February

14th Cheltenham Folk Festival (OK – I know that for those of us living in Devon and Cornwall describing Cheltenham as ‘Westcountry’ is pushing it)

April

17th – 20th  Scilly Folk Festival

May

9th – 10th Crediton Folk Weekend

23rd – 26th Bude Folk Fest

23rd – 26th Cheltenham Folk Festival (you see, they do more than one so they deserve a mention)

23rd – 26th Dulverton Folk Festival

30th May – 1st June Wessex Folk Festival (Weymouth)

June

13th – 15th Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival

13th – 15th Wimborne Minster Folk Festival (a new name for this longstanding festival)

14th Behind the Castle (Sherborne – a new one-dayer on three stages in the castle grounds)

20th – 22nd Teignmouth Folk Festival

20th – 22nd Ukelele Festival of Great Britain (In Cheltenham – they’re at it again!)

27th Tivvy Fest (Tiverton – 31 days of folkie events!!!)

27th – 29th  West Somerset Folk Festival (Carhampton)

July

4th – 13th Frome Festival 10 days of events, some folky

11th – 13th South Brent Folk Festival

August

1st – 8th Sidmouth Folk Week

8th – 10th Dartmoor Folk Festival (South Zeal)

9th – 17th Bath Folk Festival (Nine days of concerts and workshops)

22nd – 25th Cornwall Folk Festival (Wadebridge)

29th – 31st Lyme Folk Weekend (Lyme Regis)

September

13th Fishstock (Brixham’s seafood and music festival. Two stages, one for folkies.)

October

24th – 26th Baring-Gould Folk Weekend (Okehampton)

25th North Dorset Folk Festival (Marnhull)

Teignmouth Folk Festival 21st – 23rd June 2013

photo of a morris dancing side

A Border Morris side

This was the 15th Teignmouth Folk Festival – and what a treat it was! Teignmouth is an ideal location. Its long pedestrianised prom and pedestrianised town centre are perfect for the parades and outside performances that give the whole event such character. Most of the venues are within a couple of minutes walk of the sea front Carlton Theatre where the headline acts perform.

This year those headline acts included the legendary Tannahill Weavers. Formed way back in 1968 they are Scotland’s finest traditional band. Two of the members (Roy Gullane and Phil Smiilie) have been with the band since the beginning. The list of former members reads like a Hall of Fame of Scottish folk music. At their Saturday evening concert they were very ably supported by Geoff Lakeman (father of musical brothers Sean, Seth and Sam). I love Geoff’s laid-back style. He often plays with his band Unstrung Heroes. If you get the chance to see them, grab it.

A photo of Emma Sweeney and Matheu Watson

Emma Sweeney & Matheu Watson

The Friday night concert featured the irresistible Jim Causley supported by fiddle-player/vocalist Emma Sweeney and multi-instrumentalist Matheu Watson. One of the advantages of a festival of this size is that it is big enough to attract the top names, like the Weavers, but small enough to remain cheerfully informal. On the morning after their concert, Emma and Matheu held a very enjoyable ‘meet the artists’ session in the theatre bar when they answered questions about their music and played requests.

The Old Gaffers a 10-man shanty crew

The Old Gaffers

 Andy Irvine, oozing Irish charm and genial musicality, gave the final concert in the Carlton Theatre. He is one of those rare people who can make each member of a large audience feel like an old friend.

Elsewhere, The Old Gaffers, a 10-man shanty crew from South Devon, gave excellent performances at a number of venues. They are going from strength to strength. 

The weather was odd for late June, with the constant threat of rain and a cold wind. I didn’t see a single person venture onto the beach on any of the three days, but the rain did hold off and all the outside events went ahead as planned. There was lots of very entertaining dancing of a variety of styles, including Morris, Border Morris and Appalachian. The parade of dancers from the East Cliff Café along the prom and into the town centre is always a treat.

A couple Border Morris dancing

Border Morris

 The main organiser of the festival is Anne Gill, with husband Steve providing lots of support. Anne and Steve are well-known faces on the Devon folk scene, finding time to run two folk clubs and performing with a number of other musicians in various bands. They are to be congratulated on once again putting together a delightful festival at very reasonable cost. A ticket covering all of the events was only £32.

Next year’s Teignmouth Festival will be 20th – 22nd June.

Don’t miss it! 

Photo of dancers sitting on the ground.

Tiring business.

Fishstock: 7th September 2013

Photo of two people dressed as trees

Strange visitors

Fishstock is Brixham’s seafood and music festival, named with a tip of the hat in the direction of Woodstock and the fact that Brixham is England’s busiest fish port.

There is a serious purpose behind the festival – raising money for the Brixham Fisherman’s Mission. Since May 2012 staff at the Mission have had to deal with the loss of five fishermen at sea and a number of crippling injuries.

There may be a serious purpose, but it’s still a great fun day. The event takes place in the fish market and received a boost when the new, much bigger, market opened a couple of years ago. Things get underway at 10.00 a.m. and carry on until midnight.

More than forty species of fish are landed in commercial quantities at Brixham, only twelve of which are subject to quotas, so the majority can be enjoyed without concern over depletion of stocks. The food part of the festival comprises demonstrations of the preparation and cooking of these rarer species, plus lots of trade stands with plenty of samples of food and drink. Celebrity chefs fill the air with the tantalising smell of delicious dishes and take part in good-humoured competitions.

There are two stages to accommodate the music – and to say we had a rich mixture would be an understatement. We had everything from pounding rock bands to gentle folk, taking in along the way two groups of belly dancers and Tibetan monks from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.

As added entertainment a number of boats tie up alongside the quay and the public can look over them. This year we had a crabber, a beam trawler, the lifeboat, a fishery protection vessel and one of the Brixham fleet of heritage (i.e. sailing) trawlers. There were also demonstrations of net making and lobster pot weaving.

A photo of family folk band Banned from the Moor

Banned from the Moor

There were several musical highlights for me – in addition to the belly dancing. Banned from the Moor, a family folk band from Dartmoor provided an excellent set. I hadn’t seen Lisa Angharad before. The Welsh songbird turned up with her two sisters and two friends she’d recently met at the Edinburgh Festival. Lisa has a lot of stage presence and their performance was a delight.

Appearing with Show of Hands at the Royal Albert Hall turned Philip Henry and Hannah Martin into an overnight success – after years of hard work. Both have had spells in the States and the time Philip spent studying in India shows through his slide-playing of his Dobro. They produced a fine set in a packed main marquee and included tracks from their new album, Mynd, due to be released in October.

And last, but definitely not least, Maggie Duffy and Mike Weed were stunning. Maggie is an award-winning singer-songwriter with a Joan Baez voice. Mike has played with a number of folk bands over the years and appeared on 14 cds. The combination of Maggie’s beautiful voice and Mike’s haunting harmonica and whistle accompaniment always takes my breath away.

By midnight a lot of people had been drinking for a very long time. Was there any hassle? Of course not – this is Brixham’s party day and whole thing passes off in a spirit of cheerful celebration. It was a great day and thousands of pounds were raised for a very worthy cause.

Photo of Lisa Angharad

Lisa Angharad with sisters and friends

Devon Folk Festival 2013 Calendar

Crediton Folk Weekend: 12th – 14th April

Brixham Pirate & Shanty Festival: 4th – 5th May

Dartmouth Music Festival: 10th – 12th May

Exmouth Art & Music Festival: 23rd – 31st May

Dulverton Folk Festival: 24th – 27th May

Bude & Stratton Folk Festival: 24th – 27th May (OK, I know it’s in Cornwall – but it’s close)

Bradninch Music & Arts Festival: 7th – 9th June

Teignmouth Folk Festival: Friday 21st – 23rd June

South Brent Folk Festival: 12th – 14th July

Chagford Folk Festival (Chagstock): 19th – 20th July

Sidmouth Folk Week 2nd – 9th August

Dartmoor Folk Festival 10th – 12th August

Beautiful Days Festival (Exeter): 16th – 18th August

Totnes Festival: 23rd August – 1st September

Lyme Regis (Lyme Folk Weekend): 30th August – 1st September (OK, I know it’s Dorset – but it’s close)

Brixham Seafood & Music Festival (Fishstock): 7th September

Okehampton Baring-Gould Folk Festival: 25th – 27th October

Bampton Festival (After the Fair): 1st – 3rd November

Sidmouth Folk Week August 2nd – 9th 2013

Photo of The Byes

The Byes

Sidmouth gave us another wonderful eight days. I think it’s a combination of factors that come together to make this a uniquely delightful festival.

The town itself has a great deal to do with it. Whether it’s festival time or not, it’s well worth a visit. The town nestles in a valley between two towering headlands on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Fine Regency buildings line the prom; there’s a lovely two-mile long parkland called The Byes through which the River Sid runs on its way to the sea; there are attractive parks and a town centre filled with independent shops.

During Folk Week the whole town is given over to music and visitors are attracted from all over the world. There are venues everywhere: in the marquees that appear in the open spaces, in the theatre, the church halls, the hotels, the school, the sailing club, the Arts Centre and the pubs. Pub car parks accommodate ceilidhs.

photo of folk dancing

Mollies

This year the programme listed 870 organised events. The basic format is workshops in the morning and performances from lunchtime until 1.00 a.m.

The workshops covered singing, playing instruments, dance and story-telling.

The quality of the organised concerts is remarkable. For me the highlights of this year’s ‘big’ concerts were the emotional appearance of Nic Jones, the hugely enjoyable Show of Hands, Maddy Prior and the refreshingly different Spooky Men’s Chorale.

Photo of a large group singing on the beach led by the Spooky Men's Chorale.

An impromptu sing-song led by The Spooky Men’s Chorale.

If you haven’t seen the SMC in action, and you get the chance to go during their current UK tour, I highly recommend that you grab the opportunity.

Bankers should avoid Show of Hands concerts. With over 1000 people bawling out the words to ‘Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed’ lynch-mob frenzy gets close.

There were lots of gems scattered between the ‘big’ events, (I managed to catch Jim Causley three times), but one of the joys of such a huge, varied programme was strolling into a gig by someone I didn’t know and being blown away. The Stream of Sound youth choir put on just such a performance.

Simply wandering between events on the organised programme is a delight. Inside (and outside) the pubs, in the parks, along the prom and on the beach musicians get together to compare instruments, chat about their experiences and jam. I went into The Bedford to find an organised gig in their function room and each of their three bars occupied by groups of musicians chatting and jamming – fiddles in one, banjos in another and melodeons in the third.

Photo of folk dancers leaping into the air.

The music will get you jumping!

2014 sees the 60th anniversary of Sidmouth Folk Week and the organisers are promising ‘something really special’. It starts on Friday 1st August. We’ve already booked our accommodation. Come and join in the fun!