Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Mim & Sue's FolkEast Review 2016

We dispatched FolkCast's East Anglian correspondents, Mim and Sue, on a return visit to the FolkEast festival (read their 2015 review here).

Another August, another FolkEast!

That is to say, another visitation from the mythical, magical land of the Eastfolk, which has materialised here, in Suffolk's big-sky heartland (“gently undulating”, we'll have you know, not flat like Other Counties) since the dawn of recorded time in around, um, 2012. Manifesting on the ancient parkland of Glemham Hall since 2013, each visit adds new treats, and each year this wondrous love-child of Woodstock and a village fête feels more rooted in the Suffolk soil, like a thing that has always been here.

It's quite easy to get there, and you don't need ruby slippers (though there were some on view at the step-dancing workshop). You follow the yellow-brick A12 north-east from That London. The Only Way is Essex until you get to Suffolk, at which point you bless yourself for having got through TOWIEshire safely. Pressing on, you pass things like Woodbridge, for what seems a long time, during which the A12 mysteriously narrows to the width of a cart track. 

Happily, the FolkEast site map exists to help you at this point. Its compilers promise that it is “not drawn to scale or any degree of accuracy”, so that will help. It will at least indicate where the Dinosaur Swamp is, at which point you should probably think about turning off. Fortunately, at this year's manifestation the signposting, both on and off the main road, is excellent. Car parking is stupidly easy and helped along by lovely, laid-back stewards.

So you are there, on what other festivals call “the site” but here is more of a colony. There you will find a Food Village (highly recommended), a Medium Village – as in media, not as in psychic, though there's some of that as well – an Enchanted Wood through which you take your path to the Soapbox Stage, some clearly indicated pubs and, special for this year, a Grand Olympic Park next to which, comfortingly, is the All-Eastfolk Alpine Rescue Service headquarters. Unlike other mountain rescue services, All-EARS boasts a proud 90 year history of service with “not one fatality, injury or, indeed, call-out” the whole time. The quotation is from that noble organ The Eastfolk Chronicle which, together with its luxurious Colour Supplement tells you all you really need to know.

Presiding over the gentle madness is the great straw image of the Jackalope, symbol of the festival. This is a fearsome beast, but, apparently, easily bribed with jam sandwiches (again, I refer my readers to the Eastfolk Chronicle: all the news that's fit to print, plus a fair bit that isn't.)

Beware the Jackalope!
New since last year is the Eastfolk Kinodröme  - umlaut over the second “o” is at the insistence of its reputed founder, one Herr Phleapitt (I'm really not making this up, though I can't promise that nobody did. I read it in the Chronicle, that's all I can say.) Outside on a blackboard, the “Fillums” (sic) are advertised. Because here in Suffolk, we can read.

Also new this year is archery (marked on the map as “The Archers, tum-ti-tum-ti-tum-ti-tum”). If this sort of sporting activity isn't for you, then on the Sunday morning there is a real treat: Pro-Celebrity Dwile Flonking. If you have the misfortune to live outside Suffolk, you may not have caught the finer points of this, our national sport. The rules are complex, but involve a beer-soaked cloth on a stick, more beer and a chamber-pot (the “Gazunder”). It is not, according to the adjudicators, a drinking game. No, really. They said so.

And then, of course, there is the music. This year, alongside many locally known performers, acts included Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band; Usher's Island (several of Planxty, plus some Bothy Band, Mike McGoldrick and others); Gilmore and Roberts; the imperial Blowzabella. The Young 'Uns, patrons of the festival, performed a splendid early-evening set with the Aldeburgh Young Musicians. There is something especially warming to the heart about hearing the old songs sung by young voices. Very competent young voices, at that.

Through the enchanted forest, on the Soapbox Stage which provides a welcome venue for smaller acts, the Columbines impressed with their fine harmonies and instrumental work, including an arrangement of “The Tennessee Waltz” that was simply stunning. On the Friday afternoon, we caught Keith Sadler's set. He has an interesting ethic; he gives away his album, rather than selling it. Keith told the audience that he had been inspired by Picasso's giving away his art works. When I spoke to him afterwards he said he didn't want lack of money to stop people from hearing his music. “I don't want,” he said, “to hide behind a paywall.”

Peter Knight and John Spiers at FolkEast
For me and, it seemed, for everyone present, the musical event of the weekend was the getting together of Peter Knight and John Spiers to play as a duo. Both great musicians in their own right, their playing together was simply magical. Their set was advertised as a one-off, but the feeling was such that they must surely be making plans to work as a duo again. Popular demand was insistent on this point.

Once again, food was plentiful and reasonably priced; there was something for everyone, including a three-course Sunday roast lunch provided by the excellent Froize restaurant; for the rest, everything from falafels to goat-burgers was available. Toilets were plentiful and in reasonable condition and those who camped reported positively. The weather was somewhat strange, with very high winds on the Saturday which put the main Sunset Stage out of action for several hours and actually destroyed three tents. Their occupants were re-housed in the Press Tent, which was re-purposed for their use.

People were happy to talk and it's noticeable that FolkEast is now attracting a regular, returning audience. People were eagerly checking when the Early Bird tickets for next year would be on sale (1st September, since you ask).

And I haven't even mentioned the Treacle Mines...

Review by Mim MacMahon

Friday, 26 August 2016

Michael Chapman goes gold at 75

At 75-years-old, Michael Chapman is hitting the road and releasing a new album to mark his 50th year of touring.

Chapman: a fully qualified survivor
The godfather of alternative guitar returns with an all instrumental album, Homages, in tribute to his influences and contemporaries. Summoning the spirits of some of the greatest guitarists of all time, Chapman proves again that he stands among them.

Michael Chapman is a significant and important link in the lineage of British guitar players and acoustic guitar music worldwide. His roots lie in jazz and a love of American music, but as a contemporary of Ralph McTell, Nick Drake, Davy Graham, John Martyn, & Roy Harper he often ends up in the folk camp as a defacto category since when he began playing there was no-where else acoustic guitar players could play except folk clubs.

Born in Hunslet, Leeds, in January 1941, on leaving school he studied photography at Leeds College of Art. To pay for his way through college he played guitar in jazz groups all over the north of England. 

He says: "I had an art college education and on a rainy night in 1966 I went into a pub in Cornwall, but I couldn't afford to pay to go in. So I said, I'll tell you what, I don't want to stay outside in the rain, I'll play guitar for half an hour for you. They offered me a job for the rest of the summer and I've been at it ever since."

Chapman released his four seminal albums between 1969 and 1972: Rainmaker, Fully Qualified Survivor, Window & Wrecked Again. They have all become classic and much sought after recordings.

Michael will also be performing at 2 very significant venues this year. In September Chapman will be appearing at - The Topic in Bradford, which he thinks was probably the first folk club he ever went into. In October 2016, at the invitation of Ian Anderson, (editor of fRoots magazine), Michael will play at St George's, Bristol, as part of the 50th anniversary of the Bristol Troubadour alongside Ralph McTell, Wiz Jones, Al Stewart, Steve Tilston, Keith Christmas, Shelagh McDonald and various members of the Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra. 


Thursday, 25 August 2016

More names booked for Beverley 2017

Is it too soon to talk about next year's folk festivals? Of course not! Here's the latest news from the Beverley Folk Festival, which will take place next June in Beverley, Yorkshire.


A host of artists have been announced for Beverley Folk Festival 2017, with full-weekend tickets currently on sale at a £35 discount on the final sale price. 

With folk legend Martin Carthy, his award-winning musician daughter Eliza Carthy and hot new folk rock group False Lights already announced, they will be joined by former Bellowhead front man Jon Boden, singer songwriter Henry Priestman and new sensation Sam Kelly.

Henry Priestman
Matt Snowden, voluntary festival chairman, said: “We are excited to announce these latest acts, in what is rapidly becoming a fantastic line-up for next year.  Booking Jon Boden is a major coup, as he is rightly hailed as one of the greatest exponents of modern folk music and is one of the biggest and most respected names in the business.  We’re also thrilled to have our old friend Henry Priestman returning to our stage – his lyrics have real depth and his connection with the audience is second to none.  With Sam Kelly, we have a young man who first came to public attention on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ as a finalist in 2012 and has proved his folk credentials ever since, winning the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards earlier this year.” 

Adding these names to the 2017 programme, which already includes Martin, Eliza and False Lights, illustrates the festival’s on-going commitment to bringing some of the brightest new stars, alongside celebrated legends, to next year’s festival in what will be its thirty-forth year.

Jon Boden is best known as the lead singer and main arranger of the progressive folk juggernaut Bellowhead. After twelve years, a quarter of a million album sales, seven singles on the Radio 2 playlist and selling out hundreds of venues throughout the land and beyond, including notably the Royal Albert Hall, Jon announced in 2015 that he wanted to move on and Bellowhead played their final gig in May this year.  

Jon Boden
Jon has toured with duos and with both Bellowhead and his own band The Remnant Kings, but his appearance at Beverley will be part of his first tour that sees him perform entirely solo.

Meanwhile, Hull-born Henry Priestman is no stranger to Beverley Folk Festival, having appeared in the past to much acclaim. A former member of 80s band The Christians, Henry wrote all the songs on their 1987 triple-platinum album and his skills at composing both music and lyrics have grown to receive much critical acclaim.  At the festival, he will be performing a clever combination of new songs, albums gems and some of those classic Christians hits, such as ‘Ideal World’ and ‘Forgotten Town’, with plenty of anecdotes and laughter along the way.

Sam Kelly
Sam Kelly's meandering musical journey has ranged from reaching the final of ITV's 'Britain's Got Talent' as a teenager, to being selected for the first ever English Folk Dance and Song Society Artist Development Scheme and now to Beverley Folk Festival. Touring as a trio with Jamie Francis (banjo) and Evan Carson (percussion), Sam has become firm favourite at venues and festivals in all parts of the country.  Enlisting the talents of new band members Ciaran Algar (fiddle) and Graham Coe (cello), he went straight back into the studio to record his debut album, 'The Lost Boys' which came out in November 2015.

Kelly Foley, Beverley Folk Festival’s artistic programmer, explained: “As you can see from the artists we have already booked, 2017 will be something really special.  However, this is not the end of it, as we will be announcing more big names, new stars and old favourites in the coming months, with our aim to book at least one-hundred artists – and that doesn’t include performers from folk clubs, the Westwood Sessions and people who just want to come along and jam.  Folk is a big genre that encompasses so much more than just traditional music and having listened to feedback from revellers who attended in 2016, we are confident that we’ll be providing something for everyone.”

  • Tickets for Beverley Folk Festival 2017 are currently on sale as part of a special Summer Sizzler deal of £85 for a full weekend ticket – that is a £35 saving on the final ticket price.  As more great musicians are announced, festival organisers expect tickets to sell quickly, so their best advice is for festival-goers to get them whilst they’re can at this reduced price. 
  • Beverley Folk Festival takes place from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th June 2017 at Beverley Racecourse.  The Summer Sizzler ticket deal can be purchased at £85 through (free of charge for children under the age of 12).
  • A weekend camping option is also available.