Monday, 25 July 2022


A couple of weekends ago we took ourselves off to a music festival. Many people probably associate the idea of an open air music festival with events like Glastobury. But apart from being on a farm in a beautiful part of southern England this was as far from the crowds, mayhem and myriad horrors of Glastonbury as it's possible to get. A few thousand sensible, considerate people gatherered to listen to what was predominently english folk music. The photo showing the half empty post festival camping field as people left, devoid of any rubbish or abandoned tents and chairs with not even an errant piece of paper left behind shows the difference.

The other thing many people may not realise is that, although taking influences from all around the UK and elsewhere, there is such a thing as english folk music.Maybe it is that wider mix of influences that separates it from Scottish reels and airs or Irish jigs?

While the Beatles were revitalising pop music in Liverpool down in some London clubs there was increasing interest in folk music. American artists like Paul Simon and Dylan encouraged english singers and guitarists like Ralph McTell, Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch. Then bands like Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Steeleye Span added modern electric instrumentation and began to investigate old english songs and musical traditions. Morris dance tunes, field ballads, industrial work songs, nautical songs were reinvented for a new audience. 

Some of those artists and bands are still performing. Fairport Convention still play regularly, Steeleye Span occasionally get together, Ralph McTell played this year, great songs and he is still the best ragtime blues guitarist I have ever heard. Younger bands like Merry Hell from Wigan with energetic electric social commentary, Trad arrr, with a mix of electric morris tunes, traditional ballads and self-penned songs in a traditional mould are carrying on the traditions.

The other pleasures of these festivals is checking out the specialist food sellers, craft ales in the beer tent and small specialist traders and artisans around the site. I usually end up with a few CDs, a tee shirt or a bit of local artisan work. This year however was unexpected, a charity who collected refurbished then supplied tools to establish workshops and small businesses in developing countries, any unsuitable for shipping being sold to pay their costs, so I ended up with a lovely old, but excellent quality, refurbished electric mitre saw. Not something I expected to find at a music festival!

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