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Sunday, 2 August 2009

Warwick Folk Festival

Last weekend I was at Warwick for the annual folk festival. This takes place in the grounds of Warwick School, apparently the oldest boys school in the country. A large marquee housed the main stage, while other events took place in the school or in the town itself, about a mile walk away. There is also a real ale tent which featured a lot of Church End brewery beers, unsurprising as they are one of the sponsors of the festival, as well as stalwarts like Old Hooky and Landlord. The beer was as well-kept as you could expect in a marquee in summer, and much better than many festivals.

Musical highlights included seeing Eric Bogle, writer of "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" and "No Man's Land", songs I have often heard massacred at folk sessions, on his extensive final tour of Britain, Ireland and Canada. Kate Rusby was less fey than usual, being 7 months pregnant, but her show was much as you'd expect ~ a range of songs sung in her trade mark plaintive style. Tom Lewis sings nautical songs with a conviction derived from 24 years in the navy, unlike many singers of sea songs. I also enjoyed the French Canadian group, Le Vent Du Nord, Australian Martin Pearson, the Wilsons, and Keith Donnelly who rose to the challenge of his set being doubled in length with no notice, and kept everyone in stitches nonetheless.

I saw quite a few young acts, and I think Rosie Doonan and the Snapdragons and Isambarde were possible among my favourites. The much-hyped Jim Moray was competent and had some interesting arrangements, but ultimately left me uninvolved. The Kel Elliot Band played in a bluesy jazz style that had little to do with folk; she sings, plays double bass and writes much of her own material, but also included jazzy interpretations of pop songs, such as the Acrtic Monkeys' "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor."

There were various folk dance sides - Cortswold, Border, North West - but the most unusual was Barefoot Bellydance, whom I saw them in the street outside the Zetland pub, which sold only Pedigree and Broadside, neither in any way local, and at £2.95 a pint, rather dear. I also liked the the Soft Option Appalachian dancers, who were high kicking and stepping to the sound of bluegrass fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar.

It was cracking the flags on Saturday but cool and drizzly all day Sunday ~ typical English summer. A great weekend, and I doubt I'll leave another 7 years until my next visit.

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