From school to pensioner in band that started folk rock

PUBLISHED: 08:30 12 August 2018

Fairpoint Convention help kick off Sidmouth FolkWeek 2018 in style at the pre-festival event. Picture: Richard Wright

Fairpoint Convention help kick off Sidmouth FolkWeek 2018 in style at the pre-festival event. Picture: Richard Wright

Archant

The original Fairport Convention was a bunch of friends meeting after school to play music. That was back in the sixties and as founder member Simon Nicol explained that was what you did.

Fairport Convention, centre Simon Nicol, second right Dave Pegg.Fairport Convention, centre Simon Nicol, second right Dave Pegg.

His parents’ house in Muswell Hill in London was called ‘Fairport’ and they convened there, on the same street where sixties pop legends The Kinks grew up.

“It was no unusual thing for kids in North London in the 1960s to form a band with their mates because everybody had a guitar, everybody knew four chords.

“It was a phase you went through and fantastic because it teaches you about cooperation. It’s fun, you get out with your mates and people look at you in a different way. But most people grow out of it. I forgot to do that and I’m still here,” said Simon, now 67.

“I’ve gone from school to pensioner in Fairport Convention. I’m not complaining about anything but it s been a succession of happy accidents rather than a successful well planned journey.”

Their fourth album Liege and Lief in 1969 is hailed as the first ever folk rock album in the UK.

“Fairport has never been about banging a drum for folk music itself but we do love the idea of story songs. People say we took folk out of the library and into the broader world.”

The reason why they haven’t played at Sidmouth before is because they have had their own festival at Copredy in Oxfordshire since 1976. They were asked to come to Sidmouth last year when they celebrated their 50th anniversary but offered to come this year instead.

“It had to happen in the end,” Simon said. “It’s an honour to be at Sidmouth. For us when Fairport first adopted traditional music and combined it with rock and roll and electric instruments some of the purists were against it but others said it was revolutionary.”

The original line up included folk legend Richard Thompson and it has featured countless musicians over the years. Bassist Dave Pegg, 70, who joined in 1970, is still part of the line-up.

“We love performing,” Dave said. “We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t.

“When we do our tours we will do 28 concerts in a month and at the end of the 28 concerts it’s not easy to get in or out of the van - your varicose veins start kicking in!”

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