Folk Festival review: Saturday, July 30
Delia Pemberton and Paul Strange
- Credit: Paul Strange
Spending Friday evening at the Bulverton meant missing festival favourites Granny’s Attic headlining at the Ham Marquee, but no matter because we caught them in the intimate setting of a packed Cellar Bar at Kennaway House on Saturday morning.
Guitarist/vocalist George Sansome, vocalist, concertina and melodeon player Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and fiddler/vocalist Lewis Wood delighted with a high-octane set featuring self-penned instrumentals 'Highfield’s Lament' and 'Queen’s Wood' from their recent album 'The Brickfields', plus traditional songs from their back catalogue ('Ship in Distress', 'Wheels of the World'), punctuated with hilarious tales of life on the road.
Then it was over to the Ham Marquee for the Opening Welcome Concert, showcasing the festival’s diversity. The Sidmouth Town Band opened proceedings, performing pop classics including a delightful segue of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' and Bach’s 'Air on a G String'. After that, the Lancashire Wallopers gave us a fiery display of clog dance steps, two of their team even performing among the audience. Then Halsway Young Folk – around 30 young musicians who had been participating in a music workshop at Halsway Manor National Centre for Folk Arts – gathered. Their performance of 'Sea Coal' – with haunting vocals – was a highlight. The show concluded with Peter and Barbara Snape – a melodeon and vocal duo with 'northern resonance', who are keeping the folk tradition alive.
Meanwhile, over at the Anchor Inn, the first of the free lunchtime ceilidhs was in full swing, with Out of Hand playing energetic reels for novice and more experienced dancers. With plenty of twirling going on, it was great fun.
Appropriately for the first full day of the festival, there was a strong contingent of local performers, including the Sidmouth Giants – doing their lofty thing outside the Anchor – and Sid Vale Folk Choir, who charmed onlookers at the Blackmore Gardens with their sweetly harmonised singing.
The afternoon’s main event was the dance teams’ parade along the sea front to the Blackmore Marquee for the Dance Spectacular. Once more, there was a huge diversity of traditional dance styles, with many of Friday night’s teams appearing again. Newcomers included First Class Stamp, a mixed Appalachian-style side, and Mortimer’s Morris, an all-female Northwest clog side from Nottingham. Representing the Northeastern tradition were Kingsmen Clog with their delicate footwork, and Sheffield Steel, who proved that women can dance Rapper just as well as men.
Boss Morris – a contemporary women’s side from Stroud – made a striking appearance with their flamboyant costumes and menagerie of animals, including a 7ft-high owl and a giant sheep. Among the standout performances were the athletic feats of young Cotswold teams Campden Morris and Fool’s Gambit. But it was Seven Champions Molly who yet again made jaws drop with their audacious setting of a dance to the jazz classic 'Take Five', performed on recorder.
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In complete contrast, over at Kennaway House’s Cellar Bar, Brighton duo Sairie appeared in the first concert in the Cellarful of Folkadelia series. Comprising Emma Morton (vocals, autoharp) and Jon Griffin (vocals, guitar), the duo performed traditional and original folk in a mellow setting. At times their music was incredibly poignant, Morton’s delicate vocal being especially noteworthy.
The Tradition Gathers at the Arts Centre was a rare opportunity to see and hear some of folk’s most respected living performers. The evening ran the gamut from the Quebecois marches and reels of Pigeon Swing to the comic poetry of Racker Donnelly via the songs of Mike Wilson and Peter and Barbara Snape, to the clog dancing of Lynette Eldon, accompanied on fiddle by husband Jim. Then Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne shed light on British traditional songs that have crossed the Atlantic to be adopted by African and Caribbean communities, and, in keeping with the folk club atmosphere, there was plenty of audience participation.
All in all, a terrific day that left us pondering what delights we would see at the festival on Sunday, 31 July…