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Live Reviews

The Great Fife Road Show 50th Anniversary celebration

The GFRS story begins in 1968 in a dwelling in Strathkinnes, a cottage known as The Poffle. It was, at the time, rented by Jimmy Hutchison and Noel Farrow. While they were residents there the cottage became a regular venue for the post-St Andrews Folk Club gatherings. At one of these, Davey Stewart mentioned something he had come across. It was a group of people who were travelling around in what was referred to as a ‘Folk Charabanc’, taking a folksong-based performance to far-flung places. This conversation sowed a seed until a time was right.

THE SANDY DENNY PROJECT - Otley Courthouse - 31 January 2020

The Sandy Denny Project is a coming together of six highly talented musicians (two of them impressive multi-instrumentalists)… or four lead vocalists… or, if you wish, all of IOTA backed by three of Little Johnny England… another branch of the band-family tree would take you back to the revived Fotheringay or Trad Arr. This is an act with a record (several in fact – see the merch stand) and this is their latest conviction – and utterly convincing it is!

JOE NEWBERRY & APRIL VERCH - Eyemouth Hippodrome - 1 February 2020

A night of foul weather, both political and meteorological… The Brexit fiasco had been commemorated just a few hours before by a solemn vigil outside the Scottish Parliament, and here in Eyemouth the rain slatted down, driving even the exhibitionist seals in the harbour to forsake their tourist centred scrounging and head for deeper waters. What was previously the Seaman's Mission is now an intimate, harbour-side theatre - the Eyemouth Hippodrome - which has one of the most adventurous yet ‘finger on the pulse’ booking policies in Scotland. Tonight, it provided a safe haven from the Stygian gloom outside and beckoned as a cosy beacon of light and cheerfulness, with a capacity audience for Joe and April.

NARTHEN: HARK, HARK - Het Stuk, Leuven - 20 December 2019

Every winter, Fi Fraser and sister Jo Freya accompanied Coope, Boyes & Simpson on their annual Christmas tour. They continue the tradition with Barry Coope – Fi’s husband – and Jim Causley as Narthen – a good northern name. And they still sing the local carols that fell out of favour during the Victorian era, squeezed out of churches by the arrival of organs and the publication of Hymns Ancient And Modern.

Birmingham Tradfest - 21-24 November 2019

Alex Monaghan sampled one of the most exciting Irish festivals in the UK

Six years ago, three or four lads at college in Birmingham had the idea of putting on a festival so they could book some of their favourite Irish bands. How hard could it be? And thus, Birmingham Tradfest was born. The lads are still running it, but their team has grown, and they now know just how hard it is to organise a world class festival! Tradfest has been hugely successful and has established an enviable reputation since the first event in 2014. The line-up for 2019 included some of the biggest names in Irish music for the last 50 years, as well as recent stars and total newcomers, all crammed into a November weekend to rival the finest Irish festivals on the planet.

BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester - 16 October 2019

In a break with the usual timetable, this year’s awards took place much later in the year to link with the Manchester Folk Festival and the English Folk Expo. The ceremony was broadcast live on Radio 2, but this year there was no video taken for the BBC website.

L2F - Lichfield, Staffordshire - 18-20 October 2019

“Super Saturday” was how many right-wing rags referred to the sitting of Parliament on Saturday 19th October. Alas for them the “cunning plan” of their hero in No 10 and his Baldrick-like adviser came to nowt. Meanwhile 132 miles to the north, in Lichfield, a truly Super Saturday was unfolding. Ah, but I rush… first of all there was Fabulous Friday, made absolutely fabulous by a supercharged reformed Home Service. Even before then - two days before in fact - the scene was being set on board the Folk Train. This rolled out of Lichfield at 7.58pm, picking up folkies from throughout the region for a mobile session on board, and picking up momentum as sessioneers joined at stations along the way, eventually decamping at a session pub in Sutton Coldfield where they continued until tumbling on to the last train homeward. A head of anticipatory steam(!) had thus begun to build throughout Lichfield before the festival had officially kicked off.

RICHARD THOMPSON’S 70TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION - Royal Albert Hall, London - 30 September 2019

It’s exactly 50 years since Liege & Lief cemented Richard Thompson and the rest of Fairport Convention’s place in folk music. Naturally, folk was well represented at the all-star gathering to mark his seventieth year. In the course of the three-and-a-half-hour gig, Britain’s most famous folkies shared the stage with rock stars from the ridiculous to the sublime.

SIDMOUTH FOLK FESTIVAL - Sidmouth, Devon - 2-9 August 2019

The daddy of all the festivals, the 65th Sidmouth Folk Festival lasted for nine-and-a-couple-of-bits days and had no fewer than 867 events scheduled. As ever, this gives the visitor the ability to follow a particular thread of music or dance throughout the week, or alternatively to experience the kaleidoscope of music which is on offer. And if you should weary of that, just over the road is a splendid beach. This year saw quite good weather until the final day, when gale-force winds from the sea forced events at the Ham to be cancelled, the marquee itself to be taken down and events moved to the Bulverton marquee, a more sheltered inland venue. Sadly, this was to no avail as the audience had to be evacuated when it became apparent that the wind was causing the steel supports to flex. Many congratulations to the organisers for making the difficult decision to cancel events for the safety of the public, whilst doing their utmost to find alternatives.

SHREWSBURY FOLK FESTIVAL - Shrewsbury, Shropshire - 23-26 August 2019

Hot. Hot, hot, hot. And then some. Just the weather to make you want to sit in an airless marquee with 3,500 other people isn’t it? Thought not. But the festival did a great job of keeping temperatures reasonable in the main marquee (not so much in the secondary, 2,000-ish marquee) and, as ever, the sound was excellent and the light shows impressive. But the big yellow disc in the sky was having none of it, especially for the numerous Morris dance sides, who were expected to stick to their original schedules, resulting in a few keeling over. Even in the dance tent, it was bad enough for Alberio’s electric keyboard to burst into flames! And to think that last year people were leaving because the cold, horizontal rain and gale force winds were snapping their tent poles.