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Great British Folk Festival 2014 - Sunday

Today offered a rare opportunity to both start and finish the day with a Full English, which was probably the main reason for climbing out of the bed so early. Despite the seasonal cold, the weather has been quite mild over the course of the weekend, making walks along the beach not entirely unthinkable. This morning however, the only walk I felt inclined to do was between the chalet and the Yacht Club, the place where the first of my two Full English delights of the day was experienced.

It didn't take long before the music started up again, just after midday with two fine bands making their festival debut and appearing simultaneously on the two main stages. On the Reds Stage, the contradictory We Banjos 3, a band that can only actually boast two banjos and whose repertoire includes a set of tunes entitled American Polkas, which is neither American nor consists of any polkas, whilst next door on the Centre Stage, the Scots band New Celeste Acoustic, who between them have no banjos whatsoever, but instead have at least two guitars, a double bass and a fiddle, made their presence known. Whilst We Banjos 3 delivered their own brand of Irish dance music, the sort of fare that made them such a hit at the Cambridge Folk Festival last year, the Scots band tackled such material as the Penguin Cafe Orchestra's Music for a Found Harmonium with relative ease, both bands providing an excellent start to the Sunday concert programme. 

If the two opening bands were similar in number, content and sound, the afternoon's headliners couldn't have been more dissimilar. The mighty Treacherous Orchestra filled the Reds Stage in terms of both personnel and sound, going on to present the capacity audience with a full-on Celtic blast, encouraging the people to get up, dance to their hearts content but most importantly have a good time. Meanwhile on the Centre Stage guitarist Robbie McIntosh played a gentle set of rock and pop fuelled songs, accompanied by the distinctive guitar playing that served Paul McCartney well a few years ago.  

Further into the afternoon, the Skyline Pavilion stage once again fulfilled its promise to introduce a handful of new names to the festival, starting with a lively set from The Band from County Hell, whose complete black attire blended in quite well with the backdrop, drawing a large crowd and a full dance floor. This rogue folk element was shortly afterwards replaced by the much more blues-oriented performer in the shape of Matt Woosey, whose acoustic blues permeated throughout the Pavilion, attracting curious festival goers each stopping by enroute to their respective eateries. The tea time shift was covered by Steel Threads, featuring the combined talents of Neil Wardleworth and Laura Wilcockson, who between them have been steadily building a reputation for themselves as an assured live act as well as a consistent recording duo.

As the afternoon seamlessly segued into evening, the conical party hats appeared on several heads suggesting we were going to have a party night, but not before the curtain rose for guitarist Gordon Giltrap’s solo set. It must have felt quite strange sitting in the middle of such a large stage, surrounded by a collection of acoustic guitars as the curtain rose all around him to reveal a packed room of people staring back, but Gordon Giltrap has been here before and is probably used to it. There hasn’t been all that many solo performers at the festival over the years, possibly due to the fact that these stages are rather large and suit larger outfits. None of this phased the guitarist who had no problem filling the stage with a set made up principally of self-penned material such as On Camber Sands and the memorable Heart Song. Gordon also paid tribute to his friend the late Bert Jansch with his own interpretation of Davy Graham’s Angi. "It helps keep the memory of Bert Jansch alive" said the guitarist. Warm and extremely charming, the guitarist remained seated throughout the set as he built an immediate rapport with the audience. 

That sort of rapport building was like water off a ducks back to the three Teesside lads known as The Young’uns, who were busy making friends of their own on the other stage. The trio of David Eagle, Michael Hughes and Sean Cooney already have a strong following up and down the country and have a reputation for being not only fine singers, but also engaging entertainers and killer songwriters; they could also be perfect contenders for next seasons Redcoats. It’s difficult not to be taken by this trio, whose popularity grows with every show.

The collective known as The Full English served up a delicious set of traditional English songs and tunes, performed by some of the best known names on the British folk scene. Democratically sharing out the material, which included such songs as Creeping Jane, Arthur O’Bradley and Man in the Moon, the members of the band, Fay Hield, Nancy Kerr, Seth Lakeman and Martin Simpson on the front row, who each took to the spotlight in turn, created a sense of purpose with the material they were delivering, whilst encouraging people to get involved by at least visiting the Full English website to discover for themselves what it's all about. With further contribution from the rest of the collective, Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and Ben Nichols, the performance was also accompanied at one point by some footage old footage of early folk dancing from the English Folk Dance and Song Society archive. 

English song and dance had a very special place tonight on the Centre Stage, whilst another English performer played an excellent set on the Reds Stage. Derbyshire's Bella Hardy is one of the hardest working musicians on the folk scene today, who undertakes various projects simultaneously, with many fruitful collaborations. Tonight Bella was at the festival to do what she does best, greeted by a large receptive audience.

The final two performances of the festival came courtesy of Scotland’s Capercaillie, who drew a large crowd to the Reds Stage, whilst Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre fronted his own band on the Centre Stage for a riff-driven rock set that included a handful of Tull classics such as Sweet Dream and Song for Jeffrey, which was dedicated to the band’s original guitarist Mick Abrahams, who is ill at the moment. The tight band, which also featured Dan Crisp on guitar and vocals, George Lindsay on drums and Alan Thomson on bass, also threw in some pretty tasty arrangements of The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby and Robert Johnson’s Crossroads, with some anecdotal between song chat courtesy of Barre. 

I'm sure there was a certain point somewhere in the festival village by midnight, where you could perhaps hear the mingling sounds of a Scots Gaelic tongue along with Michael McGoldrick's fine whistle playing, together with some of Martin Barre's bluesy rock riffs, but I didn't attempt to find out where. I was completely fulfilled musically speaking after a long day of eclectic music and returned to my chalet to the throbbing sound of Jethro Tull still going around in my head. It's always difficult to say at this point whether or not this was the best one yet, the five years seem to just melt into each other. It was certainly up there with the others, that's for sure. So, until next year, night night campers, 

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky


Videos filmed by Simmo, Ed, Jon and Drew

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