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FESTIVAL DIARY

A Personal look at the 2008 Festival by Tim Turner

 

Friday June 13 2008

If it?s a Friday in the middle of June, it must be Festival Time. This is what we?ve been working towards for the past twelve months and we?re just hoping for decent weather and a decent attendance. Extra worries this year include the credit crunch and a weekend?s-worth of concerts (Zutons, Elbow and KT Tunstall) at nearby Delamere Forest. Never had to worry about that sort of competition before, and having managed to avoid the Beverley Festival for once we could have done without it.

Still, just have to get on with things. I arrive on the main site around 9am and help organise stallholders? and catering vehicles on and off.

During this I do a phone interview with SilkFM (the truck noises must have added something to it!) during which the interviewer asks me if I?m worried that it?s Friday the thirteenth. I tell her it?s just the Friday of the Festival to us ? things will go wrong and we?ll sort them out.

Mid afternoon artists and visitors start arriving. We?ve got the Box Office set up early so all those who arrive before time but say they have tickets to pick up can be dealt with. Should ease things for later. Good to see PJ Wright and Dave Pegg ? two gentlemen and great friends of the Festival as well as superb musicians ? who?ve managed to fit us in en route to the Isle of Man.

Manic time at the Box Office, and then it?s time for the evening?s concerts to begin. The annoying thing (happens every Festival but it?s still annoying) is not being able to see every gig. Settle for Bandersnatch, PJ&Peggy and Churchfitters in the Marquee. A great evening and a superb start to the weekend. Would have loved to catch some of June Tabor in the Church, but the ?no entry after it?s started? rule knocks that one on the head. Reports afterwards give her the five-star rating we?d expected, and as usual Mark Radcliffe and the Mahones go down a storm at the packed-out Legion. Good reports from the Nick Barraclough and Vicki & Trefor Williams gig at the Boars Head too. Manage to get home somewhere around 1 in the morning.

 

Saturday June 14 2008

Back on site around 10 for another day of enjoyable mayhem. The weather?s good, and there seems to be lots of people around. The Festival Parade, which starts at 11, looks colourful and sounds great as it arrives at the field with even more people in tow. Somewhere around 12 I manage to tear myself away from the office and make my way to the Church and the Bullring amphitheatre. It?s really buzzing around there, with dancers in the Bullring and a Bazaar alongside the Church. I go into the Church and catch some of Michelle Martin?s set. A wonderful voice, which sounds even better in the acoustics, superb songs and a great guitar style (inspired by Chet Atkins apparently). If you get a chance to see her, then go; and if you?re looking for an original artist to book then here?s one for you.

Having sat down in the Church it?s hard to get up, but conscience gets the better of me and I walk across to the Town Wharf on the Trent & Mersey Canal for a quick look at the Floating Gardens ? part of Cheshire?s Year of Gardens. I had actually seen a couple of them on Thursday when Kate ? our Boat Festival Director ? had asked me to help move a boat which was occupying one of the Floating Gardens moorings.

They looked great, and were attracting lots of attention, but I was starting to feel guilty (we all do) about spending time away from the Office and I was just on my way back when I got a call that the photographer from Cheshire Life was waiting to see me. Having sorted out his pass and suggested a few ideal spots for photographs, and greeted a few old friends, it?s time for the afternoon concert.

This gets off to a great start with Anthony John Clarke ? who is also compering the concert ? then a storming set from Kerfuffle followed by the legendary Martin Simpson showing just why he is such a legend among guitar players.After the concert comes my first highlight of the Festival when Hannah James from Kerfuffle works out a clog-dancing routine in the artists room to Martin Simpson?s banjo accompaniment and great encouragement. That?s what Festivals are all about!

Time for a quick pizza, and the Rory Ellis is first up in the Marquee with his unique blend of blues, country and folk allied to his amazing gravely voice and a host of self-penned songs. Another artist definitely not to be missed. He?s followed by the exciting contemporary folk band Uiscedwr. Unfortunately I have to miss this set as I?m on stewarding duty at the Legion for the Neil Brophy/Nick Harper concert. Neil?s just finishing his set as I arrive, and earns several points for asking me how I?m holding up after two days. Nick Harper played a great set at this venue last year, and asked to come back (we like artists like that!). Goes down well again, although one woman leaves part way through as he hasn?t jumped on any tables yet! Some people are hard to please. I leave early to catch the end of the Warsaw Village Band in the Marquee, passing the Ceilidh in full swing at the Civic Hall. Looks packed out and sounds like everyone is enjoying themselves. Manage to hear WVB?s last two numbers ? definitely different, and the sort of world music we try to encourage. Hear later that Jonathan Kelly went down well in the Church, and Chris & Kellie While produced a great set at the Boars Head, although it was rather hot in the small packed room. Another late night.

 

Sunday June 15 2008

The day starts off with the Churches Together interdenominational service in the Marquee ? well attended as usual with people overflowing outside the venue. Late morning finds all of us in the Office helping visitors with directions to various places in the town as well as selling tickets for the afternoon and evening concerts. The nearest cash machine is the most frequent request, so it sounds like people have been spending lots of money. I meet a man who?s come over from Beverley; he says it?s the first time he?s been able to come because we usually clash and is very impressed. He?s also impressed that we?ve got Chris & Kellie While and Devon Sproule. Pity everyone doesn?t feel the same ? we?d definitely have sold out then!

The afternoon Father?s Day concert starts with Kirsty McGee and Mat Martin with their ?hobopop?. Brilliant stuff, and I could have done with a lot more of it. Except then I?d have had to have less of Chris & Kellie While, whose voices combine superbly and occasionally bring a tear to my eye. I tell Chris afterwards and she seems very pleased at the effect. Then Devon Sproule. What can I say. A truly original talent with amusing, clever songs amazingly performed. Watch out for her, she?s sure to be very big before too long. Hope we can persuade her back when she is. All in all a great afternoon of music, and one which I wished could have gone on and on. The afternoon also provided my third highlight (the second was the man from Beverley) ? Chris and Kellie standing in the main field having a quick fag minutes before they were due on stage. So that?s where the amazing voices come from!

Sunday evenings we like the Festival to finish with a bang, and this year?s no exception. The Scottish connection is well to the fore, with the formidable trio Lau and the truly amazing Peatbog Faeries. I reckon they left everyone completely out of breath! And superlatives!

After a bit of clearing up we all finished up in the Boars Head ? which was still recovering from Mike Lennon, Zoe Mulford and Rory Ellis ? to find three separate sessions going on. Again, that?s festivals for you.

Can?t remember what time we got to bed, but it was back to the field on Monday morning to clear up.

Everyone I?ve spoken to seems to agree it was a wonderful Festival ? which is as good a reason as any for doing it again next year. See you there!