Ely Folk Weekend 2004
Introduced by JW, our local Folk & Beer Buff, accompanied by his lovely daughter Holly and Cameraman Karlo De Bedingfield.
As ever, the Ely On-Line brief was to capture the spirit of the weekend through our non-folkie eyes, pens and Karl’s high-tech camera.
With a pint of Sparkling Wit in hand we traversed the site. Although having moved a touch further down the road onto the football club ground the set up was reassuringly familiar: 3 performance Marquees, kids area, traders stalls, a couple of excellent grub huts and, for the first time a coffee stall.
After spending some time listening to Little Johnny England in the ‘meet’
Marquee it was over to the main stage for Mooncoin, a 4 piece from Norwich.
As well as playing English traditional folk, they also feature Irish,
Swedish and eastern European songs – in particular a Bulgarian dance
number, which had people up dancing at the back of the marquee. Excellent
stuff. As well as displaying fine musical ability the ‘Coins have
an excellent website (www.mooncoin.org.uk) and whilst doing a spot of
research in the week leading up to the festival I spent an absorbing 10
minutes reading all about Uli’s bathroom renovation!
taking some more ale on board from the well-stocked Beer Tent, it was
back to the music and Sally Barker. As we approached the tent, Karl made
the comment that Sally sounded more like a soul singer and her set bore
out the fact that she covers a variety of styles: rock, blues, jazz, country
as well as more traditional fayre. Strooth, she even did a Genesis song!
Sally has a new album out, ‘Maid In England’ and, finding
myself drawn further into this music, I may well buy a copy. However,
I won’t be getting out the credit card just yet as another piece
of platter is currently hogging my CD player. Yup, after 4 years of attending
the Folk Weekend with a cynically raised eyebrow, I bought my first ever
Folk CD by the band that blew me away during the weekend: Last Night’s
Fun. The 3 piece are a passionate mix of humour and musical excellence.
With Chris keeping us entertained during Denny’s extended tune up
I was then unprepared for the musical onslaught. Their album, ‘Dubh’,
which I bought, was described by Living Tradition as ‘stupendous,
both a landmark release and a seriously important contribution to the
modern presentation of Irish traditional music’. Well, I don’t
know enough about Folk to comment on that but I do know that with 4 pints
inside you that when Chris Sherburne gets into stride, riffing on his
concertina and shouting ‘and again!’ I get the chills. Magnificent.
Having already seen a bit of Little Johnny England it was time for more beer, a beef chilli from one of the food stalls and a wander round the site to soak up the twilight atmosphere. With the band warming up for the ceilidh in the dance marquee, kids still out playing football, a jam session rockin’ away in the beer tent and the cathedral lit up in the distance the Ely Folk Weekend was off and running.
After a calorie-lite sausage and egg bap, 2 paracetemols and some industrial
strength coffee I was ready for the Grand Procession in the City Centre.
With 19 morris and molly dance sides descending on Ely the city was transformed
into a riot of colour and noise.
The procession is an opportunity to take the festival out to the people of Ely and many of them dallied awhile to take in the performances before heading back into the shops and cafes.
Let’s hope some of them were intrigued enough to come down to the
site next year. As the teams passed by in a whirl of hankies, sticks,
drums, whoops and hollers it certainly livened up the city centre. This
was definitely a highlight of the weekend.
After watching the procession on Saturday morning, my eldest (14 year old Holly) dragged me to a Morris Workshop in Marquee 2, where a willing band of volunteers were put through their paces by the Ely & Littleport Riot and The Witchmen. The Rioting ladies dance in a light border style, which I managed to reproduce in a heavy clumping style, frequently dancing in the wrong direction, stopping for sips of coffee and generally getting hot and bothered. The workshopees were patiently dealt with by the ladies and at the end of the hour-long session we gave a passable rendition of one of their dances.
The highlight of Sunday evening, for me, was Adam Brown (of The Brown Family) and his Bodhran solo during the Family’s set in Marquee 2. Playing Celtic ballads and tunes the 4-piece have been playing since the children, Erin and Adam, were old enough to hold their instruments and the experience has paid off. Adam is the current ‘All Ireland’ under 15 Bodhran champion and helped with the Bodhran workshop last year at the Ely folk weekend. With sister, Erin, treating us to a tap solo, this was a slot that should have been seen by more. Committee! Get them on the main stage next year.
trying to sample all the ales on offer, by this time on Sunday evening
my choices had narrowed – someone had drunk nearly all the beer.
So, I had to take on my old nemesis, Dragonslayer. Beer in hand it was
back to the main stage for Vin Garbutt. Although having been gigging since
1969, I hadn’t heard of him before but I was soon engrossed in his
witty story-telling and the quality of his songs. His thought provoking
self-penned material coupled with the warmth of his vocals means that
I’ll be shelling out some more money for CD’s.
Taking more Dragonslayer on board we came to the final session of the evening, The Mrs Ackroyd Band. The band, mainly a vehicle for Les Barker’s insane poetry is ably backed up by Chris Harvey on keyboards and the vocal skills of Alison Younger and Hilary Spencer. There were tales of lemming suicides, some excellent renditions of Les’s serious songs and a finale, which featured the whole audience swaying to the strains of ‘Here We Go’ with toilet roll above their heads. An appropriately triumphal ending to a fantastic weekend.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank Dave Wolfe and the rest of the committee for giving us non-folkies the chance to experience the festival. If the aim of the festival is promote Folk music to a wider audience then let me leave you with this:
…as I climbed the stairs on Monday evening, still jaded from the
I could hear music coming from my daughter’s bedroom. Normally,
it’d be Madonna or Miss Dynamite or any of that ilk but on Monday
it was the sound of ‘The Innkeepers Daughter’ from Last Night’s
Fun’s ‘Dubh’ CD that I bought…