CHESTER FOLK FESTIVAL 2008 REVIEWS
By Didge Lewis for KADRAS (the magazine of Kelsall & District Rural Amenities Society):
Each year late in May I get the same feeling that I used to have as a child when Christmas approached, only now it is not the result of Christmas Trees popping up everywhere and multiple appearances of Santa Claus, but the sight of the first tents and caravans on the field next to the Morris Dancer in Kelsall. Within a few days, a small and hard working band of volunteers has transformed the grassy open space we now call Kelsall Green, into a bustling canvas village, dominated by the big marquee. Yes, it's the late May Bank Holiday weekend and Chester Folk Festival has returned!
I'm a resident of Kelsall but I often take for granted the beauty of our surroundings until one of the many visitors to the Festival remarks what a wonderful location it is. Looking around I must agree with them, especially as the field now looks the better for the regular mowing organised by the Parish Council. It gets better, as it is next door to a large and characterful pub, The Morris Dancer with another pub down the road, The Oak and one up the road The Farmers Arms. All providing festival goers with meals and snacks as well as drinks and all were host to a number of Festival events as well as some spontaneous music sessions.
But what of the music? Tanglefoot are an established Chester festival favourite. They are a five piece band from Canada and topped Saturday night's bill drawing an enthusiastic and packed crowd. A personal favourite of mine are John Spiers and Jon Boden, usually abbreviated to "the Two Jon's", who closed the Sunday evening concert demonstrating what energy and music can be produced by two men, one fiddle and one melodeon.
Last year, The Churchfitters debuted at the Festival and were so well received that they were immediately asked back this year. I missed them then but this Festival took care to see them at both afternoon and evening concerts and was totally blown away. It takes a while to sort out the band's nationality, they're based in Brittany, but only one of their four members is French, two are English and the fourth is Irish. A feature is their self-made musical instruments incorporating everyday items such as cooking pots.
My wife and I spent a delightful Sunday morning listening to the "Euro Session" lead by Monsieur Pantin and our favourite Chester early music band The Time Bandits.
I must mention singer songwriter Chris Wood who gave some hypnotic solo performances. Also singers Chris While and Julie Matthews a unique pair of two ladies.
You know it's winter in Australia when John and Nicole of Cloudstreet make the long trek from the other side of the world to spend several months in the old country. The audience who came to "Chance to Meet Cloudstreet" and talk to the duo were able to learn the secret of the curly-toed jester style shoes Nicole wears on stage. (No - you'll have to come next time.) I don't know how the audience relaxes but Cloudstreet had a festival hit with a hilarious contemporary song "Wine" written by Grant Baynham. Coincidently Grant was also performing at the Festival, singing his clever catchy and humorous songs. His guitar playing is incredible too. The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble a group of some 40 to 50 (I lost count) classical music students playing their own arrangements of folk music from different traditions packed the Community centre and got Monday afternoon off to a rousing start.
There's lots more names I haven't mentioned, and I'm too old to sample the many children's activities presided over by Professor Panic, but there seemed to be lots of beaming small faces. There was a family ceilidh on Saturday afternoon and grown-up ones each evening. Not only are they very popular but, from the look of dancers leaving at the end of the evening, extremely lively.
I didn't take part myself, being more of an unguided missile than a dancer, but I did catch some of the evening that featured Cock and Bull and caller Pete Rees during which we were treated to a display by the Witchmen, the Morris men from 'The Dark Side'. Amazing!
As usual and in most weathers, the Morris Dancers put on displays in the pub car parks and a special one for the residents of Sable Cottage. There was a successful Sunday morning service in the main marquee. Perhaps this is the place to mention that the Festival has started to develop a relationship with Kelsall Primary school and it is hoped to build on this next year. Mal Waite of The Waite Collective ran a singing workshop in the school on the Friday of the Festival, and some children from the school took part in the dance display on Saturday lunchtime. Other attractions were the beer festival at The Oak, the cake stall run by volunteers from Kelsall Parish Council to fund improvements to the field, and the Festival organisers entry in the Kelsall Scarecrow trail.
But soon the weekend had passed and as fast as it came, it went and Kelsall Green returned to normal. I can't wait for the next.
Some comments from our Feedback Forms:
'Fantastic line-up this year.'
'I would like to compliment all those involved for your efforts in organising this years Kelsall event. The sight on arrival of a well prepared festival field was uplifting'
'Really enjoyed involvement of village with festival - school kids morris dancing; church service; local community venues; local bobby presence'
'Our first visit to this festival, and it certainly will not be our last! Very good setting with venues within easy walking distance of each other'
'Good facilities, both on the festival site and in the village. One to look out for in years to come'
'Well done to all the organisers. It is obvious a lot of hard work has gone into this wonderful festival'
'Excellent as usual. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to 2009'
'Great festival. Keep up the good work. Thank you'