Monday, the day after most festivals, the day after the Leigh Folk Festival and what an amazing 4 days. For the organisers, the volunteers and the committee, this is an event we’ve all been planning and talking about for a year. But everytime it comes around we can’t quite believe it’s here! I have to say, this has been my personal favourite. Why? A few things happened, such as…
….immigration called, but it was fine. Simon Gentry woke me up at 7am Friday morning, but it was fine. Headline act got stuck in traffic but y’know, it was fine. A certain Mr’s C left blind baking beans in the quiches she’d made for everyone, but it was fine. She chipped her tooth on a rogue one, but it’s fine. One incident made me have a stress cry, but it was fine (thank-you Haiku, Graham & Lara for your kindness). Times ran over, somebody played an actual tree, TOWIE (I think I can talk about it now since the local press has decided it’s okay) wanted to come and film an episode right in the middle of the festival, I accidentally called Steven Collins a c**k live onstage in front of an entire audience when I meant to say cog, COG. M G Boulter snubbed my onstage compering (I forgive you Boult), Radio 3 played my poem and I didn’t even know, I momentarily lost consciousness because Si Gentry elbowed me in the head (he features twice, I know, and if Si is reading this – it doesn’t mean I like you), one of our open mic finalists went walkabout, a man gave me a bag of courgettes.
In between all of this there was some truly amazing, standout music this year, one of the best years for it I reckon. My personal favourite and highlight was being part of Justin Hopper’s Public Record project, then a joint highlight was The Diamond Family Archive (see photo). Sundown booked them a few years ago for one of our events at the Union Chapel, we’ve been fans for a couple of years so when they approached and played L.F.F last year we knew they’d be ace. But this year, they were even better. The crowd were into it, it’s because they take you somewhere else with their performance. Pete’s drumming is brilliant, you get lost in the beats and Laurence is always bringing a creative vocal or new sound to it all, it’s a bit special watching them live. You can tell they are an intuitive combination when onstage together. Their midnight set in the scout hut on the Saturday evening was absolutely mindblowing. They’re very tidy house guests too. The whole Saturday evening Clarendon scout hut line-up was fantastic, loved it. Lost Harbours and Rainbow Valley created something truly original for the festival. Crying Lion, featuring some of the Trembling Bells, was stunning, we were honoured to experience them in our little borrowed hut.
Aside from this, I also loved Haiku Salut during our slot, very unique and couldn’t take my eyes off all the instrument swapping. Again, bringing beats and electronics to folk, mixing it up with traditional instruments is very clever and many people kept asking me afterwards “who were they? They were amazing!” Thank-you Haiku. The Blazing Zoos had everyone rockin’, the lead singer’s patter was hilarious and kept the crowd in high spirits, definitely having them back next year. Simon Blackman, our resident L.F.F poet, was a saint all day and when he finally got to perform – he didn’t complain and he didn’t disappoint with his wit. Ghost Music finished our slot off and they were a bit bloody good too. I just love their music and really hope we get to see more of them. Elsewhere at the festival? Greanvine put on consistently superb sets at Squeezebox and New Road Chapel, in fact having Squeezebox kick off the festival has become a real treat in recent years. Having them involved throughout and starting with them has really made the festival. Some more highlights for me include You Are Wolf (that cuckoo song is amazing), Nancy Wallace, The Owl Service, M G Boulter performing with two female performers for the first time, one of which played a mean mandolin, Jason Steel, Si Gentry’s band – loved the 90s retro guitar sound, Folkwitz performing their winning open mic slot on the Billet stage, Mick Denny, Kate Denny, Crafting for Foes. This was just a small handful of some of the talents we managed to catch whilst running around organising / helping / programming / hosting etc.
Of course when you’re helping to organise a festival, you rarely get a chance to see anyone perform which is the big irony. I’d heard the Trembling Bells & Mike Heron were great though and Mike Heron performed live and well, unscathed from the quiche. You’ll be able to read other peoples reviews online and see all the photos soon, but man what a superb festival this is. Leigh Folk Festival is run entirely by volunteers, in our own time, because we love the festival, we’re fans ourselves and fans of music. We want the festival to better itself each year and for you to enjoy it as much as we do but to keep it going we do rely on your kindness and support so please, buy some of our exclusive merchandise if you can and feel smug that you’re helping a great, great thing to exist. Few thankyous; to the folk festival committee members and all the supporters, to the volunteers, to Paul & Diana Collier who have cooked, sung, and artistically directed a storm this year, to Steven Collins – the big COG, Si Gentry & Mickie D – thanks for having me on your open mic judging team, to all the lovely people who accommodated some of the artists, to people like Nidge and Wouter who music needs, to all of you who support Sundown and support the festival, Justin Hopper and everyone involved with Public Record including Metal, my lovely Sundown team, Christian our sound tech for the day, our friends that popped in and supported us. It’s a beautiful thing and we feel amazing to be part of it.
Now, someone said Dolly Parton was playing somewhere this weekend?