Monday morning: exhausted: off to work in a matter of minutes and yet I feel like my eyes are being held in my head by some sort of Heath Robinson contraption. It must be post-Leigh Folk Festival weekend!! We always end up coming home on the Sunday totally shattered but yet overwhelmed with love and pride for all those involved. “Don’t we know some lovely people?” “Aren’t we lucky?” “Why am I crying?” All those sorts of things. Waking up to the result / news on Friday morning put a dark cloud among those of us who were hoping for something different. I won’t lie, it made some conversations quite awkward. But the thing to focus on was the festival and the music and just what a fantastic thing we all achieved by helping each other put this weekend of free culture on. That’s what we were here to do so despite the dark cloud, we soldiered on, because that’s all we could do.
Another brilliant folk festival under our belt and this one was the 25th year! There was Poetry by Candlelight on the Thurs evening put on by Peter Monk, a great wordsmith and long-time member of the festival. We saw a diverse range of poets here and really enjoyed it but ended up missing most of the artists on at the same time down at Squeeze. By the sound of the stomping and tambourine clangs from the window, it appeared to be a lively gig. Friday evening saw the first of the ticketed folk festival concerts, I particularly enjoyed The Diamond Family Archive Singers Project. It was such a special performance. Stick in the Wheel were of course a must-see for folk fans too. Saturday morning began with a cooked breakfast with The Diamond Family Archive (aka The Perfect House Guests In The World) then checking out The Folkwitz at new venue; TruLeigh Scrumptious tea room. We then caught the last of Ghost Music on the main stage of the Library Gardens. Sundown put Ghost Music on in the Clarendon Scout Hut a couple of years ago for the festival after being blown away by seeing them perform at Shangri-La at The Railway previously. Yep, we love Ghost Music. This year was rare for us in that we had some free time! Wow! Time to see friends and mingle and enjoy beer in plastic cups whilst falling over dogs and toddlers yet avoiding the man with the puppets, even though I’m 36 years old every year he insists on talking to me via the medium of hand puppetry. I can’t engage with a hand puppet at this age sir, sorry.
Then came folk festival mascots The Lucky Strikes and our favourites, again, The Diamond Family Archive, who rocked the library gardens so much that I reckon books fell off library shelves. I hope it was Boris Johnson’s biography. Realising we had to gain energy for the late night evening Clarendon Scout Hut performances, we nipped home to powder our nose’s and down pints of water. We caught a brief glimpse of The Furrow Collective at St Clements Church, which sounded lovely before heading back to the hut, the hut – where you’ll find as Paul Collier (Artistic Director of the Leigh Folk Festival) quoted; “the more leftfield artists at the festival”. The electronic hurling sounds of Yann Gourdon were amazing, the haunting orchestral drones from Lost Harbours were very cinematic, Men Diamler (who we first booked through Sundown years ago, so chuffed to see him playing again) a one-off, enigmatic performer. Jason Steel putting the soul into folk with frankly, astonishing drumming from Daniel Gardner, this was a real highlight for me. Circle / Temple (Dom Cooper of The Straw Bear Band and The Owl Service) using modular synthesisers and voice to create a sound otherworldly. It all comes to an end in the hut, at 1am, with The Diamond Family Archive (3 gigs in 26 hours is it?). This is ALWAYS my favourite performance of theirs as it holds special memories though to be honest, every performance of theirs is a favourite. It’s a perfect way to end the Saturday and, um, start the Sunday, technically.
Sunday is what some call the biggest day of the festival, with lots more stages in the old town of Leigh-on-Sea. When you’re involved with the festival it’s definitely hard to see everyone you want to see and support, but we managed to catch snippets of Gemma Khawaja – beaut folk singing at its best, and I think Scuttleshake – who were ace, just before setting up for our gig in the hut! Yes, Sundown Arts! Now in our 10th or 11th year at the folk festival. We’d not been at the hut for a while but already that familiar clammy-denied-of-any-air heat was setting in. We have lovely audiences here at Sundown and at the festival, so there they were braving the uncomfortable hot hut heat for us. All of our artists were absolutely fantastic, thanks to Sundown Poets (Jo Overfield, Ray Morgan, Cherry Scott), Gill West, Dorothy Turner, Gideon Conn, Simon Blackman, Rosie Wilby, Plantman and the awesome Helen McCookerybook. You were all so, so good and we had a blast. We missed out on seeing many good friends bands during our time in the hut but heard they all went down well! We did make it in time to see our pals Ed Rome & members of The Big perform on The Peter Boat Stage. Ed always smashes it, we’ve known him for years so are well aware of the quality of his music and his band members playing (special kudos to Bella on sax). But each time we see him play, dancing and singing along to all the songs like sad fans, we are always so proud to know them. We then caught up with friends, back patted the likes of Paul Collier, Mickie D, Simon Gentry, all whilst the sun disco danced its way in and out of the clouds and the boss Alien provided the soundtrack echoing from the hut. Howling Black Soul were rocking their hearts out on the main stage as we dragged our blistered feet home.
A huge, huge, big up and respect to all the Leigh Folk Festival committee members, volunteers and people involved. All those tin shakers and litter cleaners, information tent volunteers, people in high vis jackets, security, sound engineers, road & traffic control, events team, everyone basically. You all did an amazing job to put this on. A special thanks to all those committee members we know and love too, who had a difficult job yet gave their time and professionalism out of passion and love for this festival. You are brilliant and you deserve a week off if you can get it! The audience and fans have been phenomenal, thank you for all your donations and support, we couldn’t do it without you. We also couldn’t do it without the generosity and kindness of all our artists involved, thank you for playing and being part of it.
We love being part of this festival and supporting it in any way we can, we hope you enjoyed our involvement this year. Our next event will probably be our Big Birthday Bash in November but you know us, we might organise something before then, just for fun y’know. We’re now back to reality, back to not just the aftermath of festival life but the real world. We’re not in our bubble of music and good times now. We’re just back in the passenger seat of hope. None of us are sure who’s driving at the moment, or where we’re going. But if we could just be kind to each other on the way then maybe we’ll do alright. Thanks for reading a bit of an epic post x