What a Day for a Festival!
We are in a golden age of festivals. There seem to be new ones springing up all the time, and one that started locally to me a few years ago is the New Forest Folk Festival. It is based at a farm in Plaitford in Wiltshire, near the county border with Hampshire. My husband and I visited the festival for the first time this year, and it didn’t disappoint.
We decided to attend just for the day on Saturday 6 July, and the line-up included local acts such as Southampton Ukulele Jam and the Devil’s Damned String Band and, established acts on the UK folk scene. On the Saturday these included Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies, the Urban Folk Quartet, the Oysterband and comedian Richard Digance.
We arrived shortly after the Southampton Ukulele Jam started their set. They put their own stamp on a number of popular songs from various decades, and are generally a crowd pleaser. They perform at many events in Southampton and the wider area of Hampshire. Their playing and singing had many toes tapping and voices singing along.
They were followed by a poetry reading from Lines & Squares Poets - this was an original way of keeping the audience entertained while the next act was set up, this was done in between each act. Richard Digance was next up – his set included comedy songs and funny stories. Then Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies took their turn. Lowe is a singer-songwriter from County Durham and has a mellow voice which suits the traditional style of his songwriting. The Bad Pennies provide a superb backing, and I was so impressed that I bought a CD! The Ballad Beyond, recorded in 2014, features songs that appeared on a show called The Radio Ballads on Radio 2.
Equally enchanting was Reg Meuross. He is based in Somerset, and is another singer-songwriter writing in a traditional style. His tenor voice sang his memorable tunes effortlessly, and was my husband’s favourite act of the day. He was followed by local band the Devil’s Damned String Band, who had been spotted at the Woodland Fringe stage last year. They are a young band playing a mix of originals, covers and traditional bluegrass and American folk music with a lot of energy and talent; it was easy to see why they were invited to take part on the main stage this year. Incidentally, we didn’t check out the Fringe stage – we found out later that we could have joined in a singaround. Actually, we didn’t mind too much – it was good to just chill and enjoy watching others perform for a change!
In a more contemporary vein were the Urban Folk Quartet from Birmingham. They had a unique blend of acoustic music with underlying influences from funk grooves, middle eastern melodies and afrobeat and north Indian rhythms. The line-up includes a Spanish fiddle player – she responded to a joke about her accent by speaking in her native tongue! We were less impressed by 3 Daft Monkeys – hailing from Cornwall, their acoustic alternative folk was less memorable than the former acts.
We decided to leave at 9pm to miss the rush and get home while it was still light, so missed the last band, the Oysterband. I had spotted a few fans sporting Oysterband T-shirts so I wondered what we would be missing. I’m listening to them while writing this and I think we missed a great act, so will look out for them on the festival line-ups next year.
There’s a sense of community at these folk festivals – there were a number of familiar faces from the Southampton folk clubs who stopped to say hello and comment on the performances. One of them even suggested booking weekend tickets for next year as there was an earlybird discount! A great day could become a great weekend next year…maybe. Truly, “Days like this live on in our hearts forever!”