Monday, 27 November 2017

Bedworth Folk Festival

      Hard to believe that, in this format this may be the last BFF ever. What a sterling job Malc Gurnham, Brenda, Gill and the team have done over the years, in launching and then sustaining it. And what an appropriate tribute then,  that this year’s was generally agreed to have been one of the best ever. In my case, and on a very personal level. it definitely was THE best.  I have never enjoyed any Festival more, and have never felt so involved and worthwhile whilst performing. Thank you for that  honour and privilege, Malc.  Thank you also for the platform, Flossy and JK my co-conspirators in Nunc.
         Before our  first set on Friday night we assembled in The Civic Hall Bistro and sang along with a  Double A’s-led session.  Before going upstairs and enjoying the rarity of a proper Green Room. I would say "luxury" but it was so ruddy hot we had to get out of there!
        At 7pm we kicked off  the evening concert in The Small Hall there. We were quite pleased with the turnout.  I’ve played this room before at the Festival and attendances can be a bit thin, with it being adjacent to the counter attractions of the FM Lounge. But by launch time (introduced by compere Dave Fry), we had an audience. A decent one..We performed extracts from our usual set. and had an absolute blast. Plenty of friends there to listen and some new faces too. 
       After this we wandered off around the Festival site to take in a few other acts. I went to support Paper Circus and Brian Phillips who followed each other in the FM. Lounge. Both have been very supportive to Nuneaton Folk Club. In the Circus's case I feel partly responsible for their rapid rise to fame, in that I first persuaded them to switch from the Open Mic circuit to Folk by offering them slots at NFC. 
       It’s always a treat to see anyone new reacting to Jennian's beautiful voice for the first time. Sad to see  Jim Park missing. He was poorly which is a pity as  I really think his cello and Suraj’s guitar provide an excellent canvas for Jennian to paint her sound pictures on.
       I got “shushed” by an indignant Festival goer during Brian’s Set. The bloke I was talking to was introduced to me by Brian, as we were all enjoying The Circus slot. (He was the organiser of The Cornish Folk Festival.  Whilst Brian  was reciting and singing I  was negotiating a spot for Paper Circus at a couple of West Country Festivals in 2018. I’m sure neither artiste minded me clinching that for them?) .

         When Saturday morning dawned we drew the curtains back at home and were shocked to see heavy snow.  Fortunately it was not too long before it stopped. Then we were off on the road to collect Flossy for a  working breakfast in Earlsdon. Before  setting off back to Beduff where we were due to play a 45 minute set at the ungodly hour of 11am in The Lord Mayors Cafe.   It was touching to see that some of the small but loyal posse of Nunckers had turned up specifically to support us.  
The Cafe is a smashing place in a spectacularSylvan setting (yes,in Beduff-it sits inside a pretty park).
       As we launched into "Weather With You"...the sun shone through the trees and across the lawns. It was all rather nice. John had a fit of the giggles and I went down on one knee to serenade Birthday girl Marie during "Bring It On Home." Creaked when I got back up,though. 

       It turned out to be a delightful way to while away the hours. We were followed by  Discovery,  Daisybell,Tony Portlock and Dave and Julia Taylor in entertaining a good sized audience. One who  sipped coffee, munched croissants and turned out to be a really good singing crowd.  JK and I played the same venue last year. The audience were receptive then, but they were very special here this time round. Happy, a little noisy; they chatted,came in, went out,laughed in all the right places and clattered the occasional teacup-but they were receptive and appreciative , so who, really cares?  
         Jeff and Elaine Gillett, aka Discovery, followed us. They were a versatile and entertaining duo. specialising in Trad. Arr. Jeff played a variety of instruments expertly including mandolin, dulcimer and guitar. Elaine sang in a few styles including one number where she attached Morris hankies to both wrists before gamely ( and literally) kicking off one number with a little dance routine.
       During one of their quieter ballads, we could see outside and beyond their line of vision,an entire Morris Team  assembling. Preparing,misguidedly to have a little alfresco routine out in the open.  Eventually after much tinkling of bells and rustling of Pheasant feathers, realisation began to dawn outside. They could see the instruments,could hear the singing coming from indoors and so began to work out that a full blooded dance routine a few yards away would not go down well with those inside.  A few of the squad trudged sadly away, presumably to do a Fertility dance in Tescos. Whilst a few sneaked unobtrusively inside to warm themselves up with a mug of tea and a bun. 
      Daisybell  followed Discovery. Excellent, as they always have been whenever we have shared a billing with them. They sang,danced along and supported with us whilst we were on, and we reciprocated happily. Such nice, well-adjusted young ladies with a lot of talent, it was rude not to.
       Whatever shape any future Bedworth Folk Festival may take, this may well have been the last session here, which is an awful shame if so. Dave and Julia Taylor were due to follow The Daisies,but we could not stay, as we were scheduled elsewhere. A pity, as I would have loved Flossy to have heard some of Dave’s dafter songs. We had to leave halfway through Tony's set, but he seemed in fine fettle wherever I saw him that weekend. 
           Flossy and I  became embroiled in some session singing in the Civic Hall whilst John was off competing in The Small Hall. Having sung "The Old Triangle” in exchange for a Quality Street ( I’m anyone’s for a toffee), I found I had at last become an honorary Mudcatter. I had wondered, about this previously. There was some wonderful stuff going on in there, from Graham Knights, the operatic John Morris, Bob Brooker The Thrupp'nny Bits and many more. Plus the most disturbing rendition of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"  I have ever heard. 
          In the Bistro we were sitting with Bob Brooker, He toddled off for a slot in the church and then returned agitated later, recruiting us for his 4pm “Up Close With...” session. This was due to start upstairs at 4pm. His advertised spot was  with Paper Circus. Unfortunately they had  become indisposed, so after a bit of hasty rearranging and a Foyer rendezvous with JK, we convened breathlessly in one of the Meeting Rooms and commenced only a  little bit behind schedule. 
       It turned out to be quite entertaining for all concerned. A couple of disgruntled punters left as we entered,   It was quite amusing to see who turned up expecting Jennian & Co, and then watching them trying to hide their disappointment when they found out that it was Nunc as late replacements. More a  Cardboard circus than a Paper one! 
         In fairness though, Colossi of the Folk Circuit like Kevin Dempsey and Keith Donnelly dropped in. Not only staying but singing along with us too. We took it in turns to share a song. Bob played with us on "Knocking on Heavens Door," ( as he often has previously) and we sang along and played along on Bob’s excellent cover of "The Wild Goose. "
      I’d never done one of these sessions before. They involve you telling the audience a bit about yourselves and the song. Bob started by narrating a very detailed history of his life story so far. It’s been a colourful one and it could have taken up the whole hour on its own. A nudge into action saw him finally launching into a spirited version of "Fiddlers Green." 
        KC Jones and Daisybell took over the incoming relay baton from us as we knocked off right on time. I learned some interesting additional facts about them during an informal Question and Answer session. 

        We were  due to lead a singaround back down in The Bistro at  5.45pm, sharing duties with Maria Barham. The Daisies delayed us by handing out fudge at every opportunity, but we got there eventually. It turned out to be a huge amount of fun. Once again a very diverse collective of musicians and narrators. We had songs from Moses and The Ref, Maria herself (with Spoons),John Morris, Angus Ellis, Wes Hall, Jeff Gillett and many more. We did "Albert Balls,"which was enthusiastically greeted. 

         Jon Harrington arrived and when invited to perform he opened his case of Blues harps and suggested a NuncMonkey collaboration of "How Long Blues."  The Music stall proprietor distributed Kazoos for this, making the instrumental middle sections most enjoyable. Angus filled in with a couple of songs, as many other singers also contributed.  It was well past 7pm by the time it finally petered out,to be replaced by a rich menu of top class artistes back upstairs again. Back in The Bistro I finally got my laughing gear round some food. ( it had been a long time since breakfast). Delicious catering as always from The Bistro.

       I have to say that all The Civic Hall staff went out of their way to be helpful and supportive throughout.  Malc's Army of Stewards,captained by Phil Benson,were an excellent reinforcement, too.  Everyone went the extra mile-a fitting way to close the curtain on this round of Bedworth Folk Festivals.   Wonderful photographs via Max Wright, John B. and John Wright.