52nd Cambridge Folk Festival


A day at a festival should always start with a good breakfast, it really does set you up for the day and makes it less critical if you miss lunch.

On site the day starts at the Club Tent with a songwriting workshop from Chris Wood. I'm a big fan of the workshops at Cambridge, they not only provide an insight into the instrument/subject they are about, but also into the psyche of the person giving them.

Considering the confidence of his performances, it was a bit surprising that Chris Wood started the workshop like a frog peering at the on switch of a blender from the inside, but quickly warmed to task and audience as he found his stride, reaching into his acerbic humour to steady the nerves.

Once there he reached out, asking the audience if there were particular songs, they wanted to talk about, choosing to play some of the songs in section and others completely as appropriate to questions.

There are some quality writers I recognise in the audience as well, Sam Kelly, Amy Goddard to name, but two. The great thing about music is that it's a never ending learning experience. Coincidentally both are artists I'm looking to catch over the weekend.

This was mixed with a series of anecdotes around meetings with other songwriters that he'd met and seen performing. In the end it felt more like "A Morning With Chris Wood" than a songwriting workshop, but still a great way to spend ninety minutes and from the copious notes being taken it certainly looked like aspiring songwriters in the audience took a lot from it.

A Friday feature is the Mojo Interview. Colin Irwin interviews one of the main artists at the festival, this year it's Kate Rusby. Kate is a great friend of Cambridge and comes here this year off the back of her own Underneath The Stars festival, back home in Yorkshire

She has a wealth of experiences in folk music having grown up in the genre and the free ranging interview reaches right back to her early festival going days with her parents. She's joined later in the interview by her husband Damien O'Kane and they perform a number together to wrap up another great interview and one highlights that sense of family and friends that permeates folk and acoustic styles generally.

Also on-stage is the guitar from 2015's Festival that was signed by a lot of the artists that played last year and is being auctioned on Ebay. There is another guitar being signed this year for a future action so do keep an eye out on the website for that. Also worth keeping an eye on the Cambridge & Fatea for a Cambridge Folk Festival spin off event "City Roots" in February.

Friday sees the activation of Stage One with local, I think they've been resident in the area for long enough to be called local, band Megson having the honour of kicking it off.

Megson are a great example of bands that have come through the festival. They first played the festival ten years ago as a turn up and play act. Since then they have played every stage except one, until now.

They have recently released, "Good Times Will Come Again, surprisingly their first album entirely of their own songs and this was the first opportunity for me to hear the songs live and boy do they translate well.

Debs & Stu are augmented by Cliff from the Willows and Nizlopi's John Parker on bass to give a more rounded sound. It works really well and hopefully something that we'll get to see/hear more often.

Megson are not afraid to tackle political issues in their songs, both of a personal and wider nature, for example covering the family impact of the destruction of the industrial North East by the Tories and their neo-liberal allies. It's a great set formed from a great album, highly enjoyable.