52nd Cambridge Folk Festival


Full English now on the inside, a flat white in hand, with the emphasis on flat, I'm set up for the day, starting off with the fiddle workshop. It's quite back stage when I get there before I'm joined by one of the two workshop presenters, Rua MacMillan. Rua last did a fiddle workshop here six years ago, in the days before he joined Blazing Fiddles, the reason this knowledge comes to hand is that I'm conveniently wearing the same t-shirt as I was that day and it's got the year on it.

We resume the catching up that started when we bumped into each other yesterday and are well into chewing the fat when we're joined by the other workshop presenter, Bruce MacGregor, the longest serving member of Blazing Fiddles, he was there during the infamous caravan incident and by coincident the t-shirt I'm wearing has a caravan on it.

I was taught air fiddle by Blazing Fiddle's Catriona MacDonald a few years back and by coincidence there was a lot of focus on bowing technique at the start of the workshop to allow me to re-hone my skills.

Unlike the other workshops, the fiddle workshop was delivered in the tent rather than from the stage and with two presenters, it allowed for quick bits of individual tuition, positioning of hands etc. whilst the other presenter continued talking and playing to the majority. At the end of it everyone came away with a couple of new tunes and a better sense of understanding.

I briefly take a break from the music to attend the Civic Reception. It's a chance for the festival to thank the large number of people, staff, sponsors, volunteers etc. that without whom Cambridge Folk Festival couldn't exist. There's music from Feis Rois and this year attention is also given to the link up with Sligo Live, who have brought over some performers to take part in the sessions that occur after the main festival is over for the night and also to do a bit of busking around the field.

I'll also take the opportunity to talk about the Festival Guitar, that with the help of Mojo at the signing tent, is being signed by lots of the artists at the festival and which will be auctioned to raise funds for Youth Music.

I duck out of the reception early to catch the first act of the day on Stage One, Lady Maisery. A supergroup of folk, if a trio can be called a supergroup, Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans, the band are one of a number using Cambridge as an opportunity to sneak their album out, ahead of its forthcoming official release.

With two albums already behind them, Lady Maisery have established themselves with a real reputation for both album and live performance. They rapidly take to the task of shaking us out of our Sunday morning torpor with vocal dynamics and instrumental dexterity. With the sun shining it's an excellent start to the day.

The excellent start to the day continues with Varldens band, this time it's the whole unit, minus singer Charu Hariharan and another reference to visa issues, something we might be hearing a lot more about from musicians if we sign Article 50. There are a far wider range of instruments on stage now, from a number of different cultures, there can't be a lot of bands that have both a kora and Galacian pipes in their music.

Despite the numbers, there are plenty of opportunities to hear the individual instruments amongst the various pieces played, there's also plenty of opportunity to hear what joins musics from different parts of the world as well as what makes them unique, it is also one of those sets that give you that real energized feeling.