52nd Cambridge Folk Festival


Well that's it, confirmation that another year has passed Cambridge Folk Festival has rolled out of the future and into the present or the past by the time you read this. Time to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

The journey to Cambridge is uneventful, contingency time built in due to known roadworks proved to be unrequired and therefore supporting the great law of Sod. It also means that my first drink on reaching Cambridge will be a coffee.

Cambridge Folk Festival starts for me before I reach the site with a lunchtime meet up in the Robin Hood. As well as meeting up with the rest of the Fatea team, we are joined by other long standing members of the Pit Ponies, the term applied to the snappers etc who lug their gear around the festival from photo pit to photo pit.

There have been a few changes this year, a lot of the media team are new, lightly sprinkled with some more familiar faces and there's a new company running the bar, Otter Brewery. The main bar is slightly shorter in length, leaving more space inside for people to gather, a great idea given the forecast of sporadic showers.

When I get there, there's a session of local musicians in the corner, utilising the piano that has been laid on for public use, as well as a multitude of instruments they've brought along themselves. I spot jovial Cambridge Folk Festival compere Keith Day giving it large on the double bass and I'm already getting the feeling it's going to be a good year.

I listen a while before I remember that I haven't yet got my lanyard for the year. The lanyard was an innovation from the previous year, a truncated festival program to wear around your neck and provide a quick a quick reference guide to who is on when.

When the music starts at six, I take my festival openers at the Club Tent. The Georgia Shackleton Trio have the honour of starting the proceedings there. As the name implies, they are a trio, lead by Georgia Shackleton, distantly related to the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton, joined by two other musicians, Aaren Bennett and Nic Zuppardi on the guitar and mandolin. What can't be implied by the name is that they have a new album, "The Dog Who Would Not Be Washed" being released very soon.

Naturally the title song of the album features prominently in the set, a set that includes a delightful combination of songs and tunes, both traditional and self-penned. It's a great start to the festival, bright and fresh.

For me the next act comes as part of a, thankfully, rare event a scheduling error. The Dovetail Trio, not lead by a Dovetail, but rather Wiltshire's Rosie Hood, joined by Sussex's Matt Quinn and Yorkshire's Jamie Roberts have a different instrument configuration, substitute a concertina for the mandolin, and do more harmony singing, including full blown accapella, but it has to be said there are similarities between the two opening acts, without diminishing the individual performances or style of either, more of a gap or different stages perhaps.

It also has to be said, The Dovetail Trio gave a highly enjoyable performance. They had the audience singing along on a couple of numbers and were definitely building a nice atmosphere on day one.

I need to get across to Stage Two for O'Hooley & Tidow, but on the way there bump into Will Vardy, whose next up on the Club Tent and join in a conversation around his recent walking tour and gigs good and bad. Walking tours seem to be gaining a bit of traction at the moment, it does really on venues being happy to book artists that may have played a venue the previous night that little bit closer, something that might benefit touring in general. As it is I just get to Stage Two in time.