41st Cambridge Folk Festival

Memories 2

Jon Chan Here Since 3

I've been coming every year to this festival since I was 3. My cousin came to the first one, in her mother's womb! This is how I never forget how old she is. We used to bed down in my Nan's caravan in her front garden in Cherry Close. You could hear the festival from there long into the night.

I've seen almost ever legend there ever was play at Cambridge. Alex Campbell, Johny Silvo, Ry Cooder, Dave Grisman, Roy Harper when he came with Jimmy Page, Christy Moore. It pays to be able to recognise the artists by sight. Often the best opportunities are the unique moments when they arrive unanounced. I'll never forget jamming with Michelle Shocked out in the campsite at night. That pulled a bigger crowd than mainstage two, and is the very reason why Cherry Hinton camping is a must. Or when Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee turned up unannounced and the whole schedule was rearranged.
We were walking home and we passed them at the main gate, we just turned right around and stayed til midnight.

Recently Joan Baez put in an appearance. I was wandering out of the club tent and she walked right past me, no body-guards nothing, so I turned around. Turns out she's best mates with someone from the local club and had agreed to do a floor spot! Up-closeand personal that's Cambridge.

The small size is it's best asset, but it makes security an issue. There's always a shortage of tickets. Gone are the days when they were just a clay plaque you hung around your neck! But I think you could be a bit more traditional with your posters. I particularly like the one from the 12th festival, of the little old lady with her Martin. Nan still has it framed.

Artists use this closeness to get personal with their audience. You really feel you've learned something about them. Michelle Shocked appeared two years running. By the 2nd year she was an international star and the tent was packed to standing room only. She stopped for 30 minutes in the middle of her set to "talk" to us about her new-found stardom and the principals
behind her music that she vowed she would never change. She was good to her word and within another 2 years the music industry dumped her.

Finally we can now get her music again from her own website. Hurrah for the internet. Cambridge has welcomed this by setting up its cybercafe. Thank you for bringing legends to the UK, who I never dreamed of meeting. Odetta must have been in her 70s when she stopped mid-set to warn the young people about the dangers of un-safe sex! Generally the audiences love this banter and it's extended by the "workshops" run by artists. Truely it is a festival for the artists as much as the audience. A few years back, I was leafing through the program and I came across The Levellers, and I said "Jonty Sevink I remember him!" he lived up the road from me in Harlow. He gave me my first bike! Wow.

Keep it personal Cambridge. Keep it small. Never ever change the venue. Carry on seeking out the best and the new as well as the traditional and keep bringing them to the UK. The fame of this festival is unrivalled perhaps even by Newport or Listdoonvarna. We love it. It's ours. Here's to another 40 years!

Jon Chan

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