Village Pump

Venue: White Horse Country Park
Town: Westbury
Dates: 24-26/7/15

If I was to tell you that I took the family off for a wet weekend in the shadow of a cement factory you'd probably think I was mad, but that is exactly what we did and we had a great time.

The White Horse Country Park at Westbury in Wiltshire is the current home for the Village Pump Folk Festival, which laid down its roots almost 50 years ago at the Lamb Inn in nearby Trowbridge. The park is bounded on one side by the Great Western main line between London and Plymouth and the aforementioned cement works, and the escarpment up to Salisbury Plain on the other. Overlooking the area is the White Horse carved into the side of Bratton Down that gives the park its name.

Hopefully, this review will give you an insight as to what The Village Pump Folk Festival was like to attend and what my partner Siân and our children Gethin and Morgana thought of it.

The Music The Perpective

Sunday dawned grey and drizzly, but this didn't stop us enjoying ourselves. First up music wise was the White Horse tent while my partner and daughter went off to the Drama Workshop.

Bertie Wright was an absolute revelation. Bertie has been playing the Melodion for about 10 years, not bad when you consider that he is only 16. Bertie has real feel for his instrument of choice and is a talented composer to boot. Definitely a name to watch out for in years to come. This lad has a great future ahead of him.

Before coming down to the Village Pump Folk Festival, one group that we all decided we had to catch was The Spooky Men's Chorale. We were not disappointed. It's not often that I laugh out loud to songs but this antipodean choir certainly tickled my funny bone. From a song about eyebrows, through to a song that solves the problem of remembering the songs of all the clubs and societies you may be a member of, The Universal Club Song, through to a Sufi version of Staying Alive, there wasn't a weak spot in their entire set. I can still come home to strains of "Ba'hari Ghibb" wafting around the house. I can't recommend this lot highly enough, if they are performing anywhere near you, go and see them, you'll have a blast. Spooky Men's Chorale were one of the highlights of the weekend.

Next up was a young singer songwriter making her debut at the Village Pump Folk Festival. Kelly Oliver is a young, London based performer who released her debut album, This Land, on Folkstock records in October last year. Since then she has picked up airplay on Radio 2, Has toured with Tobias Ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater and will be supporting O'Hooley And Tidow on at least one of their upcoming tour dates. Kelly's set on the Hall stage was one that I was particularly looking forward to, having enjoyed the recordings that I have heard so far. I have to say, I was not disappointed, Kelly possesses a beautiful, clear and distinctive singing voice and she is also a talented Harmonica player. Add to that Kelly's songwriting, Dave Swarbrick was impressed enough to pick her Grandpa Was A Stoker for his 2013 Passing The Baton EP, and you have all the ingredients for a good performance and that is exactly what Kelly gave us. When you are performing at a festival, there is always something else to take the potential audiences attention but Kelly must have had something because her audience grew throughout the set a festival goers popped in and ended up staying. When Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick are performing close by on the White Horse Stage that is no mean feat. Again, with the right guidance and nurturing, Kelly Oliver has a bright future ahead of her and if she is performing anywhere near you then make the effort to go and see her, you won't be disappointed

If I'm perfectly honest, when I heard that the Strawbs had pulled out at the last minute and had been replaced by Keston Cobblers Club, I wasn't unduly bothered, having heard good things about this young band, A highly enjoyable set that was well received by the assembled Village Pumpers. Their highlight? A cover version of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain with THAT solo being played on Tuba.

The last band of the weekend for us were long time favourites, Oysterband. I've lost count on the number of times we have seen them, they were our daughter's first gig at 10 days old when we saw them at Chepstow Castle in 2002 and they have never failed to disappoint, Line up changes mean that only Alan Prosser, Ian Telfer and John Jones now remain from the original line up and Ian Telfer seems to be taking more of the frontman role these days, but the sound is still distinctively Oysterband. The set has evolved over the years with newer songs making their way in and sitting nicely alongside the older favourites. One pleasant surprise was one inclusion of Billy Bragg's World Turned Upside Down. With Oysterband you know that you are going to get a good night and this years Village Pump Performance was no exception. Apparently the band's next tour will be a more stripped back acoustic version of the band consisting of just Alan, Ian and John. I look forward to seeing that but I hope that doesn't mean the end of the full Oysterband experience as I firn one will miss thief energy, stagecraft and passion.

David Chamberlain

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Spooky Men's Chorale sing Ba'hari Ghibb

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