Fun for all the family at this weekend’s FolkEast festival

FolkEast starts today

FolkEast starts today - Credit: Archant

Showcasing some of the finest musicians of the genre, FolkEast isn’t all music. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage looks at the fun families can have at this weekend’s festival.

Aside from music, activities include art

Aside from music, activities include art - Credit: Archant

While the eclectic line-up and its growing reputation keeps dedicated folk fans returning to Glemham Hall, the festival is attracting new visitors via an increasing number of creative activities, food and workshops.

Highlights include yoga, relaxed music workshops with a range of instruments in a variety of styles, dance workshops including Morris, rapper, sword and country dance as well as art and heritage craft workshops using clay, iron, wool, patchwork and more.

Some of the area’s most prestigious heritage and preservation groups are joining in the fun to talk local history. Sutton Hoo, The Leiston Long Shop and the Suffolk Punch Trust are running activities to share their knowledge and passion with the little ones and their parents. There will also be face-painting, den-building, coconut shys, musical activities and lots more.

The festival is even having a renaissance of the ancient custom of dwile flonking on Sunday. Fun to take part in, fun to watch.

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The best local produce - Credit: Archant

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“There’s something for everyone of any age. Folk is such a diverse genre, most people love the music without realising it’s folk. But more and more people are coming not just for the music but for the delicious local food and drink and the excellent activities for kids - and adults - to watch and take part in,” says John Marshall-Potter, who founded FolkEast with wife Becky.

“FolkEast is genuinely designed to be a family festival so activities for children are central to our planning. We hope even more people will pop along this year to see for themselves.”

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Kids highlights include:

Story Shack: Books, stories, reading, writing and imagining in a relaxed setting.


Dancing - Credit: Archant

Animation Workshops: I Made This is a charity which works with young people using music and video to inspire and empower.

Games with the Games Master: A sports day with a difference on the Sunday.

Park Gates Donkeys: Rides across the site for children.

The Mud Kitchen: Messy play for youngsters.

And performances from the likes of The Young 'Uns. Photo: Simon Ballard

And performances from the likes of The Young 'Uns. Photo: Simon Ballard - Credit: Archant

Cook with the Kids: Emma Haines gets the children cooking up a storm in the Giant Tepee in the Imaged Suffolk Food Village.

The Woodcraft Folk: Games and bushcraft activities using recycled and natural materials.

The festival is about sharing skills and knowledge and feedback from last year showed guests loved its interactive nature. The team has laid on loads more workshops. Participants include Sam Sweeney (fiddle), Philip Henry (harmonica), John Spiers and Andy Cutting (melodeon), ex-Beautiful South member Gary Hammond (percussion) plus more showcasing the bodhran, panpipes and guitar.

David Grimwood, in charge of The Imagined Suffolk Food Village, says this year they’ve added workshops that get people cooking and eating the food too.

“Not the type of demos you’d find at a food festival. That’s not what we’re trying to emulate. Rather, informal family cooking to get the kids involved and show people why Suffolk food is some of the best around. There will be foraging and camp fire cookery, there will be fun, music and laughter – what’s not to like.”

FolkEast was voted one of the Ultimate 50 things to do in Suffolk in 2014 in an East Anglian Daily Times and BBC Radio Suffolk public poll. Part of this is down to everyone working on it being keen to volunteer. Another is the organisers’ willingness to embrace and introduce visitors’ ideas.

Becky says this year’s festival is bigger and better. “We’re looking forward to the new art gallery. Three esteemed artists with strong Suffolk connections are holding an exhibition in the old racquet court at Glemham Hall, Jelly Green, Liza Adamczewski and Johnny White’s work will give visitors a visual feast.

“We’re really proud to host the first ever instrumental, where local instrument maker Otis Luxton has brought together 12 of the finest makers of handmade instruments to take part in the first instrument makers’ festival within a festival. It’ll have a little bit of everything from bodhrans to violins, bagpipes, whistles and guitars.

“This year, like every year, we’re really looking forward to seeing everyone having a great time and enjoying the festival. That’s why we do it year after year. That and the humour and character that are so evident through the festival-goers, the music and everyone taking part. It’s a family and we love them all.”

The independent event is fast gaining recognition as one of the country’s top folk festivals. With BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Group of 2015 The Young’uns as patrons, this year showcases some of the finest musicians of the genre; including fellow Radio 2 Folk Award winners Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker as well as festival favourites Peter Knight’s Gigspanner.

Other acts include The Unthanks, Peatbog Faeries and the return of False Lights who will debut their new song The Murder in the Red Barn. Neil Innes will be there as will John Spiers, who is taking a break from Bellowhead and going solo at FolkEast; fellow Bellowhead band member Sam Sweeney performs with folk group Leveret and Paul Sartin and Benji Kirkpatrick in Faustus.

FolkEast runs August 21-23. Click here for more details.

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