Previewed, FolkEast festival at Glemham Hall
- Credit: Archant
FolkEast returns for a fifth year. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage looks at what’s in store for visitors while festival co-founder Becky Marshall-Potter gives her top picks.
Spread across six stages - including St Andrew’s Church, the open air Sunset Stage and the hidden woodland Soapbox Stage which is run entirely by solar power from a double decker bus - the three-day festival opens today at Glemham Hall.
As well as music, visitors can also enjoy Suffolk food fare, two authentic village pubs serving festival ales, an instrument makers’ festival, the FolkEast Art Arcade, children’s activities, yoga, poetry, storytelling, horse-drawn carriage rides and tours of Glemham Hall by Major Philip Cobbold himself.
One highlight will be the first collaboration between folk legends Peter Knight and John Spiers tonight.
Set details have been kept mostly under wraps but is likely to include English, Galician and Quebecois tune sets as well as improvised music.
The pair have been busy rehearsing at Spiers’ Oxfordshire home with Spiers tweeting: “Great fun today playing tunes with Peter Knight seeing what we can come up with for @FolkEast... Sounding good.”
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On his website Knight wrote: “I’ve been booked to play one of my favourite festivals and so has John Spiers. It had to be done. We will be playing a set together - I’m loving it. He should be called John InSpires. What a lovely player.
“During the rehearsals I recorded John playing some tunes, so I’m playing along with them to learn them before weaving some of my own musical thoughts and expression into them. So pop along to FolkEast festival and check it out.”
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Few fiddlers can hold a candle to Knight, who since his departure from folk-rock’s iconic Steeleye Span in 2013 has turned his full attentions to his boundary blurring Gigspanner trio. Spiers is one of the leading squeezebox players of his generation. With the final curtain falling on the multiple award-winning band Bellowhead as well as the duo Spiers and Boden, he’s busy pursuing a new solo route.
The FolkEast line-up includes seven 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards nominees, three of whom emerged as winners: Best musician Andy Cutting, best emerging act (Horizon Award): Sam Kelly and best group: FolkEast’s patrons The Young ‘uns.
Other nominees appearing are Eliza Carthy, folk singer of the year; Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts, best duo; Dan Walsh, musician of the year and Sam Carter, best album nomination for Salvor, his False Lights collaboration with Jim Moray - an act whose first ever appearance was at FolkEast.
There are also three powerhouse band headliners – Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band, a rare appearance by seven-piece Blowzabella and an exclusive UK festival performance by Irish supergroup Usher’s Island whose number includes Andy Irvine and Mike McGoldrick. You can read our interview with Irvine online now.
Suffolk performers include The Broadside Boys, The Busking Sharks, the duo Shorelark, The John Ward Band and Halesworth-based singer songwriter Daisy Vaughan. The Soapbox Stage, curated by local promoter Amy Wragg will introduce up-and-coming musicians and poets from the region.
FolkEast has also stepped up its dance programme with a range of Morris sides from The Witchmen to Ouse Washes. There will be a dedicated dance venue hosting a wide range of events including daily ceilidhs, workshops and late night dance sessions. Other workshops will cover song, instruments, writing, art and heritage crafts.
This year’s event also sees the return of Instrumental, a festival within a festival. It brings together some of the country’s top instruments makers. Standing out on site with a huge steel guitar at the entrance, top craftsmen from Wales, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire and beyond will be bringing along anything from bagpipes, fiddles and even banjos made from biscuit tins.
You may even bump into Usher’s Island’s Irvine who plays the mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, harmonica and sometimes hurdy-gurdy.
Located close to the A12, FolkEast is also be running shuttle buses to the site from Wickham Market station. The festival runs August 19-21,
BECKY MARSHALL-POTTER’S PICKS
Usher’s Island, Sunday: (My husband) John’s coup and he can’t wait...
Spiers and Knight, Friday: One of the joys of putting the festival together is we’re able to offer opportunities for artists to collaborate and come to try things out. We’re absolutely delighted to have two folk legends appearing together in a one-off performance on Friday night and I can’t wait to see what they will do.
Gardeners’ Question Time, Sunday: Sunday wouldn’t be the same without Gardeners’ Question Time and we take over the garden marquee which is set in the glorious grounds of Glemham Hall. I’ll have a few questions to ask the panel about what to do with my hydrangeas so I’m looking forward to it. Steve Coghill, senior horticulturalist at Kings College Cambridge is a huge supporter of FolkEast and used to be the head gardener at Glemham Hall. He’ll be joined by John Spiers who will be putting down his melodeon and showing off his giant onions.
Human Cargo, Sunday: Matthew Crampton’s book really resonated with us. With The London Lubbers he’ll be performing tales and folk songs from the 18th and 19th Centuries alongside testimonies of those who have been displaced in the modern day. Powerful and thought provoking. Something to keep our feet on the ground.
The Broadside Boys featuring Tom Leary, Saturday: Now this is fantastic. We have so much amazing local music such as Fern Teather, Shorelark, Lisa Redford and this year house band the Broadside Boys will be joined by the joyous Feast Fiddles fiddler Tom Leary. This will be a lot of fun.
n The Soapbox goes to the cinema, Saturday Night: There is a unique film premiere on the SoapBox stage, breathing new life into a series of short films from the East Anglian Film Archive and the BFI with live scores from The Alex Carson Quartet. Definitely a late night showing not to be missed. The SoapBox stage always has an amazing array of local music talent and spoken word curated by Amy Wragg. Great stuff all weekend.
Aldeburgh Young Musicians and The Young’uns, Friday; as well as David Eagle’s late night DJ set The Young’uns in the Mix on Saturday: We have no idea what will happen.
Eliza Carthy and the Wayward band, Friday: This is one I really want to see... Love the big sound and a fantastic line-up. Crumbs... I also want to do the sports day on Saturday and the Dwile flonking on Sunday - where do you stop?