Incredible music, scintillating dance and great local food made the 2012 Shrewsbury Folk Festival an event to remember.
Six thousand people of all ages partied away the weekend to the best of folk, acoustic and roots music at the Shropshire Showground.
An online audience estimated at more than 20,000 people also tuned in to enjoy broadcasts that were beamed live around the world.
Organisers were today totting up the total number of viewers – and predicting it would be the highest ever.
When the dust settles, fans and organisers alike will look back on 2012 as being the year that the festival truly came of age.
Having started from humble origins as a small-scale event for folk music afficionados, it is now one of the UK’s best.
The line-up this year featured big name act following big name act on to the main stage. The festival also achieved other aims of bringing together the best of folk-based entertainment.
One of the highlights was its innovative Global Dance Project, which captivated the main stage on Saturday afternoon.
The best of Africa, Asian, English and Irish dance was fused in a series of energetic routines that left some members of the audience crying tears of joy.
Having started in impressive fashion on Friday with sets from Session A9, Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo and the remarkable Galacian bagpipe virtuoso Anxo Lorenzo, the event got better and better.
Jackie Oates and Jonathan Byrd both impressed on Saturday afternoon, while the incredibly talented Lorenzo returned for a second set on Stage Two.
Saturday evening, meanwhile, was a succession of highlights with big-hitters taking to the stage to huge applause.
Innovative British folk star Jim Moray returned to Shrewsbury to deliver a stand out set before making way for one of the event’s all-time favourites: Kate Rusby.
She is one of the SFF’s most requested artists, a national treasure whose heavenly voice has made her an international star.
She didn’t disappoint on Saturday during a night of great English folk.
What followed was spectacular. Show of Hands have reached the stage in their careers when they could happily play greatest hits sets to much acclaim. That, however, would not be enough for one of the genre’s most innovative acts.
Their Saturday night headline set was a reprieve of their acclaimed Royal Albert Hall show from Easter 2012.
It featured The Urban Soul Orchestra, a six-piece string section whose deft accompaniment took the music of Steve Knightly, Phil Beer and double-bassist Miranda Sykes to a new level. Elsewhere, there was much to enjoy. Vin Garbutt returned to the festival after a six-year absence, playing powerful, warming tunes that had great emotional resonance.
The line-up yesterday was equally inspiring. Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party, Karine Polwart and Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden were among the stars of a terrific programme of afternoon entertainment.
The evening programme was similarly impressive, with Polwart switching from her afternoon set on Stage Two to the main stage. She was followed by Plainsong, world class singers and songwriters with 40 years’ experience to their names.
Richard Thompson was last night’s headliner, the Ivor Novello Award-winning star returning following a break of four years to pack an emotional punch.
Shrewsbury Folk Festival has established itself as one of the UK’s premier events. Happily, it has carved out its own niche. It ploughs its own furrow, refusing to bow to fashion or copy other successful events.
With an exceptional line-up, innovative dance programmes and immaculate use of the Showground; the Shrewsbury Folk Festival has finally come of age.