Phil Gillam begins his weekly blog on all things Shrewsbury with a look at the folk festival and the steam rally - two events that fought for his attention last weekend.
I want to talk about folk and I want to talk about steam.
The two things actually have quite a bit in common in that the folk music of these islands and those noisy, smelly, gorgeous steam engines both have much to say about our history and our heritage.
Both can be seen as being as interwoven into the fabric of our nation as afternoon tea and scones or church bells being heard across the village green.
And both, as it happens, are celebrated with tremendous aplomb in Shrewsbury on the very same weekend.
Let’s kick off with the folk music.
I was lucky enough this year to be able to go along to the Shrewsbury Folk Festival at the old West Mid Showground on Sunday. My wife and one of our sons came along too and we met up with other members of the family including Super-sister Jan and Splendid Nephew Tim. (These are not just silly nicknames, by the way, they were actually christened like that).
The uninitiated first happening upon the scene ¬– giant flags flying as if this were some medieval encampment, and strange-looking Morris Men all over the place – might indeed have their worst fears about folk music confirmed within five minutes.
Because, let’s face it, however marvellous they are, Morris Men and giant flags are not everyone’s pint of real ale. But those virgin visitors to this event did not have to worry for long. Because (just as there is more to the steam world than Victorian fairground organs) there’s an awful lot more to the 21st century folk scene than Morris Men.
Let’s cut to the chase. There’s that aforementioned real ale for a start (and real cider too). There are the arts and crafts stalls, and entertainment for the little ones. Food and drink of every description . . . and the music, oh, the music!
Talented musicians and singers across a whole spectrum of genres (with the very lose umbrella of folk bringing it all together) can be found around every corner.
We loved (among others too numerous to mention): the stunning Jon Boden and the Remnant Kings, the beautiful traditional sounds of Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party, and the utterly bonkers but somehow magnificent Frumptarn Guggen Band.
We also loved the legend that is Richard Thompson and the three lovely Swedish sisters who are called collectively Baskery (so great that we went and saw them a second time later in the day).
But of course the Shrewsbury Folk Festival was not the county town's only major event taking place over the bank holiday weekend.
If (like the girl wizard Hermione Granger in one particular episode of Harry Potter) I possessed the magical power to be in two places at once, I might well have popped along also to the Shrewsbury Steam Rally, founded in 1961, staged at Onslow Park on the outskirts of town and organised by the unfailingly enthusiastic ladies and gentlemen of the County of Salop Steam Engine Society.
But I am not like Hermione (neither in terms of time-travelling ability nor – come to that – in any other regard) and so a choice had to be made.
As you have heard, we opted for the Shrewsbury Folk Festival.
But, believe me, I am a fan of the steam rally as well.
And because I have a real soft spot for steam engines, vintage vehicles, classic motorcycles, vintage fashions, fairground organs, cider-making (all things you would find at this event), I found it hard to understand the sniggering cynicism of certain of my colleagues when talking about the rally.
Terms like 'trainspotters', 'railway enthusiasts' and 'vintage car aficionados' appear to spark derision among some people, and I find this a little sad.
Now, that is not to say I haven't come across the odd ‘anorak’ myself over the years: people who assume that you’re just as fascinated as they are by the wheel arrangement of an LMS Mixed Traffic Class 5S.
Certainly, years ago, I had a friend like this myself.
Instead of regaling us with tales of the sultry seductress at the supermarket checkout who would wink at you over the cucumbers, instead of telling us about the man down the street who liked to dress up as Napoleon and then throw soil over his uniform to replicate the dust of Waterloo, instead of telling us of the crazy woman who insisted she was the love child of Lonnie Donegan and Marilyn Monroe, he would bore us to tears with detailed information on pistons, the pros and cons of different gauges, and the exact horse-power of certain locomotives.
But you don’t have to know anything at all about pistons, gauges and horse-power in order to thoroughly enjoy the Shrewsbury Steam Rally, a quintessentially English event, packed full of lovely sights and sounds to thrill anyone with a respect for history and anyone with a little romance in their soul.
I love the fact this rally is staged every year, and to the splendid people who work so hard to make it happen, I say a sincere ‘Well done’.
I’ll catch you next time.