Shropshire Star

Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2017 a celebration of sunshine and smiles - with pictures

Shrewsbury Folk Festival was doing its founder proud this weekend as people came from far and wide to experience what is now regarded as one of the UK's best.

Last updated
Shrewsbury Folk Festival

The sun shone down on the festival in an unexpected bank holiday heatwave, making it all the more of a celebration in the town's West Mid Showground.

More than 7,000 people were attending for the best in folk, roots and Americana music, with people from all over the world able to join in as performances from the stage were live streamed.

It was a fitting tribute to founder Alan Surtees, who started the festival with wife Sandra in Bridgnorth in 1997 – moving it to Shrewsbury in 2006 – who passed away earlier this year after a short illness.

This year’s headliners included some of the biggest names in folk with sets from Seth Lakeman, Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders, Squeeze frontman Chris Difford, The Unthanks, Loudon Wainwright III, Tom Robinson, former Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden and long-standing festival favourites Oysterband.

Traditional dance sides in an eye catching array of costumes and colours were also showing off their stuff at the showground and out and about in Shrewsbury town centre.

Among them were Boggart's Breakfast, a border Morris side from Sheffield, dressed all in black with sparkling blue touches and striking blue faces.

Band leader Bob Richards said: "We've been doing lots of performances, loud music, processions – and generally being blue and sparkly."

Joanne Jennings, a 49-year-old teaching assistant, said "I've been to a dancing workshop this morning with Boggart's Breakfast. We're having a great time."

She had come with a large group of family and friends from Oldham for her 12th visit.

"It's because of coming here that I decided to join a north west clog morris side, after years of watching people do it here," she added.

She said she had tried Cambridge Folk Festival for a few years but decided Shrewsbury was better.

"I think it's the atmosphere generally, it's friendly and relaxed and the layout of the site is great."

This year the site had two large tents with stages to the east and west, named Bellstone and Pengwern, with a smaller tent named the Sabrina and the "village stage" in between as well as activities in the various showground buildings, a food tent, craft fair, children's entertainment and even a "quiet area".

Tents, tepees and mobile homes nestled up against the main performance spaces with people sitting out eating, drinking, chatting and playing instruments.

For Geraldine Greene, a teacher in her 30s from County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, it was a new experience and the culmination of a month of festivals.

"This is my fourth festival I've been to this August, the other three have been in Ireland.

Blowing bubbles

"It's a change because I was used to 10 days and nights of Irish music, but here there's a real mix, I really like the Canadian music.

"It's my first time in Shropshire, in Shrewsbury and at the folk festival but I'm friendly with three of the workshop teachers here, one who's from Ireland and the other two who come over.

"It's fantastic, I've never been to anything like this before.

"I did yoga at 8.30am this morning and I want to do English step clog dancing and French and Appalachian dancing.

"We're camping, it's sunny and there's so much good music, dance, youth and children here.

"It's so different – lovely, relaxed, colourful, friendly and open," she said.

Shrewsbury Folk Festival

Due to it's booming popularity in the 1960s many still associate folk with an older crowd, but those both on stage and off were of all ages.

Harry Adams, 28, and his partner Carolyne Meakin, 27, had come from Oxford specifically for the acts.

Harry, who works as an advocate, said: "This is our fourth time here now. We really come for the line-up, basically. It's the best one out of all the options for the people we want to see."

He said he was most excited about seeing female folk supergroup Coven, made up of individual acts Lady Maisery, O’Hooley & Tidow, and Grace Petrie all performing together, as well as former Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden.

"And we've just seen The Transports, which was really good," he said.

The Transports is Peter Bellamy’s groundbreaking folk opera, which tells the historical tale of a family destroyed by poverty and crime, but resurrected by exile to the new colony of Australia, but in the context of modern mass migration – in fact gathering and telling people's stories in each town where its performed as part of the "parallel lives" project.

Shrewsbury Folk Festival

Sal Hampson, projects and programmes manager with Shrewsbury's The Hive arts organisation was at the festival and had also been impressed with The Transports.

She said: "It has been done with Shropshire Supports Refugees, so incorporates the real life stories of people of people now in Shrewsbury. He must do it in every town, it's very clever."

The Hive was there supporting the Tin Shed Theatre Company, putting on a circus-style performance that people could participate in.

"It's a really great day for it, for a bit of outdoor performance. It's nice to be at Shrewsbury folk festival in the sunshine for one – it's about time!" she said.

Also on duty was Shadow Gilboa-Way who had brought her business Felt Fusion, selling hand-dyed yarn, to the festival from her home in Kettering, Northamptonshire.

Shrewsbury Folk Festival

She said: "I've done the Beautiful Days festival in Devon for a few years so we thought we'd give this a go.

"It's a great vibe, good beer, wonderful people, beautiful weather and great music," she said.

Paul and Jan Jarvis had come from Halesowen in the West Midlands for what Jan, 66, said was the "sixth or seventh" time.

She said: "I wouldn't say we're pure folkies, but we just like music.

"And it's not as if you have to get to the field early to get your spot, there's so much going on you can just wander around and see all kinds of things.

"I also think it's one of the best festivals for food. They cater for vegetarians and vegans and there's lots of emphasis on fair trade, there's something for everyone," she said.