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Author Topic: Bridgnorth  (Read 5821 times)
Sir Robert Peel
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« on: August 29, 2005, 05:15:21 PM »

A mesmerising cacophony of dohl drums drew me to the 'road closed' signs and crash barriers from the area of the High Street. There's something about the big beats of dhol, isn't there? I found myself  marching to it's rhythms towards the farmer's market.  I shimmied as I inspected the exhibition of 'green' goods.  When there was a risk that I might start pogo-ing, I decided I needed to get a grip on myself and zimmered back to the festival site, before someone recognised me.

I wished I'd remembered to bring my pedometer to see how many miles a festival enthusiast walks in a typical day.  I zig-zagged across the venues, across the road, into town and back again.  First stop was the Longdog's encampment which looked like New Orleans - locked, empty, without human habitation, no one about.  Was it something I said?  They wouldn't shake me off that easily, I thought, and determined to call back at various intervals.

My full English breakfast was a distant memory, so next stop was food - a platter of vegetarian bits from 'No Bones Jones' - flavoured rice, chick pea and spinach curry, lentil dahl, potatoes in leek and cheese sauce, raita and tomato relish.  All that was missing was a lamb steak. Grin

Next I went to the singer's tent to listen to a young woman sing a traditional song unknown to me, in a spirited, lively fashion.  The audience wanted more, but the singer went directly to a pram, removed the baby and fastened the child to her er... chest department.  For some reason, the audience became subdued and the calls for an encore subsided. 

A quick look at the Dance Hall to see if anyone wearing a Longdog  T-shirt or Fez was disporting themselves.  Seeing no-one, I left quickly, hotly pursued by a tall chap in a red T-shirt and shorts.   
'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?' he confided.
'What's that, then?' I replied, looking at my watch, in case I was late for the next act.
'Bleddy German Bleddy Ooompah Bands.  They get everywhere.  It's like a disease.'
About 15 minutes later, I was in the main marquee when I felt someone shuffle in the seat behind me and then a whisper in my right ear: 'Bleddy Yankee Heart-bleeding songs.  Bleddy rubbish.  I'm off, see you later.'

I continued clocking up the miles as, clutching my dog-eared programme, I weaved my way to the West Side Hall, Dance Hall, pre-hurricane New Orleans encampment, food, bar, more dancing, more food, more 'unsung' singers, dance displays and pressed my nose against the windows of the workshops.

I squeezed into the last vacant seat in the middle of the marquee, as the crowds were packed shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh.  Fed-up dogs, with flattened ears, skulked under the chairs and small children stretched out, sleeping, across the laps of mum/dad or grandma/grandad.  The marquee was a magnificent structure and beats the bejasus out of Cambridge and Cropredy and the rest. The sound was clear.  The lighting was very good, except if the musician was centre-stage.  The bluish tinge took the life out of faces and made them appear in need of a good holiday.   

On Sunday afternoon, Colvin Quarmby provided two sets of astonishing entertainment with laughs, energy, sing-alongs and heart-stopping ballads.  There was a near-riot when the MC refused to allow an encore for their evening set.

I found it impossible to write down Show of Hands' set-list in the dark, cramped space next to two men who swayed and clapped along to the songs, and with a dog's sleeping head on my right foot. There was another reason, too, that I failed to get an accurate report - more of that anon.

From memory we had 'Cocaine,  Crow on the Cradle, Willin, and Nancy from Mr. Beer.  Miranda Sykes did a wonderful solo spot, but I don't know the name of the song. SK sang Romeo and Juliet. 

We had medleys of BlindFiddler/Galway Farmer, the Setting/Mary, Train/Santiago.  We had new songs such as Roots (both as an encore in the afternoon and evening), the Dive, and Undertow.  There was Cousin Jack, I Promise You,  Blue Cockade, Be Lucky, and plenty more besides.

I've no idea how many people were squeezed into that marquee, but it felt like a lot.  The last time I saw Show of Hands perform to a large crowd was at Cropredy in 2004 - but that was in the open-air, with people spread about, many of whom were getting their first glimpse of Show Of Hands and had no knowledge of their huge portfolio of unforgettable songs.  The difference at Bridgnorth was made by two things:  firstly, it seemed that everyone knew all the words to all the songs, and recognised them from the opening bars; secondly, the atmosphere was charged by being in an enclosed space, together. It was an experience and a half, to put it mildly.

Security patrolled the campsite.  There were no chavs.  There was no litter.  There was a great deal of bonhomie and friendliness.  There was no anti-social behaviour.  The facilities were first class, the sun shone, and the town gave itself over to festival-goers. The choice of performances, across all genres, meant that there was always something to do and see, and new things to taste or dip your toes into.  I filled in my I-Spy Book of Folk Award winners in 24 hours flat.  It was extraordinary value for money.   

The walk back to the town centre was down a long dark, wooded lane - something that would have daunted all but your composed and equanimous correspondent.  I intended to use the journey to recall my impressions of the festival so that I could record my notes as soon as I got to my destination.  But I got distracted.

There was a sound of a fast moving bicycle behind me, and I turned round.  All I could see was a ray of light from one of those pot-holer's davy lamp things, and presumably it was strapped to the rider's forehead. He yelped: 'I hope I've got the brakes for this, whooooo....' and I urged him on with hoops of encouragement.  It was only as he passed me that I notice that the unfortunate chap had no trousers or under-crackers on.

All thoughts of remembering stuff evaporated.  Somehow, I couldn't clear the image from my mind, of a white backside, disappearing into the distance, and winking at me.   Lips Sealed


Sir Robert Peel
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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2005, 06:15:58 PM »

Sarah and I spent our honeymoon at the Bridgnorth fok Festival 2 years ago.  It is probably the best and friendliest folk festival I've ever been to. 

It is definitely the best organised I've been to.  The year we went, all acts ran to time bar one - Eddi Reader - who was too far up herself to attend her sound check and then carried it out throughout her allocated time slot, causing the whole evening to run late as a consequence.  Personally, I'd have thrown her off at the time she was supposed to finish.
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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2005, 07:59:11 PM »

We got back from Bridgnorth a couple of hours ago, and I have to say that we thoroughly enjoyed the whole festival, it was still going on when we left but unfortunately work tomorrow calls! 
In fact, not much I can add to Sir Robert's account, it was well-organised, lovely venue(s), the feet got sore from rushing around to try and see everything, it was great to camp near the marquee, spent far too much money on the stalls, Show of Hands were terrific, as were Bellowhead, Eric Bibb (PLEASE can he come to Cropredy next year?Huh), so many others to remember, and the little parties going on afterwards at night were good fun, we were made to feel welcome wherever we went, thoroughly enjoyable - pity it's moving to Shrewsbury next year!
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