The countdown to one of the country’s most quirky, friendly and popular music festivals has begun! In just a month’s time England’s most easterly folk festival, FolkEast, will return for the seventh year running to the glorious grounds of Suffolk’s 16th century Glemham Hall – with undoubtedly its starriest line-up to date.
Headliners – Richard Thompson, Karine Polwart & Cara Dillon
Between August 16-18 festivalgoers will be treated to performances across seven stages from an outstanding line-up of musicians from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, spearheaded by the legendary singer songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson and including Cara Dillon & friends, the Karine Polwart Trio, John Smith, Calan, Sharon Shannon Band, Ross Ainslie, Jarlath Henderson and Ali Hutton, Daphne’s Flight, Blair Dunlop and Siobhan Miller.
The eclectic collective ranges from national treasures to some of the most exciting new kids on the block; numerous BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winners and notable overseas acts from Canada (Good Lovelies) and Poland (Brasy). Stages include the ‘Sanctuary’ stage at St Andrew’s Church, the open air Sunset Stage and the hidden woodland solar-powered Soapbox Stage.
Two of the defining emblems of FolkEast are back this year – the infamous mythical Jackalope (half antelope; half jack rabbit) and an arboreal art installation that traditionally marks the start of the countdown to the festival.
The annual dressing of the 65 foot dead oak tree on the Glemham Hall Estate began in 2013. Wrapped in hundreds of metres of vibrant red and yellow cloth it has become a recognised totem visible from the nearby A12 and heralding the imminent start of three days of festival fun.
This year’s Jackalope, again constructed by Juan Romero, will be a high-tech one featuring water, lights and fire.
Rekindling the ancient Eastfolk moots on the Glemham Hall estate where for three days a year the folk from the East would meet kith and kin at harvest time for “a bit of a do”, this gathering has Suffolk running through it like letters in a stick of rock.
Becky Marshall-Potter who co -founded the festival with husband John says:
“The tree is dressed, the programme set, tickets are selling briskly and we are almost at the start line again! Our hugely popular patrons The Young’uns unfortunately won’t be with us this year as they are busy making waves in America but the festival will still bear their stamp, the main stages having been programmed by The Young’uns Michael Hughes.”
And this year there will be a special on-site guest – the amazing Pakefield Man, created by Suffolk sculptor Tobias Ford, and last seen stuffed with straw and set alight at sunset on the beach at Lowestoft’s First Light Festival in June.
The steel sculpture was created after worked flints from 700,000 years ago were found on Pakefield Beach.
The Marshall-Potters are committed to creating a sustainable festival for Suffolk and to that end are aiming to make this a single use plastic-free event.
Says Becky: “From the outset we have strived to be as environmentally sound as we can be.” (They have been awarded gold level status by the Suffolk Carbon Charter.)
“This year we are making a concerted effort to do our bit for the planet which means we are asking every one – crew, artists, public and volunteers – to bring reusable drinking bottles and refill them from the on-site water supply. We have asked the traders not to bring drinks for sale in single use plastic and we are not intending to supply any on site. So please bring your own drinking bottles, tankards and flagons.”
The Pitmen Poets and Peter Bellamy’s Maritime England Suite of Sea Songs
Two special events are in the FolkEast 2019 mix. On the Saturday head for the Moot Hall for a concert with a true Suffolk flavour. Aldeburgh Young Musicians will be joined by folk musicians Greg Russell, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, and Laura-Beth Salter to perform a new interpretation of Peter Bellamy’s ‘Maritime England Suite of Sea Songs’, described as “songs of the sea from the Saxons to the 19th century”.
Former Suffolk resident Bellamy, who lived at Leiston, was a unique singer, musician and composer who tragically took his own life in 1991 at the age of just 47, but left behind a treasure trove of work.
A landmark event on Sunday will see four of the North-East’s giants of folk music championing the musical and industrial heritage of their stamping ground. The Pitmen Poets features County Durham’s prolific and celebrated singer songwriter Jez Lowe, ex Lindisfarne member Billy Mitchell, renowned singer/instrumentalist Bob Fox and Benny Graham, leading exponent of Tyneside song.
A show that digs deep into the heart of Britain’s coalmining tradition, it has been described as “an epic journey through the life and times of people who made a living in Northumberland and Durham’s coalfields.”
Illustrated by atmospheric archive photography, it mixes storytelling and song, humour and pathos, triumph and tragedy.
When it comes to refreshment, two authentic ‘village’ pubs will be serving competitively-priced ales (including Suffolk-based Green Jack Brewery’s festival ale Green Jackalope) or you can squeeze into possibly the smallest pub in the UK, the 6 x 4’ Halfway Inn.
Then there’s the FolkEast Art Arcade, Instrumental, bringing together some of the country’s top instruments makers, a packed dance programme, poetry, archery, donkey rides, children’s activities (including den building, storybook making and a mud kitchen linked together in a special new children’s trail) yoga, poetry, storytelling, the Eastfolk Chronicle Kinedrome (showing folk and local interest films) and tours of Glemham Hall by estate owner Major Philip Cobbold.
On board again this year as a media partner will be BBC Radio Suffolk.
Advance weekend tickets are available price £120 (adult), £108 (full time students, 65+) and £80 for Youth tickets (12-17 year old) which must be purchased with an adult ticket. Family weekend tickets for two adults and two 12-17 year olds are £365. A great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under; camping under canvas is £20 and camping on wheels £30.
For daily line up information: https://folkeast.co.uk/daily-line-up-so-far/
Located close to the A12, the festival will also be running shuttle buses to the site from Wickham Market station – a collaboration with Suffolk Community Rail Partnership.
Festival website: www.folkeast.co.uk