New Forest Folk Festival – 2021 Review by Paul Johnson

To be honest, those of you who know me will know…I’m an audio man, a radio man, a broadcaster. My job for the last 30 years has been talking to people in one way or another. Being that in one of my bands, live radio, live radio road shows, pod casts or one of the several hundred audio interviews with artists I have done since 2002!

So imagine my surprise, and fear… when immediately after Lewis Beech and I (in the campervan) were towed out of the very muddy artist and traders field by a very large tractor.. Under the watchful eye of Keith Curtis (Camera in hand as ever!)Once freed from the mud he asked if I could write a review of this year’s New Forest Folk Festival. So as always Nick, Keith and Helen had made us so welcome and looked after us so well over this magical festival… how could I refuse?

So as I said I’m an audio man – hence it taking so long for me to actually write this. Forgive me please Keith Nick and Helen for my slowness – but here goes my attempt at ‘the written word’!

With so many festivals and gigs cancelled we all know what an appalling two years it’s been for our music and live music performers.

So many festivals fell victim to the dreaded virus and the governments lack of support and sometimes late and unclear messaging (sorry I mustn’t get political here) opinions and views differ much, and I guess that’s what makes us who we are! Great British people – if not mad dogs and Englishmen!

But out of sheer determination, bloody mindedness and against all odds Keith, Nick Helen and all the extended family friends and of the festival team pulled this off and got the festival on! An amazing feat indeed given the horrendously difficult circumstances of Covid 19

It’s hard if not impossible to explain just how difficult  this must have been, and I just could not do Nick and the team justice by trying to tell you all the hoops they had to jump through, and the near impossible regulations etc they had to put in place – let alone the enforced reduced attendance numbers – so I won’t try – suffice to say, that after every performance and stage change over – all microphones s, stands and leads had to be wiped sterilised and cleaned or changed… and that’s only a part of it!

If you want to know all the ins and outs then next year, have a chat to either Nick or Keith at the bar and I’m sure they will happily tell you.

From my part and all the team at this year was doubly hard for us, as if Covid wasn’t bad enough – much like thousands of other people we had to cope with  tragic loss. In this case the loss of our founder member Darren Beech. Ironically not from Covid 19.

A tragic loss indeed of this beautiful lovely kind man.  Our best friend, a great father , promoter, folk music lover and a man that was affectionately known by thousands.  Darren Beech was very well known and loved throughout our folk/folk rock world and the festival circuit.

So being that the last festival  Darren and I went to together with his son Lewis Beech was indeed the New Forest Folk Festival. – it was both emotionally challenging and yet fitting that Lewis Beech and I came back to The New Forest Folk Festival to cover our first festival since Darren’s passing and to continue his legacy and our work in covering folk music festivals, events and interviewing artists.

So it was always going to be an emotional one… but I soon  realised within a couple of hours of being there that all the people and all the artist were so pleased to be at a festival again!  Many just could not believe they were at a festival again and were so pleased to be there – everyone who goes to this little friendly festival with the big line up are always pleased to be there – but this was ’pleased to be there in super size pleased ! Thank you also to all the artists kind respectful words and support to us following the loss of Darren. This festival not only gave us a brilliant line up as usual, but gave us and the audience hope, revitalisation and a feeling of joy that we are getting back to doing what we love – a much needed tonic to all present ! in the words on a song on his latest EP – Martyn Joseff… says ‘When we get through this’. And what a cracking magical set Martyn Joseph played.. pure magical beautifully crafted songs that reduced both Lewis and I to tears.

There was a genuine air of happiness and joy to be back at the festival.

Talking to the artists some of the musicians were worrying that their playing might be a little rusty as they hadn’t played live for such a long time.

But they need not have worried as they all sounded awesome.

The main stage line up was brilliant and included folk duo Show of Hands ‘Now we are Four’,  Trad arr , Gerry Colvin, Louise Jordan, Home Service, Cregan & Co, Feast of Fiddles, Phil Beer Band, Martyn Joseph, Ranagri, Luke Jackson Trio, Granny’s Attic and Red Shoes.

Each and every act brought their own unique take on this wonderful weekend with great music stunning performances and a general air of ‘belonging again’

Back doing what they love doing . Doing what they were born to do – a kick in the wotsits for Covid and all we have endured over the last two years. Proving to me that you can try and take the Festivals out of our lives but you can never remove them from our hearts and determination to keep then in our lives, our scene our tradition alive.  It was so good to be back – so thank you Nick Keith and Helen and all involved in making this happen.

As usual the festival fringe kept us entertained with workshops, and shanty sing a rounds. The food suppliers were excellent as ever serving safe clean and delicious fine foods.. The weather tried to dampen our spirits but even at its heaviest down pours many stuck with it riding the storm –  quite literally to see the live music on stage – after all … we are ‘British Folk fans!

If you have never been to The New Forest folk festival – you are missing a treat a really friendly family orientated lovely festival.

Long live the little festival with the big line up.

I can’t wait to go back next year!

Paul Johnson.

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