With the biggest easing of Covid restrictions about to go ahead, and the roadmap out of lockdown on target, England’s most easterly folk festival, FolkEast, has confirmed it is on course to return this August – with weekend tickets now on sale.
Last summer FolkEast became the first English folk festival to stage a live, socially-distanced event as restrictions lessened following the Covid outbreak.
Along with many other 2020 folk weekends, the popular, independent East Anglian festival had regrettably been shelved by husband-and-wife organisers Becky and John Marshall-Potter back in April.
But, not to be defeated and never short of ideas, they were determined to organise something that would bring the flavour of FolkEast to Suffolk on the original August weekend of their festival.
Buoyed by supporters donating nearly £33,000 to a crowdfunder to ensure the future of the festival they announced Virtually FolkEast – a two day live and streamed open-air event from a meadow at FolkEast HQ for a 200-strong daily audience in socially distanced pitches, who were treated to performances by artists including festival patrons The Young’uns, Sam Kelly with some of his Lost Boys, John Spiers, The Hut People, Suffolk’s own Honey and the Bear and new singer-songwriter sensation Katherine Priddy.
Carefully following Covid guidelines, the event was licenced by East Suffolk Council and that experience – and the subsequent welcome £80k award from the Culture Recovery Fund – has stood organisers in good stead for bringing FolkEast back where it belongs this summer.
The eighth FolkEast will return to the glorious Constable-esque grounds of Elizabethan Glemham Hall between August 20-22 in a streamlined, slimmer, spacious and Covid–secure way – with most of the original 2020 line-up preserved.
Weekend tickets are now on sale until June when daily tickets will be offered until August 13. All tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets purchased for 2020 can be automatically carried over to this year and ticket costs are frozen at last year’s prices – a competitive £120 for a weekend adult ticket while a great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under. There will also be a limited number of camping tickets available.
Says Becky: “It is so exciting to be gearing up to getting artists and audience back together again, along with our great crew, volunteers and stall-holders. This year will clearly be different and we have had to make some difficult decisions in order to adapt to the ever-changing situation.”
Festival regulars will see a change of site layout to allow for a one-way system and just two open-air stages – the main Sunset stage and Moot Hall– plus a large, airy workshop space. Although the much loved covered venues – Soapbox, Broad Roots and Dance tent –will be absent, they will be back in 2022 and elements of their creativity and uniqueness will be present on site.
The awesome Afro Celt Sound System will headline Saturday night. The Grammy Award-nominated supergroup are past masters at fusing electronica with traditional Irish and West African music, producing a scintillating, high energy stage set. Formed back in 1995 by producer-guitarist Simon Emmerson, they won Best Group at the 2017 Songlines Music Awards.
Artists due to travel from Canada – Newfoundland trio The Once and Irish-Canadian singer songwriter Irish Mythen will now take a rain check until 2022 – but the festival will field a rich mix of UK and home-grown East Anglian artists over the three days.
Alongside the event’s hugely popular, multi award-winning patrons, The Young’uns (Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle), the line-up will include the sublime, seamless partnership of Welsh harpist Catrin Finch with Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita. The exquisite pair clinched the Best Duo/Group award at the last BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, with Keita also winning the coveted Musician of the Year title.
FolkEast loves its Celtic connections and this year will be no exception with Ireland represented by the excellent, Dublin-born traditional singer and bouzouki player Daoiri Farrell.
Flying the flag for Scotland will be three superb acts. Headlining the Sunday night will be pedigree triumvirate Drever, McCusker, Woomble which sees master fiddler John McCusker joining forces with Orkney-born singer songwriter Kris Drever and Idlewild’s lead singer Roddy Woomble.
Named the Best Live Act at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2018, quintet Elephant Sessions will head to Suffolk from the Scottish Highlands with their unique brand of indie folk to headline the Friday night while the powerhouse sextet of female instrumentalists that is The Shee (including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year 2017, harpist Rachel Newton) are sure to have the wow factor with their adventurous blend of Scottish folk, Gaelic song and bluegrass.
Folk legend Peter Knight will bring his six-strong Gigspanner Big Band to the party. The Big Band takes his original Gigspanner trio (himself, Roger Flack and Sacha Trochet) and fuses them with the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’ winners Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin (Edgelarks) and erstwhile Bellowhead star John Spiers to make something truly special, bursting with invention, enigma and grace. Though all the musicians have played FolkEast in their separate guises (including the memorable debut performance of Knight and Spiers as a duo) this is the first time the full-strength Big Band has headed to Glemham Hall.
Adding to the rich mix will be ‘eclectic art rock band’ Hannah Moule and the Moulettes, instrumental trio Three Cane Whale, Elbow Jane, Topette!!, The Hut People, Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith, MG Boulter and the new-look Trials of Cato (original members Tomas Williams and Robin Jones now joined by Polly Bolton.)
As always, the festival will be offering fine Suffolk fayre with two authentic ‘village’ pubs – The Cobbold Arms and Hop Inn – serving competitively-priced, locally sourced ales and ciders (including Suffolk-based Green Jack Brewery’s festival ale Jackalope Ale, a salute to the festival’s mystical mascot The Jackalope (half antelope, half Jack Rabbit) which every year keeps a beady eye on the event from the centre of the site. Then there’s the FolkEast Art Arcade with local arts and crafts and ‘Instrumental’, featuring a wide range of instrument makers.
Says Becky: “FolkEast 2021 will be different and we want to be able to provide a safe place where we can gather to enjoy amazing music, entertainment and most importantly, each other’s company. We can’t wait to bring the FolkEast community back together again – we know how much everyone has struggled this year and it will be a momentous occasion when we open the FolkEast gates once more.”
Located close to the A12, the festival will be running its usual shuttle buses to the site from Wickham Market station.
For the full FolkEast 2021 plan see www.folkeast.co.uk
More information: https://folkeast.co.uk/2021-tickets/