As reunions go they don’t come much sweeter or timely than this. Back in 2012, Suffolk’s inaugural FolkEast festival saw an act described as ‘the most ambitious folk fusion band of the 21st century’ perform a memorable finale headline set.
Bold and cross-cultural, The Imagined Village (founded in 2004 by Afro Celt Sound System’s Simon Emmerson) had been stunning audiences everywhere with their captivating, adrenalin-rushing forays into uncharted territory.
They recorded three albums, played at major festivals from Glastonbury to Cambridge, headlined at concert halls and appeared on Later…With Jools Holland, performing a stomping, percussive re-working of ‘Cold Haily Rainy Night’ (the song that won them Best Traditional Track at the 2008 BBC Folk Awards).
With few performances since 2012 a superb stroke of serendipity sees them returning to FolkEast for the festival’s milestone 10th year – a real coup, with most of the original line-up intact.
One of just two UK festival appearances this summer, the band will headline the opening night on Friday, August 19 in the grounds of glorious Glemham Hall. And the extraordinary line up on the main Sunset stage will be nothing less than folk royalty.
Combining folk, electronica, world music and influences from Asia to the Caribbean, the 10-strong band will feature the UK’s foremost political singer-songwriter – the ‘Bard of Barking’ himself, Billy Bragg, alongside the great Eliza and Martin Carthy, Simon Emmerson (guitar/cittern), tabla and dohl drum king Johnny Kalsi, shimmering sitar player Sheema Mukherjee, fine fiddle singer Jackie Oates, drummer Andy Gangadeen, Simon Richmond (synth) and cellist Barney Morse Brown.
Becky Marshall-Potter, who founded and directs FolkEast with husband John says: “ We can’t believe our luck – to have a reunited Imagined Village topping the bill on our opening night after bringing our 2012 festival to a close – what synchronicity! “
That ‘coming home’ moment will be replicated on Thursday, August 19 when the acclaimed False Lights (Jim Moray & Sam Carter) stage a special show ahead of the main festival for weekend ticket holders and campers.
The singer-songwriter/guitarists and BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners made their live debut at FolkEast in 2014. Says Becky: “I remember them sending us their recording of the traditional song Skewball. John and I were working late in a really cold office and we were just blown away – it was such a different sound to anything we had heard before”.
FolkEast is well known for its record of ‘firsts’ and this year will be no exception. Saturday will see an exclusive festival performance of a new, all-star show, Saltlines, in which FolkEast has been a collaborator.
It follows a tour of Saltlines in South West venues this July and sees Peter Knight’s ever inventive Gigspanner Big Band – a firm favourite at FolkEast over the years – joining forces with best-selling author Raynor Winn in a show which mines traditional songs and tunes from the West Country and new words from Winn, inspired by the region.
The sensational Big Band sextet sees Steeleye Span’s former long-term fiddle ace Peter Knight joined by stand-out acoustic and electric guitarist Roger Flack, effervescent percussionist Sacha Trochet, award-winning duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin (Edgelarks) and John Spiers (founding member of Bellowhead), described as “one of the best melodeon players of his generation”.
Winn, now based in Cornwall, became a best-selling first-time author with The Salt Path – her emotive account of how she and husband Moth, homeless and bankrupt and with Moth recently diagnosed with an incurable illness, set off to walk the 630 mile South West Coast Path – an unlikely decision that led them back to happiness. Read by more than half a million people, the book became a Sunday Times best-seller in 2018, won the Royal Society of Literature’s inaugural Christopher Bland Prize and was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize, Costa Book Awards and Stanford’s Travel Writing Awards.
Members of the Saltlines collective will also be involved elsewhere at the festival – John Spiers will take up his regular seat on FolkEast’s Gardeners’ Cornered panel (FolkEast’s answer to Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time) where audience members can discuss their plant issues (!) while BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Duo winners Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin (Edgelarks) will be performing their own set.
Ever present throughout the weekend will be the festival’s hugely popular ‘life enhancers’, multi award-winning patrons, The Young ‘uns (Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle). FolkEast is the place to see the endearing trio up to things you won’t see anywhere else and they will once again be presenting their hugely popular Saturday afternoon podcast. Says Becky: “They have been our patrons since 2014 and I feel we’ve evolved and grown together since then with them becoming multi award-winners and FolkEast becoming a firm fixture on the UK festival calendar.”
A special Saturday tribute show will remember and celebrate a much loved contributor to FolkEast – Mat Bayfield, of The Broadside Boys and the duo Bayfield Booth. Mat’s grandfather was once the gamekeeper of the Glemham estate so FolkEast was always special to him. Curated by Mat’s wife Kelly and his musical partner David Booth, the show will highlight the Suffolk he loved through his songs and those he met along the path of his career. Mat’s father Steven will also host the festival’s traditional Thursday night quiz for those arriving on site.
Already announced for FolkEast’s decade celebration is the ‘First Lady of Folk’ Kate Rusby, who tops the Sunday bill. 2022 is a special year for ‘The Barnsley Nightingale’ too as she marks 30 years touring as a professional folk singer, the release of new album ‘30’ and a back catalogue of over 20 albums and collaborations. She and her band (including husband Damian O’Kane) will headline a festival finale that will also feature one of the most sought-after live acts on the scene – the high-octane Scottish powerhouse trio Talisk, fronted by irrepressible concertina ace, Mohsen Amini.
Saturday night will bring a headline set to savour from “one of the premier English folk groups of the 21st century “– the Mercury Prize nominated The Unthanks, as they return to touring after two years with their bumper eleven-piece band and music from their first new album in six years, Sorrows.
Also previously announced for England’s most easterly festival are fast-rising singer songwriter Katherine Priddy, Spiers & Boden, the effervescent Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys and Anglo-French five piece Topette!!
Joining the line-up will be Leveret (Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and Andy Cutting), performing on the Sunday. Another band with a long-standing relationship with FolkEast it will be the first appearance at Glemham Hall since 2015 for the trio described by BBC Radio 3’s Verity Sharp as “three of England’s finest traditional players, weaving exquisite tapestries out of old and new tunes.”
Tom Moore and Archie Moss, widely regarded as two of the best players and innovators in traditional folk will be heading to Suffolk as well as Solana, a five piece from Bristol, Whitby’s Richard Grainger and Bristol-based singer–songwriter Reema.
A fine collection of East Anglian artists has also been announced including Suffolk’s own husband-and- wife duo Honey & The Bear whose recent album Journey Through The Roke won wide critical acclaim.
Other artists from the region will include another great duo, Norwich-based Christina Alden and Alex Patterson, the Norfolk Broads, Essex-based King Driscolls and Suffolk’s John Ward Trio and Bushing Sharks band.
FolkEast is also keen to nurture young talent and this year sees a Sunday performance by the National Youth Folk Ensemble and the introduction of a Youth Moot programme, curated by young Suffolk musician Finn Collinson who will also perform with his band on Sunday afternoon.
The Youth Moot, open to 11-17 year olds, will include workshops and more in a new space at FolkEast.
There will be also be The Vintage Mobile cinema , a brand new stage in the woodland and the dance tent will be in full swing all weekend with yoga sessions, dance workshops, Morris dancing and ceilidhs and music from Frog on a Bike, Stumpy Oak, Fiftygomash and Topette!!
And the festival will be opening the pages of a new literature element this year-a literary circle with Suffolk Libraries Services and talks and activities hosted by Halesworth Bookshop in the on-site Suffolk Municipal Library.
Tier 2 weekend tickets are now available price £140 (adult), £130 (full time students, 65+) and £90 for Young Folk 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 £410. A great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under; camping under canvas is £20 and camping on wheels £30. Ticket link: https://folkeast.co.uk/2021-tickets/
Day tickets go on sale at the end of May.
Located close to the A12, the festival will also be running its usual shuttle buses to the site from Wickham Market station.www.folkeast.co.uk
‘Cold Haily Rainy Night’ – live. The song that started it all: