Blockbuster FolkWeek 60th Anniversary Acts Announced!

2014LOGO_chair_60th_distressed_lo_res_2Diamond anniversary plans continue to fall into place for Sidmouth FolkWeek’s 60th festival (1st – 8th August 2014) as the line-up comes to fruition, featuring both gems from the archives – tapping the rich seam of vintage talent that has contributed to the festival’s glory down the years – and a hand-picked selection of the stars of the future.

SHOWSTOPPING HEADLINERS…
We are delighted to announce that one of the UK’s greatest musical storytellers, Ralph McTell, will be joining us for a rare and very special appearance at our Pre Festival Special on Thursday 31 July.
Celebrating more than 40 years on the road himself, Ralph is a Sidmouth veteran, having played at the Arena for the 50th festival in 2004. A Lifetime Achievement Award winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Ralph is renowned for both his virtuoso guitar style and his gift as a songwriter, most notably the poignant Streets of London.

Other headliners throughout the week include:
England’s number one traditional singing family The Copper Family; legendary ambassadors of Scottish music, Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham; Irish songbird Cara Dillon; festival patron and local hero Steve Knightley and Friends; one of Scotland’s freshest new acts Breabach; the ultimate family duo Martin Carthy and Eliza Carthy; the solid gold Oysterband – old friends of Sidmouth playing both a concert and an extra special ceilidh; an exciting new ensemble bringing together Northumbrian folk traditions and classical Kathryn Tickell & The Side; the ever-popular pairing of Chris Wood and Andy Cutting; the pioneering Quebecois Yves Lambert Trio; new powerhouse trio of Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr; crack Canadian fiddling, electric step dancing, sweet singing from April Verch Band; the side-splitting comic genius of New Rope String Band; vibrant Danish dancefloor-fillers Habadekuk; the galvanising Celtic instrumental union Kan; quirky acoustic festival favourites Moulettes; the soaring pipe driven tunes of Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson and a swinging 60s Silent Disco night.

A special WW1 Commemoration will be staged on the 4th August, the exact 100 year anniversary of the start of the war. Gentle Men: a history of the First World War through the lives of Pt Ern Johnson & Pt Harry Jenner, is an evocative and personal account of the 1st World War performed by Roy Bailey & Robb Johnson.

A special occasion deserves some special plans. Here’s a taste of what’s in store….
As FolkWeek means so many different things to different people, we aim to celebrate all week with special events in each part of the festival…from special guests from the very early years of Social Dance, where the festival began in 1955, in a Grand Anniversary Dance, as well as some vintage ceilidh bands, including Old Swan Band’s special anniversary ceilidh; some Diamond Geezers from the world of music and song; tales from festival friend and Storytelling Laureate Taffy Thomas; a beating traditional song and music heart; the return of some of the most influential Morris teams over the years and plans afoot for some special overseas guests who will bring back memories of Arena shows.

With an eye on the future generations, there will be a key role for festival founders English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS) with their Folk Rising Plus concerts celebrating the new generation of folk music talent and the popular fRoots-sponsored Cellar Full of Folkadelia return. Sidmouth-born Shooting Roots youth sessions come of age as they plan to celebrate their 21st and the Children’s Festival promises extra special party atmosphere!

Getting together a milestone festival like the 60th is a mammoth enterprise, bringing the return of old favourites and new innovations. Our focus has to be on bringing our guests a special and memorable programme right across the Festival.

Festival Director John Braithwaite says: “For that reason, in 2014 we will be staying at Bulverton with our much loved and well established Festival Campsite and Festival Clubhouse. To ensure that our customers and guests knew as early as possible, with absolute certainty, what our plans were for this year, we set a deadline of end of January for any changes to this area of the Festival. Needing planning permission to go forward has pushed the project past the deadline date. So that customers can book with certainty, we decided to announce our intentions as early as possible, so that we can concentrate on giving guests a blockbuster festival to remember!”

“We are already feeling the excitement of this year’s event, bringing, as it will, a host of memories and new experiences for our guests in every part of the Festival. We look forward to welcoming back old friends, and new ones alike, to experience a very special 60th Sidmouth FolkWeek.”

For more details, visit www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk
Sidmouth Tourist Information Centre: 01395 577952

ROBB JOHNSON – GENTLE MEN (Irregular Records)

Gentle MenGentle Men was commissioned for the 1997 Passendale Peace Concert. It has been expanded and re-recorded at an appropriate time as the government prepares to “celebrate” the outbreak of the Great War which now recedes beyond living memory. The gentle men of the title are Robb’s grandfathers, Ernest Johnson and Henry Jenner – Ern and Harry – who fought and survived and their story covers not only the war but also the decades that followed. Robb has said that his intention was to show Ern and Harry as real people with real lives both before and afterwards, not ciphers or victims.

The subject matter, particularly in the first part covering the period up to 1919, is bleak and bloody and Robb’s gift for comedy doesn’t find many outlets. It’s there in the “yeah, right” variety of ‘A Gentleman Always Wants Horses’ and the gallows humour of ‘Soldier On’ but as a listener the reaction is more often a shudder. To his credit, Robb doesn’t spare his audience’s sensibilities.

Lead vocals are shared with Barb Jungr, who does strident and sentimental with equal conviction, and Roy Bailey whose powerful performances belie his years. They are supported by Jude Abbott (brass), Jenny Carr (piano and accordion) and John Forrester (double bass) with other contributions from Arvin Johnson and Linze Maesterosa. Accompaniments are never overstated but Robb skilfully captures the music of the times, be it the music hall of a century ago or the post-war gaiety of ‘Noni And His Golden Serenaders’.

The second part of the piece explores how the experience of the war to end all wars shaped Harry and Ern and through them helped to shape Robb himself and the world into which he was born. Finally, we come to the present day and the inevitable conclusion that we’ve learned bugger all in the course of the last century.

I was fortunate to be at the London launch of the album and I’m not ashamed to say that I was moved to tears – and I wasn’t the only one – and the recorded version has exactly the same effect. You must hear Gentle Men and I urge you to splash out on the special edition with its narrative text and photographs although, while listening to these songs, it seems almost insensitive to talk about a beautifully presented hard-back book.

Dai Jeffries

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