I’m writing this with the re-runs of the festival favourites streaming in the background and a box of tissues beside me on the desk. There are a couple of ingredients that make a great festival for me: excellent and diverse entertainment, friendly volunteer and staff teams and good organisation, including facilities and food. Shrewsbury Folk Festival scores top marks for all three!
After spending four amazing days volunteering at Shrewsbury (24-27 August 2012) I’m not surprised it sells out months in advance every year. It had the perfect combination of top class musicians and lots of opportunities for festival goers to get involved themselves, from musical workshops and ceilidh dancing (including the folk equivalent of a silent disco) to creative craft workshops, which were not just popular with the little ones.
From the moment I got off the train and met a fellow volunteer who showed me the way to the festival grounds, things just went really smoothly all weekend. I was on the task force team, which was something like a rapid response group and great fun. We did any last minute tasks required like shovelling bark to cover muddy tent areas and patrolling the site to see if our help was needed somewhere.
I pitched my tent in the quiet area near the river, and especially after I got my ‘happy tent’ on Saturday really enjoyed our nomadic folkie village. It was lovely to fall asleep every night with the faint notes of the last gig still audible in the background and being offered a nice cup of tea by my neighbours when I woke up.
The music was brilliant all weekend, so it was really difficult to choose which set to pick at any particular time, given that there were three main tents plus the village stage, dance tent and bars. As I have a real weakness for Americana, sad songs and female voices, I immensely enjoyed seeing Diana Jones again and Caroline Herring for the first time, both of whom have a number of incredible story songs, which I absolutely adored. Jonathan Byrd was also fabulous. I even attended his guitar workshop without actually bringing a guitar. Mind you, I did start playing the Ukulele that weekend together with about 100 others and we had such a blast (see final live performance here).
It has been a long time since I’ve seen so many (about 6.000!) happy people in one place. It’s always hard to predict what a festival is going to be like before seeing it for yourself. Just like Vancouver Folk Fest, which I discovered last year, Shrewsbury is going to echo in my heart for quite some time though, most likely until the next edition in 2013, which I’m already looking forward to. Wearing my festival t-shirt and listening to the stack of CDs from this summer will have to get me through somehow.
Here is a festival photo gallery by fellow festival fan Steven Beasley (thanks for letting me use the above pix of Diana, Caroline and Jim and the closing performance), a video of the wonderful parade of lanterns that were made during the festival weekend and some more videos of individual performances. In fact, you can’t go wrong checking out any of the musicians on this year’s list, they are all fabulous.