10:12 a.m. August 2, 2022
Spending Friday night at the Bulverton meant missing out on festival favorites Grandma’s attic headlining at the Ham Marquee, but who cares because we caught them in the intimate setting of a packed Cellar Bar at Kennaway House on Saturday morning.
Guitarist/vocalist George Sansome, vocalist, concertina and melodeonist Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and violinist/vocalist Lewis Wood were thrilled with a high-octane set featuring self-penned instrumentals “Highfield’s Lament” and “Queen’s Wood” from their recent album “The Brickfields”. ‘, along with traditional songs from their back catalog (‘Ship in Distress’, ‘Wheels of the World’), punctuated with hilarious tales of life on the road.
Then it was at the Ham Marquee for the Opening welcome concert, highlighting the diversity of the festival. The Sidmouth Town Band opened the proceedings, performing pop classics, including a delightful sequel to Bach’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Air on a G String.” After that, the Lancashire Wallopers gave us a fiery display of clog dancing steps, with two of their team even performing among the audience. So Halsway Young People – about 30 young musicians who had attended a music workshop at the Halsway Manor National Center for Folk Arts – came together. Their performance of “Sea Coal” — with a haunting vocal — was a highlight. The show ended with Peter and Barbara Snape – a melodeon and vocal duo with “Nordic resonance”, which perpetuates the folk tradition.
Meanwhile, at the Anchor Inn, the first of midday ceilidhs was in full swing, with Uncontrollable play energetic reels for both novice and more experienced dancers. With lots of spins, it was great fun.
As befits the first full day of the festival, there was a strong contingent of local artists, including the Sidmouth Giants – do their noble thing apart from the anchor – and Sid Vale Folk Choirwho charmed onlookers in Blackmore Gardens with their softly harmonized vocals.
The main event of the afternoon was the parade of dance teams along the seafront to the Blackmore Marquee for the Dance show. Once again there was a great diversity of traditional dance styles, with many Friday night teams reappearing. New arrivals included first class stampa mixed Appalachian style side, and Morris of Mortimer, an all-female North West clog from Nottingham. Representing the tradition of the Northeast were Kingsmen Clog with their delicate footwork, and Sheffield Steelwho proved that women could dance the rapper just as well as men.
Boss Morris – a contemporary female side of Stroud – made a striking appearance with her flamboyant costumes and her menagerie of animals, including a 7-foot-tall owl and a giant sheep. Among the outstanding performances were the sporting achievements of young Cotswolds teams Campden Morris and Fool’s Gambit. But it was Seven Molly Champions who once again made jaws drop with their daring staging of a dance to the jazz classic “Take Five,” performed on recorder.
Opposite, at the Cellar Bar in Kennaway House, the Brighton duo Sairie appeared in the first concert of the Folkadelia Cellar series. Composed of Emma Morton (vocals, autoharp) and Jon Griffin (vocals, guitar), the duo interpreted traditional and original folk in a mellow setting. At times their music was incredibly poignant, with Morton’s delicate vocals being particularly notable.
The Tradition meets at the Arts Center was a rare opportunity to see and hear some of folk’s most respected living artists. The evening covered the gamut of Quebec marches and reels from Pigeon Swing to the comic poetry of Racker Donnelly through the songs of Mike Wilson and Peter and Barbara Snapeat the clog dance Lynette Eldon, accompanied on the violin by her husband Jim. So Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne spotlighting traditional British songs that have crossed the Atlantic to be embraced by African and Caribbean communities, and, in the spirit of the folk club, audience participation has been abundant.
In short, a wonderful day that left us wondering about the delights we were going to see at the festival on Sunday July 31…