Winter in England. What happens when 5 cm of snow fall? Well you can't do anything anymore - roads throughout the country are blocked for many hours, villages are "cut off" from the world, schools are closed and events are cancelled. What good timing that just this one day of snow in the year coincided with the Norwich Folk Festival No3...
The Norwich Folk Festival dates back to the mid 90s, when Folk Beat was organised in the City of Norwich from 1994 onwards always at the end of Jan, starting out as just tin whistle and bodhran workshops. This was immensly successful and was carried on until 1997. At that point the organisers decided to take a break for a while. The name Folk Beat was then taken by regular festival attenders Karen Tweed and Andy Cutting to label their own event in Derbshire, with the kind agreement of the Norwich team. In the year 2000, Frank Vickers, one of the organisers of the first Norwich Folk Beats festivals, decided to start again, joined by a dedicated team. The name was changed to Folk Norfolk - Norwich 01, 02, 03, with the same idea as the old FolkBeat festival, to bring European bands to the UK. Swåp played one of their very first gigs at Norwich Folk Beat in 1996, and this year they were supposed to be back, to join the Friday opening concert...
Now this very Friday was the day when all of England stood still. The festival nevertheless went ahead, however without your dear FolkWorld reporter making his way up to Norwich. And nearly it would have been also without Swåp - the festival diary says that Swåp were supposed to fly that day from Glasgow (Celtic Connections) to Norwich. Which was of course not easy. They in the end arrived after 11 p.m. at the venue, just in time to be able to play some 15 minutes, as the concert had to be finished by 11.30 due to noise regulations.... It is reported that the festival was nevertheless a big success, and that Swåp agreed to play a lunch time concert the next day, in front of a packed audience.
That Saturday was also the day when Token Women were supposed to play in Saxmundham for dance. As even on Saturday the road conditions were not perfect (well that happens when it snows 5 cm!), Token Women decided to cancel the concert. They agreed to come to Saxmundham the next season...
In mid February, the Colchester Arts Centre had two high profile folk concerts in a row - on Monday, Claire Mann and Aaron Jones were visiting the Folk Club, while on Tuesday there was a "Big Session" concert with the Oysterband, Eliza Carthy and others. Due to a longish drive we had to choose one of the two, which was not a difficult decision - the pick of the two was for me definitely the concert with Claire and Aaron. (A report of the London gig of the Big Session can be found in this issue).
Mann, with musical origins in the Newcastle Irish scene, became well known in
the Celtic scene when teaming up with Aidan O Rourke as Tabache (the photo shows
Tabache in its early days). These days, the Edinburgh based flautist and fiddler
teams up regularly to tour with the talented string instrumentalist (guitar
and bouzouki) Aaron Jones, who has a Northern Irish background, plays with Craobh
Rua and has been a member of the young Scottish all star band Seelyhoo. Both
of them have not changed a lot since I saw them last - which must be some 5
years ago. The duo's playing is tight, presenting a highly enjoyable mixture
of tunes from Irish and Scottish traditions and musicians, as well as influences
from further afield. These were complemented by a few of their own compositions
and some traditional songs, sung both by Claire and Aaron. And to make this
a perfect evening, there were some amusing stories sprinkled in between, like
about Claire's grandmother who has a hilarious knack of getting words muddled
up (I suppose most of us know that kind of grandma) or Claire's dad who loves
to stepdance wherever he goes....
An evening to remember, although unfortunately, the concert was not very well attended, probably mainly due to the Big Session concert the next day. It was a shame that Colchester Arts Centre's programming was not co-ordinated with the folk club's programme.
Then there would have been the concert of the Scottish top band Blazin Fiddles in Bury St Edmunds. The demand for that concert was high enough to put on a second concert the day before, and even then both concerts were sold out already a month in advance! Obviously there is a huge market for Scottish music in Suffolk, unfortunately not enough venues seem to be interested in experimenting with hosting folk music. I had been looking forward to this concert, but again did not calculate the England impact - there are always plenty of little nasty flu bugs around in winter (in particular if you happen to work in a building that is known as being one of the most sick buildings in the UK, a breeding space for all sorts of bugs...). So this hit me just those two days that Blazin Fiddles were in Suffolk...
Forthcoming Suffolk Events
The 17th of March saw still a concert of the wonderfully funny Last Night's Fun. More about them in the next Suffolk - when a report from the Ipswich Country Festival follows - believe it or not, this Country Festival (on the 21 June) will feature Flook and Last Night's Fun!!! More info at www.minifest.co.uk
Other Suffolk events to look out for this summer are Folk at Fram in Framlingham Castle, on , featuring this year Maire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman and the Eliza Carthy Band. The Proms at Snape Maltings presents this year, among its broad range of acts, English singer Kate Rusby and Irish top band Lunasa. More information about the Snape concerts at www.aldeburgh.co.uk
Related Internet resources:
Colchester Folk Club - see http://www.acousticity.co.uk/
Folk Norfolk - Norwich 03 - see http://www.folknorfolk.co.uk/
Photo Credit: All photos by The Mollis; (1) Karen Tweed & Ian Carr; (2) Claire Mann with Aidan O'Rourke in Tabache 10 years ago.
Suffolk and beyond is a regular series about folk events, gossip
and the impressions of a German folk fan living in England. The first three
Part IV: In search of the curiosities
of life - Colum Sands in Wivenhoe, Flook in Colchester, Aly & Phil in Snape
Part III: English folk clubs - well hidden secrets - The Fraser Sisters and Tweed/Cutting/Harbron/vanEycken
Part II: Two in a bar etc. - Plenty of old folkies for Christmas and the satire of a licening law prohibiting sessions and sing-alongs
Part I: English curiosities - Folk and Jazz garden chair display, proms and folk in a church
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