At long last Folk East was back, as one of the early post lockdown events – and this year Folk East was amazing! After a year of uncertainty and living with many restrictions, Folk East was just what we all needed I think. A place to relax, time to see people again, a moment in time that felt like normal without Covid. Although precautions were taken with recommended pre-festival lateral flow test. The organisers did a fantastic job in arranging the festival, particularly with the unpredictable conditions at the time, and the extra challenges (this included very practical issues - they reported as an example that it was extremely difficult to source the festival toilets and showers this year.).
This festival always feels like home to me. Everyone is lovely and very friendly and the atmosphere is so relaxing. There is always plenty to do, a great mix of brilliant music and it‘s a memorable family weekend.
This year the festival was smaller due to Covid, with reduced audience numbers and a few less stalls and stages - although still a full and impressive lineup - but I thought it was still brilliant and the number of people was a very comfortable amount, particularly with Covid! (Even though I have to say, I did miss the fairy forest, one of the otherwise trademark elements of Folk East full of fairy lights and art).
As usual, the food options were very good with there being many stalls to choose from. Although all the ones I had food from were great, one of my favourites remains the noodle bar (popular with others too) and I like the vegetariana/ falafel stall because it provided an alternative healthy option and good option for vegetarians and can make the falafel pittas to your requests. For Drinks there is also plenty of choice with a couple of bars serving a large choice of beer which seems to be good as many adults seem to gravitate there a few times a day, and otherwise milkshakes, teas and coffees as well as my favourite of homemade lemonades stall!
The stalls were good even though I did miss some of my favourites this year and there wasn’t as much to do. There are always many things for children to do including, perhaps more for the smaller kids, a storytelling tent and a tent with games, craft kids stalls, treasure hunts (such as a jackalope hunt this year), pottery stall where you can have a pottery lesson and arty things including kids art competitions. I also love about Folk East that there are always unique interactive sculptures made for the festival that makes the place so quirky, among many other things. If you want to get active, you can have a go on the climbing tower, my sister’s favourite, and maybe even race to the top with your friend or this year there were badminton courts with rackets for you to borrow which was always popular and great for adults too. However if you were wanting to bargain hunt, there was large at Elizabeth hospice charity rummage tent with many cheap clothes, games, DVDs and more to have a look through. There were also again lots of stalls of instrument makers and sellers which looked amazing.
Although there was no ceilidh tent this year there was still dancing workshops outside and Morris dancing performances. For those teenagers who play themselves, the Young Folk Moot events gave the opportunity to play with and learn from experienced players and singers - including this year the Young Uns and recorder player Finn Collinson. So if you come next year, bring your instrument!
Camping was great. The facilities were clean and well monitored and the campsite was nicely lit up. For campers, some stalls opened early to give you choice for breakfast. There were some little activities in there morning for them before it got to busy like yoga sessions and singing and music workshops. The campsite had a calm atmosphere and people were very considerate towards others. The music finished in decent time so it wasn’t too loud when you wanted to sleep.
I really enjoyed the music this year. There was one act on at a time and the performances were at two alternating stages. I thought it was lovely to have all the stages outdoors this year (as Covid precaution) - this way they were much more open and accessible and you could hear it from all around the festival (and see) and there was more space - I wouldn’t mind at all if this became a permanent feature.
One of my favourite bands was the Scottish band Elephant Sessions, as headlining act on Friday night, with their modern danceable take on Scottish folk rock, on mandolin, fiddle, bass, drums, synth and samples. The lights were fab and I was standing near the front where the atmosphere was buzzing and everyone was having a great time. I was pleased that there was more of a Scottish theme to FolkEast, with all female Scottish quintet The Shee and, another favourite, singer songwriter Kris Drever.
In the afternoons the Acts were very chilled and great to dip in and out of. I found the locals the Kelly Bayfield Band and duo Jimmy Aldrige and Sid Goldsmith very enjoyable. Three Cane Whales had an unusual sound with such an array of different often uncommon instruments, such as dulcimer, glockenspiel, tenor horn or bowed psaltery (look it up if you don’t know what it is!). The festival regulars and patrons the young‘uns had an evening concert and a podcast (as well as a singing workshop for teenagers), both of which were extremely good with the brilliant vocal harmonies and superb songwriting and a good laugh. Another one of my favourites turned out to be Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita. It was my first time seeing them and I thought there performance was so magical and inspiring - who would have thought that Welsh harp and African kora would so naturally fit together!
There were definitely many others too I enjoyed this year and would certainly recommend and see again.
The whole experience was so good this year, even if a little different to usual and the Lay-out worked nicely. I would definitely recommend the festival to anyone who likes folk or folk rock music and perhaps more the artsy things. It is the perfect weekend and has never failed to impress. In one word: unforgettable.
Put next years festival in your diary now (19-21 August 2022) as this will be even a little bit more special than normal - celebrating its 10th anniversary, I think we can expect a real fireworks of FolkEast favourites.
Photo Credits: (1)-(2),(5) Folk East (unknown/website); (3) Kris Drever, (4) Seckou Keita & Catrin Finch, (6) Elephant Sessions (by The Mollis).