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Jon Boden on Cambridge and Sidmouth Festivals

Mike Harding | 14:46 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Jon Boden writes:

Recently got back from Cambridge Folk Festival via Sidmouth Folk Week.

Both brilliant as usual, albeit in very different ways.

Nice to be kept fairly busy at both (Cambridge particularly) as I tend to get fidgety if I spend too long at a festival without a gig (or three).

Two things struck me at Cambridge.

Firstly the audiences seemed much friendlier than I remembered. I think the diminishment of the tyranny of the deck chair on stage one may have something to do with this, but it also really felt like a festival at ease with itself in some intangible way.

The second was how so many British acts have really upped their game in the last twelve months or so.

Every band I saw seemed to have added a new dimension to its live performance or its material...

It's a very exciting thing to witness a whole scene evolving so rapidly, and long may it continue.

Sidmouth has gone through a great deal of evolution since Mrs Casey reluctantly set it adrift four or five years ago.

As such it is still perhaps not as at ease with itself as Cambridge. However with the fantastic Joan Crump newly ensconced at the directorial tiller the future is looking very bright.

The best discovery for me this year was the Dhol Foundation. I know, I know, they've been around for ages - but it's the first time I've seen a whole gig and they were mighty.

It made me think that, rather than flying in exotic bands from abroad, UK folk and world music festivals would do well to look harder for homegrown talent from the many varied ethnic communities of this country.


  • Comment number 1.

    *raises hand* I'll second that point about homegrown talent, Jon - there is an astonishing amount around and happily growing. Maybe this will also lead on to more successful smaller festivals to nurture them. I also look forward to finding that more UK Artists are being invited to headline abroad too. One hears via the interweb chat there are people abroad who are eager for the chance to see Bellowhead and the like on their home territory.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sidmouth is a good example of why Festivals can benefit from a change of mananagement from time to time, because the people who took over from Mrs Casey proved that with a different approach, you could actually put on a very good and viable festival, which the old model had ceased to be.

  • Comment number 3.

    I would anticipate that the BBC's coverage of Folk Music would similarly benefit from the different approach that could be obtained by NOT focussing all of its festival programmes on Cambridge and Celtic Connections and (a very) occasional visit to Cropredy.

  • Comment number 4.

    It maybe that other Folk Festivals realise the audience for their event is far bigger than mainstream BBC seem to realise. I note that Shrewsbury Folk Festival will be webcasting the main stage performances worldwide via their website, plus the whole site will have wifi. Our friends abroad are eagerly awaiting to see what we enjoy and the bonus ( Jon Boden please note) is it showcases fantastic UK talent to overseas organisers. BBC Radio Shropshire will be at Shrewsbury with the Big Red Bus, and broadcasting the wonderful weekly 2 hours of Genevieve Tudor Sunday Folk: that's what most local stations feel is the minimum length a good Folk Show should be.

  • Comment number 5.

    It was interesting to read Jons' comment on home grown ethnic talent. Tony Cox is certainly a fine example and you can read what people are saying about Tony at the Edinburgh fringe http://www.edfringe.com/reviews/read.html?id=14479 .
    Tony was born in Zimbabwe, moved to South Africa where he is known as the foremost acoustic musician, and now resides in the UK. You can read more about him on my website www.amandalynnemusic.com .
    I often recieve his fan mail from people who have seen him in South Africa and want to know where they can see Tony in the UK.

  • Comment number 6.

    We did both Cambridge (up to the end of Friday) and Sidmouth. What a shame they have to clash.
    Well said Jon on home grown ethnic talent. Another example of that would be Dogan Mehmet, who was quite busy at Sidmouth, a very talented young man.


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