Dancing in Cleckheaton's streets!
By Christine Verguson
Cleckheaton will come to a stop this weekend to make way for stilt walkers, clowns and morris dancers, not to mention more than seventy hours of music at forty different events. It's all because it's the town's 22nd Folk Festival.
Making music in Cleckheaton Town Hall
The man faced with the task of organising all of this is Dave Minich. It's his first year as Festival Director although he's been organising all the street entertainment for the last few years, during which time it's really taken off. On Saturday July 4th there's a procession through the town centre and this year it has a Victorian theme. Come dressed up or come as you are!
The street festival is based around the dance teams who are descending on Cleckheaton from across the north of England. And if that's not enough, Sunday is Family Fun Day.
Festival Director Dave Minich
But what is a folk festival without its music? Dave is confident there's a lot on offer for both folk aficionados and newcomers. He says: "There are ten main concerts over the weekend and we are running a free Hiring Fair which will provide six acts for people to come to, and get a sample of what the Festival is all about." If you are wondering what a "Hiring Fair" is, then we can reveal that this is both an opportunity for Cleckheaton folk to hear the stars of the future and an opportunity for musicians as one of the acts will be chosen to perform at next year's Festival.
Dave is really pleased he's managed to get the very well-known Battlefield Band to come to Cleckheaton and he's really looking forward to hosting their concert. Musical trio MrsAkroyd will be in Cleckheaton Town Hall on Friday night recreating the world of Les Barker. Dave says: "They were formally MrsAkroyd's Band. Les Barker no longer works with MrsAkroyd but they are still performing MrsAkroyd poems. People in the know will know exactly who MrsAkroyd is."
But, we ask Dave, how many people in Cleckheaton are likely to care very much about folk music? He says: "Unfortunately it does stay with the people who know about it and what we are trying to do at Cleckheaton - certainly this year and in future years - is to try and integrate the local community with the music rather than just the street entertainment by providing free events...The Hiring Fair is a bit of a taster. We've got an outreach project going on where we are putting artistes into cafes. There are six or seven small venues where there will be an hour of an artiste who is on at the Festival performing for nothing to people who don't really expect to see them there...We are trying to spread the word."
Dave says there is a very lively folk scene in Cleckheaton all the year around, mostly based around the Wickham Arms and The Priory at Whitechapel and new people are coming along. However, the real challenge is to get younger people into the Festival concerts: "They still see it as a staid 'finger in the ear' traditional music scene. We are trying to change that by bringing in bands that reflect the age - Belshazzar's Feast appeal to the young people. Something Nasty in the Woodshed certainly appeal to the younger end. We are trying to change the face of Cleckheaton a little bit..."
Walking tall at the Cleckheaton Folk Festival
After all, Dave himself was only a teenager when he first discovered folk music: "I was in a pub at 16-years-old singing songs with friends in Dewsbury. I carried on with the folk scene for around for or five years and then got married, had children and did other things...I always had an interest in music and traditional music but not a keen interest. I had a keen interest when I was a teenager, I had a big 25 to 30 year gap and stumbled across it again in Cleckheaton and thought, 'This is good. I'll have a slice of this'. I'm a goal-setter so I set the goal and achieve it."
If you are wondering if folk music is for you, you might be interested to hear Dave's definition of folk music. He says: "I think it's music that's handed down and tells a story. If it doesn't tell a story, I don't see how it can be folk music. I don't know where the line is drawn between folk music and traditional folk music and roots music but nonetheless folk music has to tell a story."
However, Dave knows what he wants to get out of the 22nd Cleckheaton Folk Festival: "I'm looking forward to seeing everybody enjoy themselves. As long as everybody has a good time, that's the key."
Dancing in the streets!
The 22nd Cleckheaton Folk Festival is on the 3rd, 4th and 5th July 2009 and BBC Radio Leeds' Durbervilles Folk & Roots Show will be at the festival recording highlights for a specially extended programme live from the event on Sunday evening on BBC Radio Leeds FM between 8 and 10pm.
last updated: 01/07/2009 at 16:09