Reviews & Photographs

CHESTER FOLK FESTIVAL 2009 REVIEWS

By Didge Lewis for KADRAS (the magazine of Kelsall & District Rural Amenities Society):

At last, the Spring Bank Holiday weekend arrived and brought to Kelsall the Chester Folk Festival. This was the thirtieth anniversary of the Festival's arrival in Kelsall and the sun shone to celebrate the occasion. By the time the weekend arrived Kelsall Green was a mass of tents, caravans and camper vans, all crowned by the big marquee.

In a change from previous years, the Panic Circus children's entertainment tent shared the playing field with the existing swings and slides making it a youngster's heaven. A further departure from past festivals was the setting of the craft and music stalls along the footpath through the Green forming a sort of High Street towards the marquee entrance. I don't know how much business the stalls did but there were certainly a lot of window shoppers, or whatever you call 'just-looking' customers at an open stall.

I do know however that the first stall you would come upon, the volunteer cake stall in aid of the Green itself, had a successful weekend. All this with the sunshine gave Kelsall Green a real festival atmosphere.

Oh, but you can't have a folk music festival without music nor without dancing. Chester based band The Time Bandits kicked off the dancing on the Friday night Ceilidh, ably called by Dave Ball. There was a Ceilidh in the Community Centre every evening and another on Saturday afternoon for families.

Where should I begin to talk about the performers? With the headlining acts, I suppose. On Saturday, these were Brass Monkey and Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley. Brass Monkey, who include two original members of Fairport Convention, mix brass and stringed instruments to play an evocative repertoire of English traditional music.

If you have been to the Chester folk Festival in the past, you may have seen Chris and Denny before as part of Last Nights Fun but their performances as a duo lack nothing. Denny had driven straight to the festival from Ireland and despite having turned South instead of North when he crossed the Menai Bridge and suffering from a throat infection, he made the festival in time and still sounded wonderful.

Stars on Sunday were Lau a storming Scottish group who have been winners of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in both 2008 and 2009.

There were many more but too many to describe so I'll just mention a few personal favourites. This Festival, topping my personal list was Flossie Malavialle. If you had the chance to see her you will agree and know that this gorgeous French lady, who lives in Middlesbrough, is possessed of a sweet voice which she applies to a wide range of songs. Flossie speaks English with simultaneous French and Teesside accents, and oozes humour and charm. (Girls don't you hate her?) Remaining with the French influence but this time via the Cajun music of Louisiana, The Boat Band (from the Potteries, I think) played an exhilarating mix of Cajun and English music.

The other essentials of a folk festival are Morris dancing and beer. Well this festival is blessed with three pubs. An essential component of the Festival has always been the Morris Dancer, which is immediately next to the Green, but I guess Kadras Newsletter readers already know that, but it does really impresses the festivalgoers who come from further afield. The Oak is five minutes down the road and the Farmers Arms ten minutes up the hill.

During the weekend, there were Morris dance displays at each of three pubs, led as ever by Chester City Morris with festival regular guest sides White Hart Morris Men and the Bradshaw Mummers. However, the big stars this year were children from Kelsall Primary School, who gave an impressive display outside the Morris Dancer. It would be brilliant if this became a regular event.

The Sunday morning Church Service, which has always been a popular feature, was held, for the third year now, inside the festival marquee, and again successfully brought together many people who would not have otherwise met.

Looking back, the festival was relaxed and easygoing and brought visitors, music, dancing, mummers' plays, colour and sunshine to the village. I can't wait for the next one!

Some comments from our Feedback Forms:

'Very good weekend festival, small and friendly, don't change anything'

'Well organised - good variety of musical styles'

'My first visit and most impressions excellent! Particularly short set change over times and reliable sound'

'As always, a friendly and relaxed atmosphere'

'An excellent and varied programme of events with something for everyone'

'Get's better every year!'

'A big thanks to the organisers and helpers for another very enjoyable weekend'

'Nice friendly ambience - would recommend it to friends'

'Thoroughly enjoyed the festival - keep up the good work'

'Friendly little festival with a big festival line-up. I would recommend that you change absolutely nothing'

'Organisation first class, music outstanding - will be back with friends in 2010'