October 23rd, 2016

Tuned in and tuned up at Warwick Folk Festival

Updated: 9:38 am, Aug 01, 2016

THEY were dancing in the streets of Warwick at the weekend.

Dance teams came from across the country to strut their stuff at the ever-popular annual Warwick Folk Festival.

Morris to belly to clog teams performed throughout the town and also at the main festival site at Warwick School.

And they were joined at the festival by some of the biggest musical names in traditional music – including Britain’s own Show of Hands and The Unthanks, and Le Vent Du Nord from Quebec.

The Festival Fringe in around the town saw thousands pack Market Square for free concerts on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, while many of the pubs also echoed to the sound of music.

The sizziling sunshine on Saturday created a carnival atmosphere in Smith Street – which was closed to traffic – allowing shopkeepers to take to the streets alongside the dancers and musicians.

The four-day festival also saw workshops – offering the chance to learn everything from new dance steps to new guitar tunings – theatre, poetry, talks, together with food from around the world, and of course, real ale.

The festival also went back to its roots by staging a Thursday night ceilidh at The Court House – home of the very first Warwick Folk Festival events held back in the 1970s.

Review by Matthew Salisbury

CROWDS soaking up the sunshine while dancers danced and fiddle tunes drifted across the field – Warwick Folk Festival 2016 looked every bit as good as it sounded.

Now in its 37th year, the annual gathering offered as diverse and attractive a line-up as ever and the broad smiles on the faces of the organisers were fully deserved.

As in previous years, the programme offers too much for any one person to ‘do’ the whole festival, but whichever route festival-goers chose to take through the generous spread of events, there was entertainment at every turn.

One of the strengths of any successful festival is in the way performers interact with their audience away from the stage. Warwick always scores highly in this regard – it’s what makes the event more than just a series of concerts. And this year was no exception.

There were plenty of opportunities to meet the artists and get insights into the songs. Some sessions, like that with fans’ favourite Flossie Malavaille proved so popular larger venues had to be found. In another room a dozen guitarists were getting to grips with a new tuning.

A strong showing of traditional dancing on the arena stage, artists enjoying the air-conditioned comforts of the theatre, free performances in the town centre itself and the usual attractions of craft stalls and real ale – it was all there as plentifully as ever.

Now in its regular four-night form, this year’s line-up at the top of the bill was as strong as ever on the main stage.

The Unthanks rounded off an excellent opening night with a hugely atmospheric set, all but disappearing into the fog with their large band. Their style of haunting trad vocals set in almost jazz-like extended numbers certainly proved popular with most of the Warwick audience.

Friday saw the return of ever-popular headliners Show of Hands. Few folk acts can get hands clapping and CDs shifted as well as this trio. Drawing on new material and a vast back-catalogue of festival favourites they were every bit as good as ever and you get the feeling this will not be their last appearance in the big tent.

Saturday offered a slightly more traditional menu. The wonderful voice and musicality of Fay Hield and the excellent Hurricane Party gave a faultless set before flautist Michael McGoldrick demonstrated why he’s rated the best in the business – a masterclass in high speed virtuosity and Irish rhythms. And all this after one of those unlikely hits which make festival going such fun. Korrontzi brought Basque music-making, dancing and sheer enjoyment in a set many would probably cite as the weekend’s stand-out moment.

It was left to Le Vent du Nord to close proceedings on the Sunday night. But not before the prodigiously talented Sunjay and the ebullient Rusty Shackle had both wowed the crowd, the former with quiet ability and the latter through sheer force. The Quebec quartet lived up to expectations with yet another storming rhythmic, jaw-dropping set to leave no doubts at all about their right to the plum spot on the bill and the likelihood that they too will be back again. So, one would expect, will be the vast majority of the thousands who dined heartily on such excellent fare this weekend.

Next year’s festival runs from July 27 to 30. Visit www.warwickfolkfestival.co.uk for further details.