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Issue 347 – Fabulous first Frome Folk Festival is a big hit

THE first Frome Folk Festival has been voted a resounding success, with plans announced immediately for a 2013 festival and tickets for next year’s event already going on sale.

From the opening of its doors on Saturday 18th February to the close of the weekend, the inaugural event brought thousands of festival-goers flocking to Frome to see a raft of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winners past and present. The cream of the British folk music world were joined by local musicians, colourful Morris dancers from all parts of the country, ceilidhs, workshops and stalls.
The festival saw a weekend audience of nearly 1,500 people from all over the South West to Kent, London, Lancashire, the north of England and even America attending one of the first UK festivals of 2012 – the second successful festival that South West-based music promoter Jan Ayers has launched during a recession.
Jan, who also brought back Bristol Folk Festival last year said, “We are simply delighted at the reaction. The atmosphere at the venues and around the town was incredible and Frome’s hotels, shops, cafes and pubs have all been boosted. The music has been outstanding as well as the hordes of brilliant Morris dancers and everything else that has formed part of this unforgettable weekend.”
The headline events took place at The Cheese and Grain but the rest of the town was buzzing with alternative programmes at Westway cinema, The Masonic Hall and music and singing workshops at the Black Swan Round Tower. There were market stalls, a colourful and buoyant Morris programme and programmed and impromptu sessions at pubs around town, including The Cornerhouse, The Blue Boar and The Griffin, with The Griffin’s Milk Street Brewery having brewed the special festival ale “Folklore”.
Funky young Somerset ceilidh band Dyer: Cummings got the festival off to an early start at The Cheese and Grain on Saturday morning before Frome-based festival patron Cara Dillon introduced the duo Winter Mountain, the first signing to her Charcoal records label.
Saturday highlights included the arresting singer-songwriter Chris Wood, a five-times BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner, the effervescent Welsh band Jamie Smith’s Mabon and headliners Spiers and Boden, one of the most dynamic duos on the UK acoustic music scene.
The melodeon, fiddle and singing phenomenon, who founded the mighty mainstream crossover band, Bellowhead, also hosted an afternoon ceilidh before performing their evening headline set – a stand-out performance triggering two encores- the last being the rare treat of Bellowhead’s ‘New York Girls’.
Sunday’s early risers were drawn straight into a lively Cheese and Grain ceilidh courtesy of the band Elfynn before Tim Edey and Brendan Power, double-award winners at the recent 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (Best Duo and Musician of the Year for Edey) blew the audience away with a flamboyant display of virtuosic musicianship.
Frome’s own Street Bandits brought a vibrant performance to the main hall, while Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston performed an excellent set to launch their debut album, as did Gren Bartley.
The finale was down to Show of Hands’ multi award-winning frontman and songwriter Steve Knightley (Best Original Song, Best Duo and Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards), for once without his multi-instrumental partner Phil Beer. He brought the festival to its feet in a rare display of inimitable, one-man showmanship, supported by young Devon duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin and 17-year-old singer songwriting sensation Luke Jackson.
Other top acts included Bella Hardy, the popular young fiddle-singer from Derbyshire’s Peak District who jointly won the Best Original Song category at the Folk Awards. Bella and Bristol-based folk innovator Jim Moray performed to capacity audiences at the Westway cinema. Other key acts included Jackie Oates, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, the comedic and brilliant Belshazzar’s Feast, Somerset’s own blues musician Eddie Martin, and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Emerging Act nominees Pilgrims’ Way from Manchester.
Such was the response that 2013 tickets went on sale during the weekend, at 2012 prices, with the dates already set for Saturday 16th of February and Sunday 17th of February. Weekend tickets, price £58 (£48 concessions) are available from the Cheese and Grain box office on (01373) 455420.

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