Now in its third year The Great British Folk Festival held at Butlin’s Skegness resort has now become an established part of the festival scene. Forget any preconceptions of the ‘holiday camp’. The images lampooned in programmes such as Hi-Di-Hi are outdated and have absolutely nothing to do with the modern first class visitor experience. Comfortable and welcoming Accommodation is included in the package, the stages skilfully managed, and the music takes in all aspects of loosely defined ‘folk’ – a chance to want to have a good time while maybe unearthing something new. This is why GBBF wins.
Friday’s line-up included Pie, Feast of Fiddles, The Fureys and Davey Arthur, The Travelling Band. All estimable talents however some of the other acts that day did not deliver. Fake Thackray would have been better suited to a smaller venue as would Oh Susanna. The Travelling Band sadly lost some of the The Fureys large audience. Although To be fair, the Fureys must be a hard act to follow. Meanwhile Feast of Fiddles dazzled the audience on the Centre Stage with their eleven fiddler players.
Saturday afternoon and Babajack shook the Centre Stage with an intense mix of blues, roots and folk. Becky Tate’s cajon (box drum) and Trevor Steger’s semi-acoustic ‘winebox’ guitar invoked a past area of raw and unpolished blues and roots. Not for the faint hearted.
The session’s other bands and singers – Deborah Bonham, Shinjig, and The Billy Mitchell Band rewarded the audience in a more traditional style. In contrast, the band Moonshee took on a global slant with Sitar, tablas, fiddle and harp. OK so it’s not unique these days but nevertheless a band definitely worth catching.
Saturday evening was probably, for the weekend’s audience, the best with Show of Hands, Thea Gilmore, June Tabor and The Oyster Band, Merry Hell and Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party.
June Tabor’s reunion with The Oyster Band after a twenty-one year gap and now on tour was the highlight of the weekend. Tabor has a startling and compelling presence yet never overshadows the band. Their take on Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic ‘White Rabbit’ was electrifying. The gig ended on a high with ‘Put Out the Lights’. Merry Hell – “Folk-rock with punk attitude” (their words) closed the evening on Reds with firm favourites Show of Hands closing Centre Stage.
Finally to Sunday afternoon on Centre Stage with a welcome diversion for tired heads – Animals and Friends with their storming session of nostalgic R’n’B. Gallagher’s keyboards were much to the fore offering a driving rhythm through many of the old standards but were nicely contrasted by Barton’s deep booming voice. That evening saw amongst others Ashley Hutchings & Morris On, Steel Threads, Gigspanner, Gordon Giltrap, The Gathering and headliners ,The Albion Band on Centre Stage and on Reds Stage, King Arthur’s Dream.
So over, for another year and clearly all of the above is both subjective and selective and not under any circumstances definitive. Therefore, I offer apologies to those missing their favourite artists or wanting a complete set-list. Overall, a fantastic weekend and already bookings are being taken for 2013!
If you want to see some of this year’s performances take a look at Peter Simmonds’ You Tube Site.http://www.youtube.com/user/SIMMO7TS