It’s been a great day today, really hot and sunny. We got up early as I was going off to the Leigh Folk Festival and we had bacon, sausage and egg bagels in the garden. I set off to drive to Leigh on Sea at about 10:30 – as the crow flies it’s only about 6 miles away but to get there involves driving about 20 miles west then 6 miles north over the Dartford Crossing and then about 20 miles east again. I could see the same power station from the banks of the estuary there as I can see from my loft window here!
As I drove into Leigh I noticed a complete lack of any signage and ended up having to stop and look at the map that I’d printed off the website in order to get my bearings. I eventually found my way to the station car park and parked my car. I set off 3 times to go to the part of town where the music was returning first because I realised I’d left my map in the car and then again when I realised I’d also left my phone! I noticed people were paying for the car park so I checked and doubled checked on the map and I was positive that it was free. I pointed this out to someone but they said they’d rather pay just in case! Bollocks to that and anyway I didn’t have any change!
I followed the path which ran between the estuary and the railway line, past the cocklesheds down to the town. I found the scout hut where the bands I wanted to see were playing and had a nose in – it was quite full – before going off to find a toilet and a beer. The first pub was packed so I just used the loo and wandered down to the other end of the street. The next pub was quite empty and I bought a pint of Doom Bar and headed back up the street. It was quite busy and I found Royal Liberty Morris dancing in what I assume was a carpark! So I stayed and watched for a bit.
I decided to go back to the scout hut and grab a seat. As I said it was quite full but I found a space to stand at the back. There were a couple playing and when they finished the hall emptied so I went and grabbed a seat about two rows from the front. There was an impromptu performance by a man who goes by the name of Wounded Knee while the next act set up. It turned out to be an odd Scottish Punch and Judy show which singing. The next act were called Pick your feet up but at first I wasn’t impressed – at least until he put down the mandolin and picked up the guitar which I enjoyed more.
After them were the bands I came to see – it was a showcase of acts on the Folk Police Label and first up were the band I’d been wanting to see for quite some time Sproatly Smith. I thought they were superb and in some ways I enjoyed their live performance even more than their CDs. It was just a shame that due to the time constraints of the festival they were limited to about 30 minutes. It was obvious that everyone enjoyed them judging by the queue of people buying CDs off them afterwards. I was going to buy Time is n time was but they’d ran out so I bought Pixieled instead.
Next up were Rapunzel and Sedayne who I’d also been looking forward to as I love their album Songs from the Barley Temple as well as the stuff Sedayne posts on Facebook and Soundcloud. They played traditional style folk on fiddle and banjo.
The final band were Harp and a Monkey who had come down from Manchester. It was during their set that I realised that either I’d listened to their album a lot more than I’d thought or that their songs are insanely memorable. They knocked out about 6 tracks of the CD with banjo, harp, guitar, accordion and backing tracks!
On the way out I had a quick word with Sedayne before dashing off to find a loo – I’d need to go since before Harp and a Monkey! I went back to the pub where I’d bought the beer earlier and it was absolutely rammed. I discovered that the 3 hours or so I’d spent in the scout hut had actually been spent in an oasis of calm compared to the madness that was outside. There were a lot more people now and many of them had obviously come to get drunk (although god knows how given the queues in the pubs). The streets were packed and there was no where to sit down. Some of the music playing on the open air stages only had a faint connection to the folk genre – in fact some of it only had a faint connection to music. I ended up buying a hotdog and a bottle of water so I had change for the Dartford crossing and decided to cut my losses and make a run for it – especially after I discovered there was no way I’d get to the Methodist Chapel in time to catch the end of Sharron Kraus. (In an alternative universe I could happily have spent the afternoon in here as that was where Wounded Knee were playing and also You are Wolf. I had already seen Sharron Kraus and You are Wolf though)