Feature: Review - Derby Folk Festival

Dalek dancing and all round delight; a guest post by Elly Lucas.

I always look forward to the start of October. Not only does it signal the start of that beautiful time of year when all the leaves begin to turn and throw the world into a whole new spectrum of colour, it also means it’s nearly one of my favourite times to be back in my home city: Derby Folk Festival.

This year’s gorgeous event kicked off with an evening concert featuring the phenomenal talent of Moore, Moss, Rutter and Blair Dunlop.

If you’ve never heard these guys play before, give them a listen! Their debut album, released on Rootbeat Records and produced by the incredible Andy Bell, is available for purchase here.

As for Blair, I was recently delighted to do the photography & album artwork for his latest release, entitled “Blight & Blossom” (out now on Rooksmere Records). I’d suggest you buy it, but if you go and see him live he’ll do a much better job at the cunning sales banter. For the meantime, I’ll simply plant the idea that he’s really very, very good indeed. 

After Blair’s set there was a short interlude involving dancing, bitter shandy, stall oggling, caffeinating and a generally lovely time catching up with all the familiar friendly faces. Then the queues began to build up outside the doors of the Great Hall ready for the evening’s main event: the guitar and songwriting wizardry of Martin Simpson followed by a new act to me (and a very welcome one at that), Jamie Smith’s Mabon.

Saturday morning kicked off with a flashmob ceilidh on Derby Market Place (suitably far enough away from the bizarre array of fairground rides who’d parked up outside the venue) followed by a fantastically blue Morris troupe. Morris dancing outside a Walkabout Bar. Excellent stuff.

This was followed by lots of informal sessioning back inside around the main foyer area and one of Lester Simpson’s AMAZING big group singing sessions. How he managed to get such a large group singing note-perfect multi-part harmonies in such a short space of time is beyond me. All I know was that it was a right nice way to start the musical day.

Gig wise, I was delighted on Saturday to finally catch the new four piece line-up of Pilgrim’s Way! They’ve now expanded to include the multi-instrumental talents of the terribly clever Jon Loomes, and my goodness do they sound tasty. 

Saturday also featured floor spots by Earlsdon Morris and a showcase by Folk-3D (a fantastic group set up to teach traditional dance, music, song and craft to schools and communities. More info here!) There were more pleasant surprises from the Foyer Folk Club and performances from Cupola, Coope, Boyes & Simpson, Winter:Wilson, George Papavgeris & Los Marbles, Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer, Elbow Jane AND Peatbog Faeries! Whew.

After dosing up to my eyeballs on painkillers and sleeping for as long as I humanly could, I returned back to the festival on Sunday to the sound of another of Lester’s big sings. Again, what an unbelievably lovely sound to fully awaken to. There were also a cracking set of tunes going on in the foyer courtesy of Tom Kitching, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, and one of Walsh & Pound’s final festival gigs occurring in the great hall.

Sunday’s installment of the Foyer Folk Club was particularly fine, this time being run by my dear friend and old fiddle tutor, the fabulous Sarah Matthews. There were spots by Kirsty Bromley, David Gibb and Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer, some decidedly energetic dancing (of both the organised and spontaneous varieties), a selection of some of my favourite tunes and – one of my highlights of the entire weekend – DARLEK MORRIS DANCING.

Now, you may be wondering – how on earth do you top a Dalek Morris display? It’s a difficult one, to be sure, but Derby managed. Festival organisers Bob Rushton & Mick Pete know their stuff. So, it was time for another one of my festival highlights: Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party! With a voice like that and a band line up that she aptly describes as her “folk dream team”, you can’t go far wrong. 

Unfortunately this marked the end of my time at Derby Folk Festival, but having seen Seth Lakeman several times before I’ve no doubt that it finished with a bang! I also have it on good authority that there was a high level of boogying occurring…

Last but not least, huge congratulations to all involved in the festival. The performers, sound engineers, staff and everyone who made it another perfect antidote to the post festival blues of late September – thank you all. Now, roll on next year!


Words & photos by Elly Lucas

Tags:  Derby Folk Festival Assembley Rooms Derby Elly Lucas Music Folk Festival

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