After a somewhat fitful night’s sleep for me at least, Rob and I were treated to a lovely breakfast by Peter and Geoff before setting off back to the Shrewsbury Folk Festival site on Saturday morning. Once there, we checked on CD sales (which were very decent) and had a coffee before getting our gear together and walking the ten minutes off site to the Bird in Hand pub where we were to begin the lunchtime programme at midday.
Rehearsals were over, the packing was done and it was time to set off for our first experience of the wonderful Shrewsbury Folk Festival. The weather was fine, the roads were kind and we made it easily to a service station near Telford for lunch.
Suitably refreshed, after lunch we drove the last few miles to the festival site which was already busy by the time we arrived.
What a great time we had last night as guests of the Cambridge Folk Club, performing as one of a number of representative bands at the Club Tent on the Cambridge Folk Festival site at Cherry Hinton Lane.
Despite the best efforts of the predictable Friday-night-in-the-school-holidays road chaos, we managed to make it to the artists' car park and then onto the festival site in plenty of time for our performance.
Once on site we immediately ran into friends, seeing, first, Patti and then Roger Pitt, organisers of the great St Neot’s Folk Club.
After an excellent evening performing at the Caerleon Arts Festival on Monday, we were excited to be returning to south Wales again for a Wednesday evening performance at the Llantrisant Folk Cub in Pont-Y-Clun. The Llantrisant Folk Club is a vibrant club with a great schedule of headliners and we were very pleased to be invited by club organiser Pat ‘Spoons’ Smith to perform there.
This year is the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of 4,000 Basque children from Bilbao to Southampton. It is also the 80th anniversary of many of the battles that the British Battalion of the International Brigades fought in during the Spanish Civil War. Quite rightly, therefore, there are many commemorative events occurring this year and Na-Mara has been honoured to be invited to participate and perform in a number of them.
Rob and I have been visiting Watford Folk Club for almost ten years and the welcome and support we have received from club organisers and members has been very warm and full, and we number many in the club amongst our closest folk friends. So, it was lovely that so many of them came out to see us perform on a blisteringly hot Friday night in July when the barbecue and cold lagers in the back garden must have been very tempting. It was also very nice to be accompanied by family who were passing through St Albans on the way to a function in London the next day.
This was a day for memorable speeches and performances. As in 2016, we were again doubly honoured this July by two important organisations.
With the exception of the Festival concert (this year with the Furrow Collective and winners and finalists of local song and New Roots competitions at the town’s Malting Arts Theatre), the St Albans Folk Festival is a largely local affair showcasing a wealth of talent from around Hertfordshire. This is supplemented with talented performers from further afield, like the great Polly Morris up from Dorset, a Day of Dance featuring fifteen different dance teams, plus a variety of music sessions and workshops.
In summer 2016, a representative of the Worms-based Jazz and Joy Festival attended the St Albans Folk Day and identified a number of bands and musicians to invite to Worms the following summer. The invitation to perform on the opening night of the festival was part of celebrations to commemorate 60 years of Städtepartnerschaft or town-twinning between the cities of St Albans and Worms.
After the need for a couple of postponements, Rob and I were finally able to make our return to the Baldock and Letchworth Blues, Folk and Roots Club. As one of the club organisers, Alan Hewson, noted in his kind introduction before we took to the stage, it was ten years ago that we first went along to the club to do a floorspot; to quote the beautiful song by Sandy Denny, Who Knows Where The Time Goes?