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?
For many years, volunteers in Oxford and the neighbouring county have been raising funds to set up a memorial to the fighters who went from the city and neighbouring areas to fight fascism in Spain in 1936/7.
After a series of speeches from Paul Preston, Richard Baxell , Carmen Negrin and others the previous evening, the memorial was unveiled late Saturday morning in a prominent position near the Headington Hill/South Park area.
Following a speculative enquiry back in mid-2016, we were pleased to be invited by club organiser Steve Primarolo to perform for our first time at the Bracknell Folk Club.
After meeting up at a friend’s house in Reading for a cuppa and a bite to eat, Rob and I made our way over in the early evening to The Sun pub in Windlesham, between Bracknell and Bagshot.
Following Na-Mara’s successful participation in the Bromyard Folk Festival last year, we were approached by a friend of a friend, the organiser of a series of concerts in the village of Yarpole (Music at St Leonard’s), to perform one of the concerts in the current series. This is something we were naturally delighted to do.
Jon and Hilary McNamara (no relation) have given long and dedicated service to the promotion of folk music in and around Hertfordshire for over forty years. Sadly, as the lease runs out on the Royal British Legion club in Windhill, Bishop's Stortford where the club takes place, it looks like Stortfolk will be closing in July this year.