October 16th, 2006


The Leicestershire Lass

With just three weeks left in which to pack up, up sticks, mix metaphors and move house, clearly the most sensible way to spend the weekend was in the heart of the Midlands, at the first ever Loughborough Folk Festival.

Regulars of Cambridge Folk Festival (and readers of smallbeds's eloquent rant about Cornbury Folk Festival) will be familiar with the peculiarly middle-class Gazebo-Rage-inducing type of Folk Festival, frequented by belligerent real-ale-drinking Guardian readers and people who don't-know-much-but-they-know-what-folk-isn't (and it usually isn't at least two of the main acts at Cambridge)...

Well, before you get too carried away with vicarious indignation, Loughborough Folk Festival was nothing like that. For one thing, it was indoors, and on reflection, I think this is a much underrated location for festivals. Throughout the weekend I found myself completely untroubled by nostalgic thoughts like "Wouldn't this be improved by six inches of mud?" and "It's good, but I'd feel more at home if I was trying to watch the act through rain-smeared glasses and a forest of other people's umbrellas". This also meant that real sound systems could be used: that is, ones that allow sound to be heard. It's jolly good, this amplification thing. They should patent it.

Secondly, the gigs were seated. Again, I didn't find myself yearning for the uninterrupted view of a bald chap's shiny head, or the smalls of tall men's backs; instead, I enjoyed a clear view of the stage and the performers. Clever idea on somebody's part, there!

Thirdly, there was real ale in abundance -- never mind your usual two-varieties-of-Charles-Wells-and-count-yourself-lucky, we're talking about 12 different varieties including a very nice stout (Grantham Stout, IIRC), which is not bad for a mini-festival in a town hall. (Unfortunately there wasn't really any food to speak of, which was probably the festival's only major deficiency; but with half-hour breaks between most sets there was time to nip out and sample, er, Loughborough's finest -- or in our case nip back to my parents' house for meals.)

Fourthly, there was some kind of respect for the performers. No mobile phones allowed (and I didn't hear a single one go off), no nattering through the gig, and no wandering in and out of the concert rooms except during the applause between songs (as I found to my surprise when we arrived late for one of the acts we'd wanted to see); and a general expectation that you'd sit and watch the performers instead of doing the crossword, eating pies, or playing games with your kids. A bit of a culture-shock after the usual festival fare, but a very welcome one. Imagine, actually listening to the music you've paid to hear!

And now, about that music... Collapse )