A Family Visit to Folk East in Suffolk.
After several years absence from folk festivals (tiny toddlers and big festivals don't go that well together in my world !), I decided this year that it was time to try out a festival with my four and seven year old daughters. And what better festival could there be for that than Folk East, a fully family orientated folk festival.
Now in its fourth year, Folk East has gone from strength to strength and is quickly developing to a leading event on the British folk calendar. It is set in the beautiful grounds of Glemham Hall, in coastal Suffolk, in the East of England. Folk East is a very friendly and relaxed festival, with a lot of space on the festival grounds.
We decided to go only for a one-day "taster" on Sunday the 23 August - and we all wanted more at the end of this fun and music packed day.
We started the day with the 10.30 childrens show of the great English husband and wife duo Megson, a show the duo had put together as a result of becoming parents themselves. My girls loved the show, which featured childrens songs new and old, including fun participation songs with loud animal noises, and even a bubble machine. A good one to start with!
We then went off to explore the dedicated children’s area, which had plenty of activities for small folk. The story shack tipi was a great place to be, giving children a place to spend some quiet time, with a pile of books to read, things to dress up in or joining in the craft activities such as creating a book or making a sock monkey.
Somehow we managed to avoid Abi’s Mud Kitchen - it did look great though, literally a well equipped kitchen to play with mud. Mud pies for lunch were not our choice - even less so as there was such a great array of wonderful food stalls, mostly from local Suffolk providers. Then we headed to the open air main stage where we all really enjoyed the energetic and fun performance of the wonderful young duo of Ciaran Algar and Greg Russell. They brought a refreshing take on English trad music, with fiddle, guitar and voice.
The children then wanted to try some ceilidh dancing, which was down in a wedding marquee in the beautiful walled flower garden of Glemham Hall. The ceilidh was good fun but the dance was a bit too complicated for the girls - so we went back to the main stage to admire Northumbrian piper and instrument maker Andy May (the kids were impressed: "wow - he had built the pipes himself?!"), playing lively North-Eastern instrumental music with his trio partners, fiddler Sophie Ball and guitarist Ian Stephenson.
The rain still had not stopped, so we decided to go to the now already overcrowded garden stage marquee, where the great entertaining singing trio (and festival patrons) The Young’uns did one of their several sets of the weekend, to an enthusiastic audience crammed into dry of the tent.
Luckily, the rain stopped when the main evening proceedings at the open air main stage started to get going. We couldn't make much out of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, but I was keen to see the Canadian trio Ten Strings and a Goat Skin - and this was indeed well worth the wait. This is another amazing high energy export from Prince Edward Island. With guitar, fiddle and percussion (including the for Prince Edward Island quintessential foot percussion), the young trio creates a unique powerful blend of songs and tunes from Acadian, French and Irish Canadian orgins. "Cool" was the judgement of my daughter.
Then it was already getting time to get the girls back home. Yes I did miss the evening concerts (Chris Wood and Andy Cutting, The Unthanks and Peatbog Fairies) but this was still a superb day with plenty of great music - and all of us are keen to be back next year for the whole weekend!
Photo Credits: (1) FolkEast, (4) 'The Peculiar Tales of the S.S. Bungalow' (unknown/from website); (2) Megson, (3) Russell & Algar (by The Mollis).