34 years ago, an English electric folk band played what was intended to be there final show in a field in Cropredy village, Oxfordshire. However, as the saying goes, ‘best laid plans’, a reunion tour was announced shortly after and not only was Cropredy festival formed but also the aforementioned band – Fairport Convention – would continue on forward on their musical journey.
Cropredy Festival itself has grown over the years and has seen many milestones come and go but the ritual of the festival rolls on. It’s a classic festival with one stage and one field of people and works extremely well as there is none of the queuing /moving to get from stage to stage and potentially missing bands.
Also there is only one bar, a rather large outdoor bar that serves not only the punters but also the artists, well stocked with real ale, lager and cider. Over my 16 years of going to the festival it has never run out of anything and is always a good place to go and hang out and
see who’s come along for the weekend.
Along with the well stocked bar there is also just about any food you can think of and all reasonably priced. The stalls here have changed slightly over the years but you still have the multitude of festival clothing and jewelry and also the ever popular musical instruments stalls where budding musicians can part with quite a wad of cash to see if they can emanate their hero’s on stage.
Camping here is spread over about 10 fields, all within easy walking distance of the main arena and also Cropredy village, also you camp next to your car for ease and security. With an attendance in excess of 20,000 that’s a lot of people to sort out and keep safe but the security here is very good indeed. All the guys I met and saw were happy and chatty and getting in with the festival but at the same time you know they were ready if needed, a great balance and well setup.
As well as the main festival there is also the fringe festival that runs in the village pubs where the Brasenose and the Red Lion put on a full weekend of music food and beer and so do a lot of the locals with food stalls, BBQ etc.
The Brasenose has its best lineup on the Saturday afternoon when the mighty ‘Leatherat’ take to the stage in the beer garden. They always have the place full and bouncing and this year was no exception. You don’t often see a mosh pit for a folk rock band but their music just got the crowd up there and going. A word about the Brasenose, it gets very busy and although they have multiple bars the queue’s can take time.
The Red Lion round the corner has the added advantage on a large outdoor space namely the graveyard of the church opposite, it’s not out of place to grab a beer and go and sit amongst the gravestones and chill out.
Cropredy is musically quite diverse and this year is no exception, ranging from ‘Fairport Acoustic’ and ‘Richard Digance’ to ‘Medieval Babes’ and ‘Alice Cooper’. The whole festival was kicked off by a great acoustic set from Fairport, well it is their festival so why not. The surprise headliner for Thursday was Alice Cooper, this saw a large crowd with a number of them with Alice face paint on ready for him to come onstage. I was expecting a cut down show but we were treated to a full on Alice show with all the props/snakes/etc that makes him what he is.
The crowd was also in full flow singing away and moshing around. Particularly good was the 4 songs to past hero’s, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Keith Moon playing a song from each of their bands. Indeed the following day Alice was reported to have posted on his website ‘Who’d have thought the best show in his tour would have been at a folk festival’ I think everyone who was there would agree that it was an awesome show.
Over the 2 main days we are treated to some really great music ranging from the sublime vocals works of the Medieval Babes, who are also very pleasing on the eye, to the ridiculous but entertaining Richard Digance and also special guest Jasper Carrot. One of the real highlights for the music were BBC Radio2 Young Folk Musicians of the Year Winners – Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar - two great singers and players went down extremely well with the crowd and no doubt we will see them round the circuit over the following years although they will need to work on their jokes as they were rubbish!
For me The Levellers were one of the best acts all weekend and certainly should have been the headliners for Friday, 10cc who were the headliners were very good but I just think ‘The Levellers’ would have been a better choice.
Saturday rolled out with the usual starting point of Richard Digance who has appeared now for the past 12 years or so and plays his songs and ditties about growing up and life observations, always fun with the crowd and always includes some sort of crowd participation. Generally in the form of the whole field pretending to be elephants or something just as daft but always fun and then finishes with the whole crown waving white hankies in a mass morris dance.
The rest of the day was full of great sets from Medieval Babes, Brooks Williams, The Dunwells, The Peatbog Faeries and Nik Kershaw. I have seen the Peatbogs a number of times now and they certainly go down better on a smaller stage but nevertheless this was a great set by them.
And so to the concluding set of the night which is as ever Fairport Convention who play a 3 hour set of just about all the best of their considerable back catalogue. Vocals are shared between Simon Nicols and Chris Leslie and guests with the occasional song from Peggy (Dave Pegg, Bass).
The sets have varied over the years but this year was a particularly good one and was well received by the crowd. As ever there is always mention of one of their former singers Sandy Denny who was with them during their best period of music in most people’s eyes.
This year Vikki Clayton stepped up to the mark and gave a brilliant performance of ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ which always stirs the emotions in the crowd as does the final song of the evening.
Every year the closing song is always the same and always will be, ‘Meet On The Ledge’, a song which means so much to so many people as we all remember friends gone by. A fitting and emotional end to a brilliant weekend of music, fun, and meeting people.
A final note though, as always there is the Sunday afternoon cricket match, where Fairport and Friends play a game at the cricket pavilion to end the weekend. This sums up the flavour of the whole festival, quintessentially English with its newspaper readers, Morris Dancers, cricket and beer but most of all fun and friendly. Roll on next year, dates already announced are the 7th to 9th August.
Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley
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