Sidmouth Folk Festival 2021: Sunday

Day two of the festival starred Jim Causley(again) , Jack Rutter, but this time, chiefly , the weather. 

 I don’t think the organizers quite expected the ubiquity of camp chairs. “Everyone is carrying things!”exclaimed a local I passed on the trek from the campsite to the party. “You’ll need a holiday to get over your holiday!” There is certainly talk in the program about space for picnic blankets, standing punters, and people with chairs, but pretty much the whole arena is full of rows of DIY seating. I think this may cause some logistical problems during the queuing phase of the festivities, but it all gets sorted out. We are in the open so social distancing is not too much of a concern. A man in the Cornish Pasty shop asked me very politely where my mask was. 

I remain surprised by how many people are surprised and cross by the existence of a queue. It is shocking and ludicrous, apparently. How else 800 English people might be expected to go through a gate is a matter for conjecture. 

 Yesterday I lugged a large bag and a jumper around all day, so today I opt for a small bag and a kagoul. A small mac. I have never consciously written the word kagoul before and have no idea how to spell it. At precisely one o clock the Exeter Shantymen (in cod naval uniforms) took to the stage and the rain came in. The forecast was for drizzle, but it was torrential drizzle. Half of the audience ran for cover, the rest us us nutters cowered beneath umbrellas and misspelled carry macs. I believe the shantymen to have been very good: I distinctly recall a second outing for Mr John Kerr Knacker-Knacker and some people wearing the trousers of of the white while fishing for the whale.

 Second up, and slightly drier, was Ben Paley. (Son of Tom: he says he thinks of his father who, performed with Woody Guthrie, as a myth rather than a legend.) He does that American fiddle music that was already called Old Time in the old times. East Virginia girls are warned not to marry West Virginia girls and an authentically Yiddish klezmer had a refrain which went “oi, oi, oi”. There was also one which was usually about cocaine addiction but in this case was about, er, croquet. (The only known photo of Billy the Kid is of him playing croquet outside a saloon, so I guess it had the same kind of bad reputation that pool acquired.) 

Mrs Midnight were the instrumental component of the afternoon, and I liked them more than I normally like that kind of thing. The whistle added some distinct nuance to the melodeon and guitar. 

 My notes become a bit soggy at this point: a person I describe “traditional man” was forced to sing a Cyril Tawney song about a pastie salesman standing by the docks “as the rain is softly falling” just as things reverted to the torrential. He also did a clever reworking of a Robert Southey poem about a bishop who burns a lot of peasants in a barn as a kind of howl about Grenfell Tower. (Programs assures me he was called Paul Downes. The singing,  it the bishop.)

Afternoon winds up with Narthen: a super-quartet, if not super group, consisting of Barry Coope (as in “Boyes and Simpson”) Jo Freya, Fi Fraser and and the aforementioned Jim Causley, who pretty much abducted the show with a little known John Denver track about war being good for absolutely nothing. (We take it out of the mouths of our babies / out of the hands of the poor / what are we making weapons for.) 

 By now it was not merely damp, but actually cold, so I opted to walk back to the campsite and pick up a coat and a jumper. A thirty minute walk doubtless counteracts some of the beer. I have promised my Slimming World component to make Good Choices this week. 

 Truthfully, despite being a veritable Kwisatz Haderach of the folk dynasty, Eliza Carthy is not always my most favoritist cup of tea, although I much enjoyed her spirited run through of all the verses of Turpin Hero, and the dance along Hey Mr Walker I’m Here To See Your Daughter. And there is nothing quite like her jumping up and down with the fiddle in the raucous instrumental encore. 

But the day’s highlight for me was Jack Rutter who opened for her. He sings traditional songs in a traditional voice with a traditional northern accent and a traditionally permanent grin. He takes us right through a long Child Ballad about Fair Janet and Young James. (Boy meets girl, girls father marries girl to rich guy, girl drops dead at wedding, boy kicks rich guy downstairs.) He makes us all go Whack For Diddle to the Lancashire Liar, goes briefly country and western for If Drinking Don’t Kill Me Her Memory Will, and winds up with us all singing Hey John Barleycorn, How, John Barleycorn. 

A lady is singling Thousand Or More when I get to the Swan. Another lady does a spirited Night at he Dun Cow burned down with a fiddle (MacIntire!) Tomorrow I will bring my coat and it will be hot all day.  

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