Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Folk By The Oak

"Folk By The Oak" is a one-day festival of all that's best in folk music, held in the beautiful grounds of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. And as you've probably guessed, your fearless correspondent went along to enjoy the day.

There are all kinds of craft stalls and food outlets to sidetrack you, but lets head straight for the main stage and listen to the music.

Emily Portman And The Coracle Band - They take their name from Emily's latest album, not from any suggestion that they'd all fit into a tiny, wickerwork boat - there are six of them on various instruments including a harp. Delicate, thoughtful songs, an ideal start for a sunny afternoon in a leafy park.

Sweet Liberties - To celebrate 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta the English Folk Dance And Song Society and Folk By The Oak brought together Maz O'Connor, Sam Carter, Martyn Joseph and Nancy Kerr to compose new songs celebrating eight centuries of Acts Of Parliament - rock'n'roll! They had a bit of musical help from the melodeon of Nick Cooke and fiddler Patsy Reid. The songs are brilliant and reflect the different artistic approaches of the four songwriters.

Dom Flemons And Martin Simpson - one of Britain's finest acoustic guitarists, Martin Simpson, brought together with Dom Flemons, the extrovert and highly entertaining old time American songster, to explore the common ground between the two traditions. Well, that was idea of this project commissioned by the EFDSS, though in reality the two of them seem to be having such a good time in each other's musical company that such academic concerns were soon forgotten.

False Lights - Hang on! He looks familiar. Yes, Sam Carter the serious singer-songwriter of Sweet Liberties, who played the main stage a little while ago, is back heading his straight-ahead folk-rock band False Lights. And just to prove that some music will never die, there were a crowd of very young folkies bopping around right up near the stage. 

The Rheingans Sisters - As well as the main stage there's also music on the Acorn Stage, which is supposed to be for up-and-coming musicians - though in my eyes many of them have arrived already. The more intimate setting suits a quieter, more acoustic sound and I was drawn there by the fine songs and melodies of the Rheingans Sisters.

Cardboard Fox - Apologies to those who know better, but when I hear the words "young English bluegrass band" my expectations are not set too high. Big mistake! Their style, inventiveness and sheer breadth of influences tell me that they must have been listening to this music in their prams. Anyone who kicks off with Joni Mitchell's Raised On Robbery can do little wrong as far as I'm concerned!

Lynched - And finally, for those of us who had to wrestle with the vagaries and weekend cancellations of the British railway network in order to get home, were a bunch of Dublin folk miscreants trading under the name of Lynched. "More spit than polish", as one reviewer summed them up, but a fine raucous, spirited set nonetheless.

If you want to hear some of the music you could do worse than follow these links:
   Emily Portman & The Coracle Band
   Sweet Liberties
   Dom Flemons & Martin Simpson
   False Lights
   Rheingans Sisters
   Cardboard Fox

Take care.


  1. It sounds like a great festival...pun intended!

  2. Looks like fun!

    Is that a bagpiper (with the armband tattoos)?

    1. Yep, the Irish pipes, or more correctly the Uillean Pipes. It means the "elbow pipes" and refers to the fact that they are played with a bellows operated under the arm. They are an extremely complicated and temperamental instrument.

  3. Sounds like a great day! I'd love it. Excellent pix you got too.

  4. Sounds like it is a fantastic festival. Listening to different music is always fun, at least most of the time :)

  5. Fun stuff! Clifftop is happening in West Virginia soon, a huge gathering of old-time, folk and who knows what other kind of musicians. I'd love to go, but outside festivals this time of year don't float my boat.

  6. A fun time to be had by all. Great music no doubt.

  7. Oh, looks wonderful. I'm envious. Good to see young ones getting involved too. Too many grey hairs like us at folk events.

  8. John -- great sharp photos of what appears to be a wonderful event to attend. I feel you really enjoyed it from your descriptive words. Will be following up on your post's music links. -- barbara

  9. Thanks John - what a great day out - regardless of those wretched trains - I'm staying in Easbourne! However - it sounds a wonderful mix of music, peoples, dance, happiness and crafts - fantastic ... and gorgeous photos ... as you always give us - cheers Hilary

  10. Sounds like a good time was had by all until it was time to get a train home.

  11. Another quintessential English summers day John, so many people enjoying the music.. I had a wee listen, nice!

  12. You obviously had a really good time:) It looks as though a great many other people did too from your first photo.

  13. Thank you John - enjoyed the music. Looks like great fun...

  14. I bet you heard alot of good music


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