Beverley Folk Festival
As the Beverley Folk Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend, Chris Bond speaks to its artistic director Chris Wade. FOLK FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS
WHEN Chris Wade and a group of friends at the White Horse Folk Club set up the original Beverley Folk Festival back in 1983, they thought it would probably just be a one-off.
Many a music festival has come and gone in the intervening years but Beverley’s three-day celebration of music, comedy, poetry and story-telling has not only survived but flourished, establishing itself as one of the most popular dates on the British folk calendar.
The annual event, which gets underway today, is celebrating its 30th anniversary and this year promises to be the biggest yet with up to 6,000 people expected to attend more than 90 gigs and events over the weekend.
In previous years the town’s leisure centre has been the festival’s heart but this time they’ve moved to Beverley Racecourse. “It’s grown steadily over the years,” says Wade, the festival’s artistic director, “but although we’ve moved to the racecourse we still have some of the smaller venues because we want to retain the intimate atmosphere that makes the festival so special.”
Wade says the festival started out with a handful of events in local pubs. “We wanted to try and bring some bigger names artists to Beverley, but we had no idea it would carry on for as long as it has, we thought it would just be a one off.”
Since then the likes of Billy Bragg, Clare Teal, Paul
The Proclaimers – Brothers Charlie and Craig Reid are masters of the rousing pop anthem whose songs have been belted out on disco dancefloors for the past 25 years.
Gretchen Peters – folk and country singer-songwriter from Nashville who has written hits for the likes of Etta James, Patty Loveless and Neil Diamond.
Henry Priestman – Yorkshire-born songwriter and musician who made his name with The Christians during the 1980s and 90s.
Patrick Monahan – The Middlesbrough stand-up of Iranian and Irish descent widely tipped as a comedy star in the making. Carrack and Steeleye Span have performed at the festival, and this year’s line-up is no less impressive, with The Proclaimers, Oysterband and acclaimed crime fiction writer Ian Rankin among the big names taking part.
In its early days the focus was very much on folk music, but the festival – which boasts Mike Harding and John Godber as patrons – has since evolved to attract a broader audience. “Each year we like to have at least one big headline act who appeals to both a folk and a non-folk audience and this year we’ve got The Proclaimers.
“But we’ve also got comedy with John Shuttleworth and Patrick Monahan, we’ve got the crime fiction writer Ian Rankin and we’ve got poetry and storytelling and the festival film club.”
They’re also staging John Godber’s play, Bouncers. “It’s the first time we’ve done theatre and as John is one of our patrons we thought it was fitting to do one of his plays.”
Comedy has become an integral part of the festival over the years and Teesider Patrick Monahan, winner of the ITV 1 series Show Me the Funny, will kick off proceedings tonight, before John Shuttleworth brings his wonderfully wacky style of comedy to the stage tomorrow night.
On Sunday, Ian Rankin, international best selling author of the John Rebus novels, makes a welcome return to the festival when he will be talking about his latest