Now in its 52nd year, the festival has completely sold out for the 23rd year in a row. While probably not the most famous festival in the UK’s summer line-up, it does have a long, rich history of stellar line-ups and has been setting the standard for folk festivals since its genesis. This year’s festival looks to continue that trend.
Thursday 28th July
With only the second stage and a limited number of tents open, the Festival won’t quite be in full swing until Friday, but there’s still a plethora of acts and activities to get the crowd into the spirit of things. Running throughout the weekend is a comprehensive programme of workshops and sessions – from fiddle lessons, storytelling, instrument making and face painting to entertain even the youngest festival goer, to willow workshops, drawing lessons and ceilidhs for all ages – this a festival that can’t be criticised for a lack of variety!
Opening the festival in a manner in which it means to go on are new Glasgow-based five-piece band Imar, who will also play an exclusive performance at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden the night before the Festival opens. Formed only this year, each of the band’s members have a strong background in Irish music, and take their name from a 9th century Viking leader of the Gaelic-speaking nation made up of Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. They’ll hand the stage over to Seafret, a duo from Bridlington whose debut album Tell Me It’s Real was released earlier this year. English folksinger, composer and man with far too many accomplishments to list, Jon Boden, closes Stage 2 on this first night.
Occupying the Club Tent is Will Varley, who has recently played support act to Frank Turner, The Proclaimers and Billy Bragg, before the evening is closed by Cornish bluegrass four-piece Flats & Sharps (who look like they’re only just old enough to order a Thatchers from the Festival bar).
Friday 29th July
An hour-long MOJO magazine interview with Kate Rusby, a songwriting workshop with Chris Wood and a juggling workshop, amongst a host of other activities, kick of the first full-powered day of the
festival. Local husband and wife duo Megson are the first to grace Stage 1 with their arresting, intelligent songwriting and lush harmonies. Over in The Den Portuguese-British singer songwriter Nessi Gomes will bring a blended
sound of the traditions of her two cultures, before beat-driven indie-folk husband and wife team The Daydream Club
take to the stage.
Scottish singer songwriter and more lately, film soundtrack composer, KT Tunstall, begins the early-evening shift on Stage 1. From mid-August to mid-November she’ll be touring in support of her sixth album, KIN. At the festival she’ll precede Glen Hansard, he of The Swell Season, The Frames and ‘Once’ fame (for which he won an Oscar – no big deal), who will, in perhaps not the most natural scheduling move ever made, give way to Gogol Bordello to finish Friday’s festivities.
Saturday 30th July
Despite vocal chords being well warmed during Eliza Carthy’s singing workshop, one might feel like leaving it up to the professionals for the afternoon, so it’s a good thing that The Mike + Ruthy Band are on hand to take the reins. Their debut album, Bright As You Can, was released in June 2015 and has been hailed as “the vanguard of the vibrant folk revival”. Hailing from New York’s Hudson Valley, the band promise to bring a blend of motown soul and Americana to this small corner of Cambridge.
The evening line up on Stage 1 looks to be a stormer, with British folk institution Kate Rusby giving way to Charles Bradley, Afro Celt Sound System and finally, as if that weren’t enough, the Irish legend that is Christy Moore. Phew.
Sunday 31st July
The job of rounding things off on the final day of the festival lands in capable hands. Mercury Prize nominated Sam Lee & Friends are an anchor of the Stage 2 lineup which includes acts from Chicago and Inverness, Cornwall and New Orleans. In the Flower Garden there’ll be a singaround with a local folk club and a Northumbrian pipes workshop.
Baaba Maal is the Senegalese singer and guitarist who recently accompanied Mumford & Sons on their tour of South Africa, and, as a result released with them the single ‘There Will Be Time’ from the Johannesburg EP, released earlier this year. He’ll take to Stage 1 before Irish blues/rockabilly/jazz/soul singer Imelda May.
The festival looks to be, once again, a bright display of talent from all corners of the UK and far beyond, showcasing a handful of established greats as well as dozens of burgeoning acts. It seems like the festival will, for the 52nd time, successfully walk the fine line of being a credit to Cambridge in its support of local businesses while bringing some of the finest global musical talent, along with an array of different cultures, into one place for this vibrant weekend. And Team FFS are excited to be there.
Words: Angeline Liles