What’s New at Leigh Folk Festival 2017?
As local pop pundit Daryl Easlea once remarked while paraphrasing the great John Peel, Leigh Folk Festival is ‘Always Different, Always the Same’ and 2017 will be no exception. Tradition and innovation are nestling as ever cheek by jowl. So, here are some of this year’s new developments:
This years festival map
Thursday June 22, Opening Night
Our free opening event takes place for the first time from 8pm at Southend’s ‘music central’, the Railway Hotel in Clifftown Rd, and features a typically eclectic Leigh Folk Festival selection of performer with Lost Harbours, M.G. Boulter & Friends and Phelan Burgoyne & Rob Luft.
Friday June 23, Estuary Song Writing Project Concert
In a departure from the pattern of previous years, Friday night’s main concert takes place in the recently refurbished surroundings of Wesley Methodist Church in Elm Road, Leigh, and features the final performance by the Estuary Songwriting Project team. Last year the Festival commissioned eight emerging and established musicians, songwriters and composers to produce a set of original songs on the subject of the Thames Estuary as a celebration of the event’s 25th anniversary.
A stunning set of songs and tunes emerged from a week’s residency at Chalkwell Hall in September 2016 as part of Metal’s ‘Culture Lab’ programme, and has already been performed on previous occasions to great acclaim – at the Estuary Festival on Southend Pier in October, and more recently at Cecil Sharp House in London, home of the English Folk Dance & Song Society. The material is musically diverse but forms a cohesive and compelling suite of compositions, all themed around the Estuary’s landscape, natural history, legends and folklore. The artists involved, three of whom were recent winners of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, are: Hazel Askew, M.G. Boulter, Lucy Farrell, Piers Haslam, Roshi Nasehi, Nick Pynn, Alasdair Roberts and Kate Waterfield. Tickets are £10, available in advance from www.music.leighfolkfestival.com .
Saturday June 24, I Made Some Low Inquiries Performance
Conceived by writer Justin Hopper, with musical support from Cath & Phil Tyler, Mike York. Mark Pilkington and Lost Harbours, with visuals by Mark Offord & Stef Musgrove, ‘I Made Some Low Inquiries’ is an invocation to the landscapes of East Anglia and Eastern America through poetry and music. Based around a new cycle of poems, the piece is accompanied by powerful folk songs, dynamic sonic atmospheres and eerie imagery. The poems in this cycle twist and turn in their language, drawing on sources from Appalachian mountain ballads to Essex witchcraft and the rituals used by Suffolk men to hypnotize horses, all with an eye towards the absurd struggle to control the natural world. Musically, I Made Some Low Inquiries shifts from traditional folk ballads and shape-note singing to cathedral-like drone architectures, all alongside images of Old Weird Anglia that remind us of the futility of attempting to keep nature at bay.
In a change from our usual all-music Saturday night offering, this collaboration between diverse and acclaimed artists promises to be a unique and highly atmospheric evening within the ancient confines of Leigh’s Parish Church. Tickets are £10 available in advance from www.music.leighfolkfestival.com .
Sunday June 25
The Chinnery’s Alternative Stage takes a well-earned rest this year, and in its place we present a wide-ranging programme of music, including Whom By Fire, Arfur Doo & the Toe Rags, Holler for Mary, The Plan, Men Diamler and the Mr Bassie Roots Band, amongst others. Strand Wharf, Leigh Old Town, from 12 noon, all free.
This year the Preview Club stage moves to a new location on Victoria Wharf, just behind the Fishermen’s Co-op in Leigh Old Town. Expect the usual mix of Club regulars, and the added attraction of a festival bar, right next door. All free.
Foundry Car Park
While on the Saturday of the festival food, drink, arts and retail stalls will be present it is on the Sunday that we make some changes here. For the first time this year the festival Food Village will appear in Foundry Car Park, adjacent to Strand Wharf. A diverse and eclectic offer of street food and international cuisines will be on display for all to enjoy, hand-picked to suit every taste bud. From Thai to a vegetarian Indian curry, sweet and savoury crepes, steak burgers to food from around the world.
In addition, the open space by Leigh Beach and in front of the public toilets will welcome an array of craft stalls, retail outlets and charities who will be displaying everything from Tibetan clothing, dreamcatchers, eco-friendly wild flower jewellery, handmade leather goods, folklore tshirts, towels and postcards and a plethora of other traders, too.
The ever-popular dance sides will remain a focal point of the festival, shifting to The Boatyard Car Park, with dance also taking place in Victoria Car Park and the bottom of Belton Bridge (not forgetting one of Sunday’s annual highlights – The Grand Procession)
In addition, a vast array of musical turns are on offer at all the usual venues, among them Leigh Library Gardens (Saturday 11-6pm), Clarendon Scout Hut (Saturday from 9pm, and all day Sunday), and The Fishermen’s Chapel, Peter Boat, Bell Wharf. Billet Wharf, Leigh Sailing Club, The Smack, and Sara’s Tea Garden (all Sunday).