England has, some would say, more than its fair share of folk festivals, but we can’t hear anyone complaining about it. Quite the opposite, in fact, and this is hardly surprising as folk festivals in England are amongst the loudest, quaintest and eccentric in the world. They typically feature a combination of music, story-telling and folk dancing, and there are more of these sorts of events in England alone than in the rest of the UK put together, so this is the place to come for a good knees-up throughout the year, whether you’re interested in traditional or contemporary music and dancing. Take advantage of the excellent range cheap car hire in the UK and you’ll be able to easily hunt down a whole range of such fun and friendly events and see what all the fuss is about with England and its tenacious hold on the living past.
The Oxford Folk Festival (15-17 April) is one of the highlights of the festival calendar here, featuring big folk acts as well as a range of up and coming amateur acts of all kinds. It’s held across a number of different centres throughout the city – wherever you’re holed up you’re sure to find yourself close to one of them, and can easily access the others by foot or short car trip.
On 29 April, the Nailstock Festival in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, is a family oriented celebration of local traditions and features bands and musicians for a noisy and fun day out. Lasting three days, it takes place on the King George V Playing Fields and attracts up to 2,000 visitors each year.
Again for three days, the Plymouth Volks Festival kicks off on 27 May and is a curiously English blend of top quality entertainment, music from around the world, and the lively local Volkswagen scene. The festival is entering its sixth successful year and one of the newer events is the Cinema Tent, where visitors can watch famous films throughout the weekend as well as footage from the previous year’s festival. There’s also a competition for budding film directors, the Film Tank Festival Shorts Competition, where they can show their efforts to the public and maybe pick up a prize.
In the capital, the City Showcase: Spotlight London event takes place in the heart of the city from 5-7 May, when Carnaby Street, Regent Street and Heddon Street are turned into a virtual village in celebration of traditional and cutting-edge music performed in the bars, cafes, and on the streets themselves. This is the most accessible and convenient way to check out the London rock, indie and folk music scenes, and for the price of just a few quid for the wristband you get a great weekend thrown in.
The Bath Fringe Festival has been going for over three decades now. This stupendous event, which starts on 27 May and continues to 12 June, is now firmly established as a leading UK alternative arts festival. It features hundreds of artists, pioneers in dozens of different art forms, and has something for everyone. Lasting a full 17 days and featuring almost 200 events, the Bath Fringe Festival is a holiday in itself.
2013 promises to be a great year on the English folk festival front and it’s the chance for visitors from both home and abroad to experience for themselves the deep roots of English folk culture, as healthy and indeed alive and kicking as they were centuries ago.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.