This Festival has come a long way since its arrival in the Town and the Quarry. before it was re-located to its present location in the Agricultural Showground.
Under the guidance and management of folk music enthusiast and Festival Director Allan Surtees, it has grown into one of the most important week-end dates in the calendar . In addition to its growing list of International artists, the Festival programme has been cleverly arranged to include U.K. performers who are well known and loved by the British Folk Festival going public. There is now a rich established seam of acts from the Canadian Folk Scene, which this year included Cara Luft, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, and Madison Violet.
Maintaining this balance will continue to be a subject to exercise the mind of the organisers if they wish to avoid the criticism frequently aimed at the Cambridge Festival which has been accused by some of being too "Glastonburyesque".
Nevertheless a Festival of this size with a Main stage marquee housing 3000, a second stage of c.1800 and a third of approximately 700, requires a healthy attendance and an attractive programme. The organisers have been successful on both counts with a ticket sell out and a gathering of first class, solo performers, groups and bands. There is no doubt, that many of those attending will never cross the threshold of a conventional Folk Club, but seek and enjoy the variety and atmosphere to be found at a well run festival with good facilities and services. The Shrewsbury Festival scores highly on these points alone.
If there has been one criticism in the past it has been the dearth of on site singaround venues. This has been somewhat alleviated by the programming this year, of sessions run by the popular duo Winter Wilson, Chris Bartram, Mike and Sue Dewsbury, Rog and Sue Cook. These took place the room at the end of The Berwick Bar. In an attempt to further publicise the Festival and to create interest within the town,a number of music sessions were programmed in the Britannia Inn and Wheatsheaf pubs. The Bird in Hand in Coton Hill has been a supplementary venue some years and hosts performances by a range of Festival guests.
Another popular innovation this year was the provision of the Peace Tent, which as the name implies was the venue for a number of concerts commemorating the Great War and subsequent conflicts. It is an inevitable consequence of contracting headline performers at a large Festival, that professional facilities need to be provided for their convenience and comfort. This is understandable, but apart from brief CD signings, their presence amongst their fans Steve Knightly excepted, is generally absent which is missed. Headlining the Festival were Bellowhead (who closed the week-end) Seth Lakeman, Lau, Dhol Foundation, Steve Knightley with Wake The Union, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, The Full English, and The Chair.
With all this top musical extravaganza on show, it might be easy to ignore the activities of the significant number of devotees of the many forms of dance taking place in the large Dance marquee, but The Village stage within the centre of the site and surrounded by the Craft stalls, provided an ideal setting to stand by and marvel at the athleticism and skill of many of the dancers and sides who were demonstrating. (Saturday afternoon’s downpour excepted)
Within the main festival, there were other mini festivals aimed at the younger attendee. These were designated "Pandemonium" (Children’s Festival) "Refolkus" giving young people a chance to perform on a stage and "Tuneworks" providing a range of workshops at every level.
The selected reviews of some of the acts appearing are published on this site here.
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with Gretchen Peters, Usher's Island, Show of Hands, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, Steeleye Span +
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Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2017 Review