Stornoway are one of the highlights of Cambridge Folk Festival

Cambridge Folk Festival 2010 review

published: Thu 5th Aug 2010

Stornoway

Thursday 29th July to Sunday 1st August 2010
Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB1 8DW, England MAP
£108 for full weekend
last updated: Wed 14th Jul 2010

If you were to look up the definition of 'folk music' in any standard reference dictionary, you would probably read something along the lines of; 'music, usually of simple character and anonymous authorship, handed down among the people by oral tradition.' But to understand the transformation of folk music through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it is also important to pay reference to the labour songs, gospel tunes, singer-songwriters, blues and so much more. Folk music has taken on a much wider meaning over recent years and traditional definitions have had to be reconsidered. A perfect introduction to my studies of the genre came in the form of a reviewing weekend at the 2010 Co-operative Cambridge Folk Festival; and my, what a lesson it was.

Having received our passes and relevant maps in good time; my friend and I embarked on the three-hour scenic and relatively simple journey to Cambridge from the North West. After getting stuck in a six-hour tailback at junction 10a of the M6 on our way to the V Festival last year, we planned our trip accordingly; setting off mid-morning and making good time. What a relief it was to not encounter any major traffic queues, even as we approached junction 12 of the M11, which was the final furlong of our festival jaunt. Signage to the main festival site and both campsites from all major routes was excellent; making the fifteen-minute drive to our designated campsite, Coldhams Common, especially pleasing and drama-free.

There are two main campsites at the festival; Coldhams Common and Cherry Hinton. The first of which is, generally speaking, the preferred option for families and large groups with young children; evoking an atmosphere of relaxed fun and borderline R-rated frolics. As we drove on to the site we were met by event stewards, which I am delighted to say were both cheery and helpful; who directed us to the far side of the site where further personnel were waiting to direct us to park. Much to our visible delight, we discovered that guests were able to park up next to their tent; we could indeed have brought that extra stove and a dozen more frothy beverages! It was immediately apparent that there was a chilled out yet jovial and excited aura to the site, which I felt right at home with. Our tent up in record time, we decided to saunter over to the main thoroughfare of the site, to see what both edible and non-edible delights were on offer.

Unsurprisingly perhaps due to their sponsorship of the festival, there was a very adequately stocked Co-operative store at the entrance to the site; offering newspapers, free ponchos and flip-flops, as well as your typical camping grocery requirements. A spattering of food outlets were also lined along the main thoroughfare, offering such delicacies as wood-fired pizzas, traditional English and vegetarian breakfasts and frothy coffees; a very tempting sight at the end of a long day's reviewing and revelling I might add. There was also a selection of handmade jewellery and clothing stalls, as well as a stall selling a simply astounding number of hats for all occasions; no doubt quite a few purchases were made for the festival's 'Best Hat Competition' taking place on Sunday 1st. A large tent had also been erected at the entrance to the thoroughfare, which hosted nightly open mic sessions, as well as free violin lessons and storytelling workshops for children. Face painting and willow sculpture sessions were also available throughout the day for children, which worked to further highlight the all-inclusive and family-friendly feel of the festival, which I was really impressed by...after all, children enjoy music too!

After grabbing a quick bite, we enquired about the transport options available to get us to the main festival site, which was approximately a ten to fifteen-minute drive away. We were told that free double decker buses would be on hand throughout the duration of the festival, arriving at each site every fifteen minutes to transport you to the other; splendid! True to their word, our transportation arrived after a short wait and we were on our way. A couple of festival-goers said that they had been waiting longer than the allocated fifteen minutes for a bus and had questioned whether they should be allowed to go to the front of the queue, due to the fact that they were working at the festival as Welfare staff. They were told that no such rule had been communicated and that drivers had been allocated a fifteen-minute lunch break, which could explain the short wait that they had experienced; personally, I thought that the queuing system at the festival was excellent but you had to use your own judgement at times, i.e. myself and my friend arranged to leave the main site around fifteen minutes earlier each night so as to avoid the queues and likewise, we left Coldhams Common slightly earlier to avoid the rush in the mornings.

around the festival site (Cherry Hinton Main Festival)
We arrived at Cherry Hinton Hall late afternoon and the site was beginning to fill up, as people meandered around getting their bearings after setting up their tents in nearby fields. The site itself is a perfect size; not too big to get lost or miss your favourite artist whilst running from stage to stage, but also not too small that you feel claustrophobic because you're crammed in to the performing tents like cattle. As we entered the main site, we walked through the branches of a weeping willow tree; or the intriguingly named 'Tree of Lost Things.' Little tags hung from every branch noting a person, place or item that the writer wished to leave behind or let go of; some examples being, lost loves, beloved family pets, perceived negative personality traits, even their sanity in one instance! I thought that the new addition of this feature to the festival was inspired; you let go of things that are filling your head and mind with worry, anxiety or fear, almost like a magic mirror as you come out the other side in to a world of peace, acceptance and free-spiritedness. A perfect way to sum up the feel of the place, as you prepare for a weekend of kicking back and kicking up your heels.

Cocos Lovers
Opening the festival this year was an eight-piece band from Deal in Kent, called Cocos Lovers. The band is made up of various family members, including husbands, wives, sisters and brothers; not surprisingly therefore displaying a real close-knit feel to their performance. I would describe their traditional folk sound as hopeful and romantic; the very essence of the genre itself. The band clearly had a lot of support in the audience, drawing a capacity crowd to the smaller of the three main performance spaces; the Club Tent. The band performed a handful of tracks including 'Moonlit Sky', and 'Time to Stand', blending traditional British roots with African influences with each beat of the hand drum and flick of the banjo. This band was a great taster of what you could look forward to, both from their debut album 'Johannes' released earlier this year and from successive artists on the festival billing. Their passion for and commitment to their music was clearly evident and I look forward to seeing this band go from strength to strength.

Lissie
Next up on Stage 2 was bluesy-folk lady of the moment and Radio 1 favourite, Lissie. Having heard quite a few tracks from her debut album 'Catching A Tiger', I was especially looking forward to seeing the Rock Island, Illinois native perform live; as clearly others were too given the size of the crowd which began to spill out on to the surrounding patches of greenery. Kicking off her set with the addictive 'Wedding Bells', Lissie's strong and sultry voice commanded the stage and enthralled the audience. Accompanied by two guitarists and a drummer, the sound quality from Stage 2 was excellent and did not falter throughout the duration of the festival. Lissie said that she found her hometown boring as a child, but came to the conclusion that it was in fact quite cool as she got older; I'm sure we can all relate to this, although I've got to say Rock Island has a pretty cool ring to it doesn't it… Rockferry? Not so much. Lissie said that her debut album had only been released in the UK and Europe at present; which seemed to be a common theme throughout the festival, with artists emphasising their appreciation for the support from British fans; some even claiming that they wouldn't even have a career to speak of, were it not for the support shown from this side of the pond. Lissie further entertained the crowd with performances of current single 'When I'm Alone' and 'In Sleep', as well as a very well received and very impressive cover of Lionel Ritchie's 'Hello'. Lissie said that it had been an honour to be invited to "such a well respected festival" and again, this certainly appeared to be a message communicated by most of the artists on the billing. I really enjoyed Lissie's set and thought that she came across as both humble and genuinely amazed to see the level of support she so clearly had. I think her debut album is brilliant and would highly recommend it.

Stornoway
Headlining Thursday's billing was Oxford's newest alternative folk-pop sensations Stornoway. This band have been praised for their debut album 'Beachcomber's Windowsill' right across the media spectrum and were also included in the BBC's Sound of 2010 poll. Both unassuming and devoid of all pretence, the four-piece entered the stage with one aim – to have a great time and to entertain the already lively crowd with some perfect examples of high notes and high jinks. Kicking off with 'We Are The Battery Human' and following with 'The Coldharbour Road', lead singer Brian Briggs' vocals were spotless; almost indistinguishable from those on the album itself, surely the sign of a truly talented vocalist. Briggs' almost referred to the festival as the "Oxford Folk Festival", quickly following that up with his defence that, as the band name states, "I am a long way from home…" Strong keys followed, introducing album track 'Boats and Trains', then crowd favourite 'I Saw You Blink' which prompted a very enjoyable sing-along. Briggs could try his luck as a stand-up comedian should he ever find himself short of a penny or two, having entertained the crowd for a good five minutes or so with tales of unusual ASBOs, whilst tuning issues were addressed behind the scenes. My favourite of the stories would be the embittered shepherd who delights in leaving dead sheep (from natural causes of course) in the gardens of his neighbours; not too strange some might think, except he also puts the neighbours' surnames on the body of the sheep in large red marker…moving on then, Stornoway performed eleven tracks in total, including 'Fuel Up', 'Here Comes The Blackout' and finally the brilliant 'Zorbing', all in all an impressive mix of upbeat and chilled out tracks for the crowd's delectation. Definitely one of my weekend highlights.

There was every kind of stall at Cherry Hinton Hall for the professional, amateur and aspiring musician; Hobgoblin Music being my particular favourite. I was even so lucky as to be given a one to one lesson on the melodeon; I think it will be a while however before Lisa Hannigan lets me join her merry band; at least that's what my tutor told me...after which I decided to purchase a delightful miniature harmonica necklace and come to terms with the fact that the closest I'll probably ever get to a Mercury nomination, would be if I entered Tenerife's finest karaoke challenge, singing 'Fat Bottomed Girls' dressed as your man with the 'tache.

around the festival site (Cherry Hinton Main Festival)
review by: Shelley Hanvey

photos by: Zoe Jane Lawson

Thursday 29th July to Sunday 1st August 2010
Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB1 8DW, England MAP
£108 for full weekend
last updated: Wed 14th Jul 2010


latest on this festival

Cambridge Folk Festival 2021
festival details
last updated: Mon 17th May 2021
Cambridge Folk Festival
festival home page
last updated: Fri 9th Oct 2020