Dreadzone, Fairport Convention, and Yusuf Islam are highlights of last day of Cropredy

Fairport's Cropredy Convention 2009 review

published: Mon 24th Aug 2009

around the festival site (2)

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th August 2009
Cropredy, nr. Banbury, Oxfordshire., OX17 1OO, England MAP
£82 for the weekend; camping £30; kids under 12 go free
last updated: Fri 10th Jul 2009

Campers seem to be waking somewhat more sluggishly this morning. The sun is shining and the breeze is up – perfect festival weather- there is no choice but to vacate our tents or vehicles and get out and about. A queue of Saturday-only Festival goers has formed by the entrances to the arena, eager to secure their tickets and select the best pitches.

around the festival site (2)
Those who have experienced Cropredy before are well aware what awaits them at noon on Saturday. Some even seem to have made their way to the arena especially to compete with the Saturday crowd to see Richard Digance whose laconic songs of nothing in particular don't do it for me. For company perhaps Richard could get invite Phil Cool to join him in his regular slot, their styles are quite similar. After an hour the show finishes with his signature tune "Friends are Forever" – a ditty which really sticks in your head even with limited exposure.

With the new arrivals the field is full and the flags blowing in the wind like kites throughout the upslope from the stage make a most attractive site. A quick turnaround after Digance sees the Churchfitters take the stage. This Brittany based four piece play a folkie set which feature a feast of traditional instruments – Bouzouki to Bing Bong Machine. Their version of the Test Match Special is a lot of fun and there is bopping to be seen from the front of stage. A moving ballad catches the audience and makes for a moment of collective reflection. The bubble is soon bursts by the invitation to squawk like a chicken for a good fun jig to finish. The band doesn’t tour much in the UK but well worth catching if they come to your local folk club.

around the festival site (2)
Our compere today is the amusing Sid Kipper who delivers another entertaining story of folk gone wrong. The call of the pub for a mid-afternoon drink appears to be too much for many and I am not immune, so its off to the Brasenose with the sound of Feast of Fiddles folking it up from the main site ringing in the ears. The pub is ramajam as it has been since Wednesday night but the band have just stopped so now round the corner to the Cinammon Pantry for a pot of Earl Grey and a slice of Treacle Traybake. Using real crockery and cutlery for the first time in days make this a treat – a very English scene as we sit in the cafe owner's front garden opposite the village green under gazebos. This image appears only slightly incongruous as the other people in the garden are wearing the festival goer's uniform and becomes all the more so when a heavy Blues riff explodes out of the Brasenose Arms. No one bats an eyelid, this is the Festival Fringe.

around the festival site (2)
After a couple of numbers it's off to St Mary's for a friendly welcome into the church and the beautiful sound of hand bells ringing in the nave. Such a wonderful contrast to the gritty blues we've just had. Gladly we accept the offer to join in. There is a picture storyboard to illustrate the bands involvement in providing the two newest Churchbells one of which is named in honour of the festival. Now time to head to the Red Lion to see what all that banging is – a pint of Hooky Gold in hand and squeezed into the beer garden to discover that it's a Carnival drum band – The Groove Ambassadors – 15 plus drummers and dancers all squeezed into the yard full of drinkers but everyone is smiling away. Their leader has a Morris like paint job to his face and a gold glitter jacket - his troop are all clad in bright yellow which looks amazing in the bright sunshine. They process out of the yard and proceed into the village but time for us to head back to site.

Dreadzone have taken the stage and are resplendent in the sunshine. The front of stage is bubbling for this band as they roll out their crowd pleasing reggae sound. Audience participation is eagerly given – all are having a great time – distinct smell of marijuana now blowing thought the Bouncing Crew and plenty of movement. Dreadzone serve up big tune after big tune – Life, Love & Liberty, that Pirate number and some excellent South London Skulthuggery with new track Gangsters. The new generation have taken Dreadzone to heart much as the previous did in the early 90s. Finishing with Green & Pleasant Land this is a great sunshine reggae music set. Frontman MC Spee is the only one not bouncing and seems to have a good reason as he waves a crutch around – he's under doctor's orders. The Dreadzone show is one of the highlights of the festival for me and to judge by smiles in the crowd many others.

Next stop '80s icon - Nik Kershaw – not a festival regular and an unlikely choice but one that works well. We know enough of his old songs to keep going and his new songs are good quality. We get Wouldn't It Be Good together with a song about being angry with another Dad at his kid's Primary School (didn't catch the title) and the Chesney Hawkes hit The One and Only which, we learn, he wrote. The sun does go down after Nik and the evening starts to draw in so its time for the shopping with the lady – Cropredy not have the widest choice of stalls most sell made Nepali or Indian blankets, rugs and hats with a smattering of the now ubiquitous festie fairy stuff.

Ralph McTell is next on with a beautiful evening set of well sung soulful tunes such as the big hit Streets of London which thankfully replaces Digance's Friends are Forever in my head. The site is now all expectation as we are nearly there.

around the festival site (2)
As Twilight settles in the arena is really busy now. The site is buzzing as Chris Leslie opens up the show and we are off –the moment the last few days have been building to, Fairport Convention time. They do not disappoint the sound is clear and loud. Dave Pegg takes a moment to say hello to his grandchildren which just emphasises family feel of this event.

The Festival Bell story comes out as do the first guests onto the stage. Soon Ralph McTell, Brenda Day, John Folly are all out to be joined by Richard Thompson, Dave Mattocks and a cornet player who until recently was in the audience. There is a fantastic sojourn into the surreal as standard instruments are put down for a Ukulele special where we learn that the history of this instrument from its arrival in Hawaii 23 August 1879 through to America and where it was taken up and popularised by Betty Grable and Lucille Ball amongst others to its current status as, well not quite sure. Great pub quiz stuff though. From the sublime to the ridiculous as The Tommy Connolly Dancers - 5 girls and a boy in bright costumes - skip around to Peggy's pub set.

The big guest is then welcomed on stage by Gerry Conway – Yusuf Islam who we're told hasn't been to a festival for 37 years, or soundchecked or rehearsed. Nevertheless his gentle songs warm the heart and inspire the soul. After a short set its over to Richard Thompson for some outright rocking and rolling then to Mattocks, Thompson and McTell – the GPs – who claim to be a pub band and would be very welcome in most I'm sure. Sid Kipper comes back on for an attempt at a fiddle tune which almost works, but not quite.

Its beautiful starry night and we are now two hours into the set. The guests have been and, mostly, gone and there is a diversion into their Babacome Lee era music which starts to open up gaps to the back of the arena. By 11.30 the trickle is turning to a stream although why would you leave so close to the epic finale I don’t know. The finale is as ever Who Knows Where the Time Goes – sadly with no female vocal - followed by Matty Groves. There is a hilarious video to accompany the latter Fairport classic with Pythonesque crossing of the broad mill stream section and fireworks to complete the show. All that now remains is for the inevitable encore, it comes as no surprise when the opening chords of 'Meet on the Ledge' ring out. All those remaining dutifully rise to their feet, sway drunkenly and singalong.

After the applause and whoops have died down we realise that it is all over now and all to be done is to return to our campsites through the litter strewn fields. The litter is a serious problem at this Festival which needs some attention.

This year's Cropredy has been a fine Festival helped greatly by some wonderful weather, good organisation and a great crowd enjoying some superb acts. My highlights include Megan Henwood and band, The Bad Shepherds, Dreadzone and, of course, Fairport Convention.
review by: Ian Wright

photos by: Ian Wright

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th August 2009
Cropredy, nr. Banbury, Oxfordshire., OX17 1OO, England MAP
£82 for the weekend; camping £30; kids under 12 go free
last updated: Fri 10th Jul 2009


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