Sark Folk Festival gets off to a cracking start

Sark Folk Festival 2015 review

By Kim Gordon | Published: Tue 21st Jul 2015

around the festival site & Sark

Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th July 2015
various venues, Channel Islands, Sark, GY9 0SD, Sark MAP
£67 for the weekend - sold out
Daily capacity: 1,200
Last updated: Wed 1st Jul 2015

Travelling from Guernsey by boat to this festival you know it’s going to be something a little different, and I believe it is. The ferry is packed with festival goers, musicians, instruments and camping gear (and maybe a few tinnies) all mixed up with a gentle chilled vibe and anticipation of a great weekend to come in this wonderful setting of Sark.

On arrival we disembark and are greeted with the "Welcome to Sark" sign above the tunnel through the cliff which we walk to be greeted by the sight of the "Sark Humps" rising out of a millpond sea (they make me think of the Loch Ness monster, just the shape, when you go there you’ll see). 5 mins in the sun and the transport arrives to take you up the hill to "town", transport can mean many things but in this case it means a tractor with home made trailer with bench seats and little else for the princely sum of £1 per head. A bargain when you consider the drop off point is right outside one of the islands two pubs the Bel Aire; so after some light refreshments in their lovely beer garden we thought we had better get off to Jo & Elliot’s place who have very kindly agreed to put us up during our stay.

Bags dropped off and greetings made we head off out again conveniently passing the second pub, The Mermaid. We check out the scene, instruments are piled up in the beer garden along with tents and other luggage, inside old friends are catching up over a bevy. Both pubs have programmes of events over the weekend including bands, dancers, solo artists and story telling by Colin the tractor driver (a native), so even if you haven’t got a ticket to get you onto the festival site, there are still acts on at hotel and restaurant venues as well as the pubs, plenty to see and hear.

After a short time some artists become sufficiently lubricated to get their instruments out and give us a taste of what is to come in the following few days, all good stuff !

A slight disappointment on Thursday evening, we couldn’t get anything to eat!! This is Sark, things like this can happen, pizza or panini was the offering from the Bel Aire during the day but that’s it. Restaurants were fully booked. Some sweet talking by yours truly to Rose the barmaid at The Mermaid, produced a pizza of some kind which we gratefully received, as by this time we could have eaten a scabby banjo. Thank you Rose! This lack of facilities is a bit of a surprise as the event is in its sixth year now but as I have already said, it’s different here…….

About lunchtime on Friday we make our way to the site stopping on the Avenue (main street) to listen to Roly Scales and his friend busking, they like the French folk and go by the name of "Les Vieux schnocks"(Google translate for a titter), Roly, a librarian spends his whole years worth of holiday touring fests and gets as far as middle France, a place called Chateu D’Ars (Arse castle, his words….) festivaling, half French himself he has been in a number of bands which started in his college days (Rolle college, Exmouth) forming the "Rolle City Bailers"……if you are laughing now you ARE showing your age!

It takes about 20 mins from the Avenue to walk to the site down winding, sometimes wooded, gravely paths and lanes passing by Pomme de Chien campsite on the way where we can see 3 large trailers with shipping containers on them which are used for transporting large luggage (not instruments/ small bags) on the boat.

Wristbands fitted, we are in!! All normal here apart from a large bike park which is already well subscribed and half an Ambulance that has been adapted to allow it to be towed by a tractor, however you better hope you don’t need it as there isn’t a hospital!! Merchandise tent…….full of merchandise of which we buy a T-shirt each only to discover after getting home there is a spelling mistake on both of them! Buallo should read Buffalo, never mind ;).

Into the main field now it’s reasonably flat which is handy for buggy or wheel chair users such as Bryn Le Poidevin who played (yes they are everywhere these days) the dance tent or Tintageu stage doing a great job of merging trance, bangra, reggae & folk even getting some bagpipes in there!

Alongside Tintageu there is the Les Burons stage these are at opposite ends of the same tent, in another field adjacent to the main site (with fantastic views of the rocky coast and vineyards in the distance) there is a small cider bar here but it closes early evening and had run out I think by Saturday afternoon, we tried them all so that was partly our fault! The other 2 stages Vermerette and Alligande again share the same tent but in an L shape with the bar in the middle, very handy (no honestly I haven’t got a drink problem).

Also in the main field you can find Jewellery, clothes, funky hats (including a red Indian head dress should you need one) local artists and chiropractor!! Best of all though (apart from the cider, no honest I...) is the freshest sea food surely of any festival including crab, grilled lobster and fish and chips, mmmmmm... and for afters (if you don’t fancy a cider...) home made cakes and ice cream, now you can put your phone on charge at the peddle power tent and have a little snooze in the sun or have your portrait sketched.

The John Wesley Stone: Sark Folk Festival 2015

Music on Friday kicks off about 2:30 and we join it with The John Wesley Stone a local collective (Guernsey) described as the kings and queens of countrified folkabilly swampswing, you may draw your own thoughts!! Basically a cracking band who may normally be found on the larger stages but actually requested a smaller spot this year, anyway if you can stand still listening to these you should seek help. Whose Shoes are next (Guernsey) with their mix of folky blues country type of thing covering rather nicely Ry Cooder's "The Very Thing That Makes You Rich" looking at them though you could be forgiven for expecting theme from Rawhide, works for me…………

Robert J Hunter (Alderney/London) should not be missed, currently on the threshold of breaking big with his unique gravely blues style, he has assembled a 3 piece with Greg Sheffield and James LeHuray (the hardest working musician of the festival, who will be sadly missed by a lot of local bands as he has turned professional, moving to London to play with Robert) it’s only a matter of time for these 3 superbly matched, talented artists.

Cara Dillon is an outsider I’m sure many will know, of who unfortunately suffered the Sark effect in that shortly after coming ashore began suffering a sore throat and also the loss of the pedal to the keyboard (probably fitted to a tractor by now) so did a 100% acoustic set which was superb despite a loud chattering crowd which slightly detracted from the atmospheric parts. Kiss The Mistress could be a request but it isn’t, it’s John and Jinny who have recently decided to follow their dream, given up jobs and sold the house to pursue Kiss The Mistress from a camper van (respect folks) hope the camper’s big enough for all the instruments! A mix of folk with an eastern influence now and again that works very well, and with great musical skill, well worth a listen, look out for them in a lay-by near you!!

Blue Mountain, another local band blew me away with the powerful vocals of Colleen Irvens; fantastic. Bryn Le Poidevin (previously mentioned) tranced us up for the next 30 mins or so ready for The Elephant Sessions (visitors from Scotland) that finish off the evening with there fast paced big bang Celtic sound.

continues in part 2... more >>

review by: Kim Gordon

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