It’s almost time for the organisers of Chester Folk Festival 2018 to entice yet another host of talented singers, dancers and musicians to the village of Kelsall for a wondrous celebration of all that’s best in traditional and acoustic music.
Running from May 25-28, this is a small, friendly, family festival that mixes showcase concerts, featuring some of the biggest names around, with more informal events such as ceilidhs, dance displays, sessions and workshops.
There is also a craft fair and a full programme of children’s entertainment, including things like circus skills and Punch and Judy, provided by Panic Circus.
Headline guests at this year’s festival can best be described as folk-rock, something that seems to be quite in vogue at the moment.
Wigan-based band Merry Hell have recently won Folking 2018 awards for Best Band and Best Live Act.
The acoustic version of the band makes a welcome return to the festival on Saturday, May 26.
Then on Sunday, May 27 the site will prepare to be boarded by a band of pirates in the form of Galleon Blast.
Based in the land-locked county of Cheshire and led by BBC presenter and DJ Mark Radcliffe, this costumed band of ruffians will be presenting ‘a selection of rum-soaked songs and shanties’.
Jez Lowe and Steve Tilston each have a long-established career as soloists, top class singer/songwriters and instrumentalists. They both make welcome returns to this year’s festival - but with a twist. As well as performing individually during the weekend, they will do one concert as a duo.
This unexpected songwriting and performing collaboration was as surprising as it has proved successful and well-received.
After a series of ground-breaking and award-winning albums, Jim Moray is at the forefront of a new folk revival in the UK.
His music is strikingly original and accomplished, embracing everything from electronica to guitar rock via symphonic pop and grime.
He’s a multi-instrumentalist of note with an unmistakeable soulful voice and a knack of singing old songs in a new way.
Award-winning musician Will Pound is one of the world’s top harmonica players and has taken the instrument to new places and new music with a style that is completely his own.
Will plays both diatonic and chromatic harmonicas and creates sounds not usually heard on this little instrument in styles varying from bluegrass, folk, jazz and Arabic to blues, rock, pop and funk.
At this year’s festival he will be joined by two more folk musicians of the younger generation: multi-instrumentalist Benji Kirkpatrick of Faustus and Bellowhead fame and fiddler Ross Grant of Inlay renown.
Collectively they are known as The Will Pound Trio and, joined also by storyteller Debs Newbold, they present the show Through the Seasons - The Music of Morris and Folk Dance.
Local heroes Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar joined forces in 2011. Combining Russell’s powerful vocals and driving guitar style with Algar’s All-Ireland winning fiddle playing, the multi-award winning duo have become one of the most sought after acts on the British folk scene.
Another exceptional and hard working duo is Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith.
Their combination of outstanding vocal work, sensitive instrumentation, and a powerful social conscience has brought them widespread critical acclaim.
GreenMatthews are Chris Green and Sophie Matthews who will be bringing some more unusual instruments along with them. Chris has written a new musical adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s well-loved classic The Wind in the Willows.
Using traditional English folk melodies set to new lyrics to bring this timeless tale to sparkling life, this is the perfect soundtrack to summer.
To stage this extravaganza, GreenMatthews will be joined by another duo - Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer.
Popular return visitors to the festival, they effortlessly blend traditional material with contemporary sounds and have developed a sound that is both familiar and fresh.
Be entranced by the haunting nyckelharpa, amazed at the cow horn and meet some of the bagpipes that didn’t come from Scotland.
As well as performing in The Wind in the Willows and as a duo, they will be joined by the talented John Dipper to play for Sunday’s Ceilidh as Purcell’s Polyphonic Party.
Quicksilver are a duo featuring the astonishing voice of Hilary Spencer (Artisan and Mrs Ackroyd Band) and the fabulous guitar playing and song writing skills of Grant Baynham (as seen on TV’s That’s Life).
There’s a plethora of younger talent on show at this year’s festival.
Hannah James is a wonderfully talented, young singer, clog dancer and accordion player who is set for great things; Granny’s Attic are a trio of exceptional musicians and fine singers who are much in demand around the country for the verve and energy of their lively performances and maturity beyond their years in their delivery and selection of traditional songs; Rosie Hood ‘has a magical voice, an awareness of her roots, a sense of fun on stage, and of course, makes the most marvellous music’; Trials of Cato can often be seen busking at The Cross in Chester but there is more to them than simple street musicians and their talents have been noticed – they have recently won the Rising Star category in the 2018 Folking Awards.
In addition there’s a full line up of gifted musicians, singers and dancers from around the country including some regular local performers such as Full House; The Time Bandits; Steerage Class; Graham Bellinger with The Deportees; and The Waite Collective.
There’s plenty for dancers too with a ceilidh each evening as well as a Saturday afternoon dance aimed at all the family with music provided by GEM.
Some of the top exponents of ceilidh dance music will be taking part, including The Relentless Ceilidh Band and Purcell’s Polyphonic Party, as well as versatile local bands Full House and The Time Bandits.
Experienced callers Bob Morgan and Baz Parkes will also be on hand to help everyone join in, experts and beginners alike.
Day and evening tickets as well as full weekend tickets are available and can be purchased on site by going to the festival office which is located near the newly re-opened Morris Dancer pub.
You can also buy tickets in advance through the festival website www.chesterfolk.org.uk.