It's almost time for Chester Folk Festival 2015 and once again the organisers will be putting on a celebration of all that’s best in traditional and acoustic music.
Running from May 22-25, this is a small, friendly family festival that takes place in the village of Kelsall.
It mixes showcase concerts, featuring some of the biggest names around, with more informal events such as ceilidhs, dance displays, sessions, workshops, children’s entertainment and a craft fair.
The Youth Room
One of the newer attractions introduced just two years ago, The Youth Room is a series of daily events aimed at the 12 to 20 age group which give their young participants the opportunity to exchange ideas, questions and experiences and to create music together.
Each one will be led by festival guest artists who are themselves of a similar age to the participants, who are welcome to bring their own instrument and/or voice or just come along to listen.
These are non-ticket events, so friends and fellow musicians who aren’t sure about buying full festival tickets can still come along and sample what goes on.
This year’s line up of festival guests features many names to conjure with. John Tams, described by Mojo as ‘one of the ultimate British songwriters’, has had a career spanning four decades in every medium.
A member of the Albion Band and Home Service he is perhaps best known for his work at the National Theatre and as Rifleman Daniel Hagman in the Sharpe television series.
John is a five times winner of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. He was also music consultant for the multi award-winning stage show of War Horse. He will be appearing at the festival with Barry Coope from harmony supergroup Coope, Boyes and Simpson.
Bob Fox’s rich voice, virtuoso finger-style guitar and witty banter have been a feature on the British folk scene for more than 30 years.
As well as his solo career he’s been involved in a collaboration with John Tams and John Leonard when they took on the task of producing a new series of Radio Ballads. He has also recently completed a second stint playing The Songman in the aforementioned War Horse.
The festival also welcomes a number of other award-winning performers.
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar
Local lads Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar seem to have taken the folk world by storm over the last few years.
The pair’s prodigious talent and musical empathy belie their years and produce music and songs that have led to their winning BBC Radio Two Young Folk Award 2013 and Horizon Award 2014 with a nomination for Best Duo this year.
The Young’ Uns have also been popular guests at the festival in the past and were voted Best Group at this year’s Folk Awards; they were also named Best Live Act at the 2015 Spiral Earth Awards.
Their irrepressible humour, wonderful harmony singing, love and respect for their material and engaging charm on stage have ensured them a warm welcome wherever they go.
Another BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner, Mischa Macpherson, is a new artist who, if the success achieved by her trio so far is anything to go by, looks set to achieve great things.
A singer, Gaelic native and clarsach player from Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, Mischa is joined by Conal McDonagh on Scottish border-pipes and whistles and guitarist Innes White.
Joining Mischa and her friends in the trek across the border will be Barluath (pronounced Bar-lhu-ah). Talented, vibrant, Scottish, they can mix the lyrical and boisterous with absolute mastery.
The band consists of six talented musicians who met while studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has a line-up comprising Scots and Gaelic song, fiddle, whistles, guitar, highland and border bagpipes, bouzouki, guitar and keyboards.
In addition to all this there are The Churchfitters, John Kirkpatrick and welcome return visits from Australian duo Cloudstreet with their hot harmonies, beautiful ballads, vitality, humour and excitement; Keith Hancock whose live show is a mixture of musical genres; Brian Peters with US singer and musician Jeff Davis; and Jaywalkers.
In addition there’s a full line-up of talented musicians, singers and dancers from around the country including some regular local performers such as Fiddlestone, Wellcome, Finnan and Chrimes, Full House, Roy Clinging, Graham Bellinger and The Waite Collective.
There are also first appearances from the promising Ben Robertson and a new collaboration Price, Jones and Dear.
Time to dance
Dancers are well catered for too. There will be a ceilidh each evening as well as a Saturday afternoon dance aimed at all the family.
Some of the top exponents of ceilidh dance music will be in attendance including popular local bands Shropshire Heroes and The Time Bandits, not to mention the hard-swinging traditional style of The Phoenix Dance Band and the stunning musicianship of the Simon Care Trio.
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 Lord Binning pub.
You can also buy tickets in advance through the festival website www.chesterfolk.org.uk where you will also find more information.