FolkWorld #52 11/2013
© Walkin' T:-)M / Seán Laffey

The Fan's Folk Festival

Tønder 2013

The Fan's Folk Festival

Now I have to admit folks, I have a wish list of festivals that I must see, one day, and top of that list is Tønder. Talk to any musician who has ever played the event, a chat with my pal photographer Stephen Power who did a big photo-shoot there last year, and they all said the same, it is simply the best folk festival going. One year it won't clash with something equally impressive in Ireland, (which I tend to get involved with) and on that late weekend in August I'll be on a flight to Denmark.

Jarlath Henderson & Ross Ainslie

A look at the line-up from any year and you'll see the very best of folk and traditional acts, with the Irish always having a strong presence. This year Dervish and Sinéad O'Connor are the big Irish guns complete with a heady posse of class Irish acts. The festival also has a true sense of its own identity and I recall the marvellous photographic book they produced a few years ago, full of stunning archive pictures, of the Dubliners in their pomp of collaborations and impromptu combinations. It has the feel of one of those festivals from the 1970's when everything and anything might happen.

So what of this year? Festival director Carsten Panduro says "Change and renewal were the key words for last year's Tønder Festival, with a re-arranged festival site, new stages, new names on the bill. And the Tønder Festival audience has been with us every step of the way. We have set a radical process in motion, for development and renewal are necessary factors if Tønder Festival is to retain its unique position. These mild breezes of change will blow this year again."


That book of archive shots and Carsten's remark about the "audience has been with us every step of the way" is the key to the enduring success of the festival. It has a sense of gravitas, the roster each year is an important slice of the very best of acoustic acts on tour, and Tønder becomes a place to gon on an annual pilgrimage to the South of Denmark. Now families of three generations make that trip, for the music and for the experience, for Tønder. Carsten is keen to make sure that all the elements that go to make up a festival click into place: good stages, good sound, top notch technical crews, entertaining programming and a friendly atmosphere that brings people back year after year.

Carsten assures us that the changes that have taken pace since 2012 are for the benefit of the festival and the audience. Carsten tells me "Please note that this is not a storm that will uproot the Tønder Festival's soul and its identity. The Festival's special character and its atmosphere are to be cherished, while offering a new, powerful package of hand-made music in a friendly setting."

"We take pride in the music we present, from outstanding established acts to the profusion of folk and indie-rock bands, and the tasteful selection of songwriters, soloists and groups playing Americana, cajun, fado, oldtime, blues, country, Scots, Irish, English and Scandinavian folk music. Folk music is enjoying a revival these days. Roots music is thriving as never before."

Guy Davis

In many ways it is a readymade blue print for a modern folk festival, it isn't too big, it hasn't got too grand and drifted away from its roots, it has cherished its audiences and it treats the musicians royally. For many it is the fan's festival par exellence. I'll leave the last word with Carsten:

"Tønder Festival is where you can discover these new tendencies. This is where you can find authentic folk music. Tønder Festival is where folk and music meet."

[Seán Laffey, Irish Music Magazine #220 August 2013]

Tønder Festival, Denmark, 22 - 25 August 2013.

Sinéad O'Connor

»Singer, songwriter, star, priest, champion of women's rights, public critic of abuse in the Catholic Church...«

Sinéad O'Connor @ FolkWorld:
FW#24 |

Billy Bragg

»Billy Bragg has developed from pared-down punk rock to an ever-deepening study of the musical roots ...«

Billy Bragg @ FolkWorld:
FW#13, #23, #37 |


»Even though Tupelo's main inspiration is American music, their compact, acoustic, Irish folk-sound still echoes the wild nights in Dublin's Temple Bar area and Irish ballad groups like The Dubliners ...«

Tupelo @ FolkWorld:
FW#49 |

Kate Rusby

»Kate Rusby's voice may be one of the most beautiful in British music, and she may interpret the great, traditional English ballads better than most ...«

Kate Rusby @ FolkWorld:
FW#17, #20, #26, #35,
#44, #46, #49, #50 |

Duncan Chisholm

»From fronting a hard-hitting folk rock band and to caressing a sensitive slow air, Scots fiddler Duncan Chisholm masters it all ...«

Duncan Chisholm @ FolkWorld:
FW#8, #14, #21, #23,
#29, #37, #42, #49 |

Troy McGillivray

»Troy McGillivray is from a Nova Scotia family that for generations has cherished the old Scots music traditions in the best possible way: by renewing them ...«

Troy McGillivray @ FolkWorld:
FW#29, #36, #39 |

Carolina Chocolate Drops

»The African roots of old-time, jug-band and bluegrass music have been sadly neglected, but The Drops brought them back into the limeligtht ...«

Carolina Chocolate Drops @
FW#35, #49 |


»Dervish play with the intimacy of the pub sessions they started in, and with a vitality that brings them new, young fans throughout the world ...«

Dervish @ FolkWorld:
FW#3, #19, #19, #26, #26,
#35, #39, #42, #43, #44, #51 |

Photo Credits: (1) Sinéad O'Connor, (2) Billy Bragg, (3) Tupelo, (4) Kate Rusby, (5) Duncan Chisholm, (6) Troy McGillivray, (7) Carolina Chocolate Drops, (8) Dervish, (9) Svøbsk, (10) Jarlath Henderson & Ross Ainslie, (11) Trias, (12) Guy Davis, (by Walkin' Tom).

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