Folk East, in Suffolk in the East of England, is one of the most wonderful folk festivals around, particularly due to its wonderful atmosphere. It also prides itself as a family festival. FolkWorld has put this to the test, and sent 10 years old Yasmine to report from her perspective.
On Thursday I found it lovely that this year there were some bands already playing. I first looked into a showcase concert around the local folk hero Matt Bayfield, featuring Bayfield Booth, Honey and the Bear, Kev Walford and Kelly Bayfield, Steamboat Union; but in the end, I decided to join the Stumpy Oak Ceilidh. Stumpy Oak are a local band that regularly do Ceilidhs in Suffolk. The Ceilidh was fun and there were several other children joining in. The caller (Sarah Petts) gave simple and clear instructions to follow and the music to dance to was brilliant. It was a great start to Folk East!
On Friday I enjoyed singing with Mary Ann Kennedy in Moot Hall. She is an amazing musician who’s Scottish and sings most of her wonderful songs in Gaelic. She’s very friendly and has a beautiful voice. I especially enjoyed the songs where I could sing along and learn some Gaelic although her solo songs were also fabulous. If I had to pick my top twenty solo singers then she’d definitely be in there! A talented guitarist, Ewan MacPherson, plays tunes and rhythms that fit with Mary’s songs and give them the extra bit of magic and flow. They really are an amazing duo!!
Later on, on Friday, I really enjoyed watching Tilly Moses-who is a young solo musician- perform in the village hall tent. Tilly writes her own songs and creates her own music to play on her mandolin. She’s a lovely person and has a fantastic voice!
Early Saturday afternoon I watched Rachel Mc Shane and the Cartographers play. The instruments that Rachel Mc Shane play are: the cello (which I play too), the violin and the viola and on top of all of that she sings. Unfortunately, she didn’t have her cello with her! ☹ She has a magnificent voice and is a great player of traditional folk tunes. The “Cartographers” - whose names are Matthew Ord and Julian Sutton - play guitar and melodeon. Together the trio brought happiness to Folk East!
At nine thirty Saturday evening, a band called Show of Hands played on the big Sunset stage. Show of Hands is a band with Marinda Sykes - double bass, Steve Knightley - guitar and Phil Beer- Violin. They make a great sound when they play and you can hear all instruments backing their own songs. Plus, when you stand near the front of the stage, you can feel your heart beat because the double bass was so loud!
On Saturday I also listened to Irish Mythen, who’s a songwriter, and plays the guitar. She’s got a remarkably strong voice and a unique style. Born in Ireland, Irish Mythen now lives in Canada and travels all around the world to perform her music. She tells some very interesting stories about what inspired her songs, which is good fun to listen to!
A highlight on the Soapbox stage on Saturday was a melodeon player called Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne. He began to play at the age of six and is now a fine melodeon and anglo concertina player. Cohen sings to his songs too. I remember that on his last tune he played his concertina while he swung it round and round in a circle! Cool!
In my opinion, Klezmerized was spectacular! They played at 11 in the evening on the Soapbox stage and I just had to stay and listen for a while even though I was getting very tired. Klezmerized is a band that plays Jewish music from Eastern Europe and beyond. In the band there is: a cello, an accordion, a clarinet and a double bass. They play long and upbeat sets, some of which have Yiddish singing. I noticed that the way the cello was played sounded a little different to mine, perhaps a little Greek, which I found interesting! The clarinet player and double bass players were very good and the accordion was holding the main tune!
On Sunday there were so many good bands on I didn’t know what to choose; SO much choice. My highlights of the day were the following:
At 2pm, a superb duo played on the Sunset Stage. Greg Russell is a singer and guitarist who writes his own songs, while Ciaran Algar plays the violin and sings, largely backing vocals. I have seen them before playing locally, and I love the energy of the fiddle playing, the powerful songs and how well they work together to make the tunes sound perfect.
Mid-afternoon, I went to see the Dan Walsh trio, which included again fiddler Ciaran Algar and Nic Zuppardi on mandolin. Dan Walsh plays the banjo and sings. I was keen to see him again, after having seen him with the Urban Folk Quartet at “Folk at the Froize” earlier this year. I liked how all of the instruments in the Dan Walsh trio sounded together. I enjoyed listening to the stories Dan Walsh told about how he decided to play the banjo!
The trio Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker and John Doyle played an amazing set with flute and uilleann pipes, fiddle and guitar/song. I enjoyed dancing to the music. In the middle of their set, the sound system broke down but they just carried on playing acoustically.
Later in the day, I chose to go and watch a band called Five Fathoms Deep. Guess what? It had a cello in. Five Fathoms Deep is a band with young musicians (a little older than me though), who also play the drums, the double bass and several different types of guitar. In the band there are also two singers; together they are a nine-piece band. It’s a good band age group wise, but it could do with another instrument and it doesn’t really need two singers. (In my opinion).
To end Folk East, I decided to go to the dance tent where there was a Ceilidh with cool and groovy music and danced one last dance there!
I joined the “Young Moot” workshops where we practised the following tunes: “The Coconut Rochel dance”, “Jack Broke Da Prison door” and “Granias Welcome Home”. The workshop was led by Sarah Petts (Stumpy Oak caller and flute player), Darren Bidle (Also in the Stumpy Oak band) on guitar and a violinist. Tilly Moses also joined for some of the workshops. The young people in the group played three flutes, two whistles, one Cajon and a cello (me). After two mornings of practising the songs, we were supposed to do a mini concert in the Hop Inn tent pub but they’d been doing a beer tasting session there and were still finishing so we decided to go and do our concert in the music makers area. I got a little lost playing in the concert then again, I’m still learning and this was my first ever folk music session. It was a great experience!
Another workshop I did was a song writing workshop and guess who ran it? Tilly Moses again! Yey! In the song writing workshop we got to write our own song together. Their were four other kids joining in (one my sister Elsa). The theme was about home this year so we decided to write a song about when you come home. The song went like this:
I walk through the door And I let out a sigh I’ve been on a long journey This is finally mine. CHORUS: I arrive at my home It is cosy and warm I’m so glad to be here Sheltered from the storm.
In the song writing course I learnt that you need rhyming words in songs (Tilly explained that at home she has lots of pieces of paper all with rhyming words on which drives her mum a little crazy!) and Tilly told us a song writing secret. On Saturday we did mind-mapping which made me think. After the mind-mapping, we wrote the song. On Sunday the songwriting workshop was joined by some of the music workshops, to fit the song to music, and we practiced singing it. At midday, we performed our song alongside the young moot musicians performance (with me in). I was happy with what we’d achieved together.
The workshops were great and I learnt so much from the experience. Thank you, Tilly, Sarah and Darren and violinist, for helping me and running the sessions. I’d recommend the workshops to any young person who can play an instrument and read some notes. I will definitely be doing both workshops again next year!
Other Fun Things to do at Folk East
Guess what, there were other things to do in addition to listening to music. Some other things I did there included:
In the centre of Folk East there was a tower, a biggish tower with people on it, I bet you can’t guess what it was! It was a climbing tower. The climbing tower, which cost £4 for up to half an hour, has small grips to help you climb higher. The aim is to get to the top of a side of the tower (there where five sides to climb on) where there’s a good view and you can ring a bell. Some sides are harder than others so often you started on an easier side and worked your way up although sometimes you had to start on the difficult sides. Before you went on the tower, the owners put a harness and a helmet on you. I found the best part was when you got to the top, after you’d looked at the view and rung the bell, you got to hold on to the wire which was hooked on to your harness and gently push off the tower and your wire would lower you. I’d recommend the climbing to anyone (even adults!). The owners do look after you and help you when you get stuck and if you are finding it easy then they give you a challenge to make it harder. I went on it twice because it was so fun!
If you have nothing to do then go to the I Made This tent where you can create you own mini animation film using clever technology. You do have to book to do an animation because there are only six computers but it’s definitely worth it! You can use characters (e.g. smurfs) in your film or create your own characters with modelling clay or draw a picture and use technology to magically create a part of your film. Whatever you pick your film will be amazing. When you do it you may have an idea of what you want to happen in your animation but if you don’t you don’t need to panic because give a small idea to the staff and they’ll expand your idea and together you’ll create your own unique film. The film takes about two hours to make including adding titles, music and special effects. The staff are lovely and will help you as much as you want them to. I’d recommend making a film there because it’s is great fun!
When it is dark, very dark if you want to see something cool then head to the soap box stage where a surprise is waiting for you. There surprise is a fairy forest in which you walk through to get to the soap box stage. At night the forest will light up with pretty fairy lights and all the trees will be covered and surrounded by them! It’s worth walking through because it’s stunning.
In the same forest during the day time, there are dreamcatchers which are hand made and hung up all around. The dreamcatchers come in different colours some single some mixed and the odd one or two will be in rainbow! The forest feels magical and is pretty!
This year in Folk East the organisers had made the festival mascot, the Jackalope, a mythical creature of a horned hare, using milk bottles and other plastic bottles. Around the Jackalope there were five signs about plastic pollution in the world. At night time the Jackalope was lit up. Parts of it were covered with gold lights whereas the rest of the Jackalope was lighted up with lights that changed colours.
At Folk East you can camp so that you can stay up late and be there for the whole festival! I’ve camped the last two years and it’s a lovely campsite with a lot of space, set in the beautiful parkland of Glemham Hall.
Food and Drink
Every day the food was good. Always so much choice I thought “what should I have today”. Well in the next paragraph I will mention the best stalls to buy food at, at Folk East.
Whenever I’ve been at Folk East there’s always been the Chinese noodles van where every evening there’s a long queue. It is a VERY POPULAR food van. They do give you big portions though and it takes a long time to get to the end of your meal. Although it’s a must have!
New to Folk East is the Curry Cart which was also quite popular this year. I had a chicken curry there and it was quite good although it could have done with some veg in it because it was just chicken in a curry sauce. But I’d still have it again because it was yummy!
Refreshing on a hot day, is Lickety Ice Lollies. Lickety Ice Lollies are handmade in Suffolk and are made with love. You can get flavours like rhubarb and custard. The lolly I’d recommend is: Rose, raspberry and pistachio because it is full of flavour and has nice flavours for summer!
If you fancy a pizza then go to the stall where they make pizzas and cook them in a stone oven. You can either create your own pizza or have one from the menu. Sometimes there’s a queue there because they take minutes to make. They are really tasty!
Colne Valley is as it says in the name a tea company. Two ladies run the tent stall; both are lovely and one is the mother of the cellist in Five Fathoms Deep. I was a regular customer there so by the end of folk east I knew then both rather well and got some money off things seen as I was such a regular customer. The tea there is absolutely fantastic; they also sell proper chocolate bars which are tempting and mouth-watering. If you fancy a homemade elderflower cordial they have it there; I found it delicious. It is a practical and lovely tent stall!
Photo Credits: (1) FolkEast (unknown/website); (2) Stumpy Oak, (3) Mary Ann Kennedy, (4) Tilly Moses, (5) Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, (6) Greg Russell, (7) Dan Walsh Trio, (8) Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker and John Doyle, (9ff) Festival site (by The Mollis).