Alternative to the mainstream at Shrewsbury Folk Festival

Thousands of folk fans descended on Shrewsbury at the end of August for a long weekend of Morris dancing, ukuleles and fresh takes on traditional folk. It’s a festival of classic music although with a modern twist as live web streams broadcast the event all over the world to those who couldn’t be there, which allowed messages from as far as Australia to be read out on the main stage.

During the first few days there were such folk musicians as Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds, Afro Celt Sound System and Cara Dillon. Monday was the last day of the festival and certainly the highlight as four different musical styles hit the stage to entertain the masses for five hours of fantastic folk.

First up were five piece folk band Mawkin:Causley making their last performance after three and a half years together. The set was fantastic with frontman Jim Causley proving himself as an extremely talented singer who showered the audience with charisma and offered delightful explanations to each song. Their last performance was certainly a knock out show which added great youthful energy to the traditionally inspired songs.


Mawkin:Causley performed their last ever show at Shrewsbury Folk Festival. Photo: Samantha Viner

Blues man Hans Theessink took the festival in a more country blues direction. Sat in the middle of the large stage it was just him, a guitar and a harmonica. The blues vibe was very heartfelt and the technicalities of his playing were very impressive although the set did seem a little long for just one man.

The only let down of the line up would have to be John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett. Billed as “very funny” in the festival programme it seemed promising but upon sitting through an hour long set of questionable performances you fail to see the funny side.

The duo were accompanied by a bin, which apparently made a funny noise every time it was closed, which soon got old and quite frankly annoying. Through the self deprecating ‘humour’ and destruction of instruments you could see a glimpse of actual talent which, if used to it’s full potential, could be a great thing. There were a few laughs from around the tent but who knows what they were laughing at.


Bellowhead gave a stunning peformance with their big band folk. Phot: Samantha Viner

Thankfully other acts fared better as Bellowhead were an absolute triumph. The 11 piece band started back in 2004 and since then have gone on to win Best Live Band three times at the BBC Folk Awards and from their performance was is obvious why.

Their fantastic twist on folk got the whole tent dancing although there was no dance floor to be broken like at previous shows. After finishing their highly energetic set, made up of new and old tracks, the audience cheered for an amazing two encores. Spiers, Boden and co played a fantastic set with the whole band swapping and changing instruments regularly to give a unique sound that no other contemporary folk band has managed to equal.

With Bellowhead it’s difficult to even categorise them as folk as their big band sound and dance numbers leave this label behind. This energy and distinctive sound means that Bellowhead really are one of the best live musical acts around at the moment.

Shrewsbury Folk Festival was a great success from the live web streaming to the acts themselves, making it a great alternative weekend to be enjoyed by the whole family.

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