Fairport’s Cropredy Convention


Nic Outterside

GLORIOUS weather and a stunning musical line-up ensured success for Fairport's Cropredy Convention last weekend, as almost 20,000 music fans enjoyed themselves at the three-day Oxfordshire festival.

Despite exceptionally wet weather recently, the 175-acre farmland site at Cropredy remained in perfect condition with no sign of the mud and flooding that caused problems and cancellations at festivals earlier this summer.

But it was the diversity and power of the music that ensured this year's Cropredy festival will be long remembered as a fitting 45th anniversary to Fairport Convention's longevity.

And the three days of fun in the sun definitely had a Celtic twist this year with contributions from Scottish, Welsh and Irish artists.

Irish singer-songwriter Kieran Goss warmed the crowd on Thursday afternoon with a voice, humour and charm synonymous with the Emerald Isle.

Compatriots and BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners Ioscaid kicked off proceedings on Friday in fine style and were followed later in the evening by legendary Irish show-stoppers the Saw Doctors, who received a rousing reception from the burgeoning crowd.

Show-stealers on Saturday were young Welsh band Calan. Produced by former Fairport stalwart Maart Allcock, Calan offered song, dance and tunes which prove the folk music tradition is in safe hands.

So what of the rest?

Personal highlights included an amazing set by 11 piece jazz/folk ensemble Bellowhead. If there had been a roof at Cropredy they would have blown it off!

The diversity, energy and sheer brilliance of their music, counterpointed with the sometimes dark humour of lead singer John Boden, ensured their set will go down as one of the best ever seen at Cropredy.

Bellowhead were nearly matched by Richard Thompson and Joan Armatrading on Friday night.

Thompson's guitar playing still matches anything the likes of Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck have produced... and his song-writing is sublime.

Joan Armatrading defies the years and her renditions of Me, Myself I and Love and Affection were worth the ticket price alone.

American duo Larkin Poe (Rebecca and Megan Lovell) were also truly sublime on Friday afternoon.

But if anything was to surpass that Bellowhead experience it had to be Fairport's own three and a half hour set on Saturday evening.

Peppered with friends and songs from their entire 45 year career, it was musically one of the best performances they have ever given at Cropredy.

From a reworking of Hexhamshire Lass to a moody Matty Groves and the gorgeous lilt of Portmeirion, their show had everything, helped out by the afore-mentioned Larkin Poe sisters and offspring of Fairport alumni  including Blair Dunlop (Ashley Hutchings' son), Kami Thompson (Richard and Linda Thompson's daughter) and Kristina Donahue (Jerry Donahue's daughter).

The midnight finale of Meet on the Ledge was awesome before the crowd drifted off with huge smiles and tears of joy to their tents to say adieu for another year.

As in previous years, Fairport's Cropredy Convention was filmed for Sky Arts HD as part of the television channel's festival season.

The programme is due to be screened on Sky Arts 1 at 9pm on Friday, August 31 and repeated at 2pm on Saturday, September 1.

See full story in the Free Press

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