The Biggest Little Festival In Wiltshire
By Andy Fawthrop
Chippenham Folk Festival has just finished for another year, so it’s good time to round up just how good this event is, and why it’ll be worth going again next year.
The Festival, including its early incarnation at Lacock, is now in its 48th year, and always held over the Whit Bank Holiday week-end. If you’re not familiar with it and have never been, let me explain just how big and amazing this whole thing is. First of all, it takes over the whole town – every possible venue, both indoors and outdoors is used – Island Park (including a temporary Big Top and many food and other stalls), The Neeld, Masonic Centre, Olympiad, Constitutional Hall, pubs, clubs – you name it. It includes whole streams of activities for children, for music concerts, for storytelling, for folk dance, for Morris, for ceilidhs and for many other activities. There is a small shopping village selling a wide range of clothes and crafts, drinks, and street food. On Bank Holiday Monday there’s also a special market in the High Street. There are literally hundreds of formal performances and displays, open mic & busking, tutorials, workshops, interviews – which means you can either just sit back and be entertained, or you can join in and get completely involved.
There’s extensive onsite camping facilities or, like myself, you can just drive in and park every day. Hotels and B&Bs in and around the town are booked out months in advance, so popular is the festival.
You can either buy tickets for the whole week-end (with or without camping), for single days, or just for individual events. There’s a Box Office onsite during the festival, or online via the website.
Next year’s event is already booked into the calendar from 22nd May to 25th May 2020, and early tickets are already available.
The good thing about this massive range of activity is that there really is something for everyone, no matter what you’re interested in. And not everything is ticketed. You’ll need to pay to get into the main venues, but there’s plenty in and around the town happening in the streets that’s completely free.
This year’s event, the last to be organised by Bob & Gill Berry (who also run Devizes Folk Club), was as just as good as ever, and the crowds were out in force, packing out many of the venues. I was lucky enough myself to be MC’ing several music events, and so got to see some fine performances close up on the stages. Stand-out performances for me were from The Wilsons, Granny’s Attic, Jack Rutter, Winter Wilson, Bob Fox, Sally Ironmonger, The Often Herd, Greg Russell, Jim Causely and Keith Donnelly, but it’s genuinely hard to pick out real stars from amongst so many young and talented performers. And it was really good to see so much youthful and emerging new talent, not just the old hands and established stars.
I ran into many people I knew, several of whom had never been before, and who were amazed at how much stuff was going on across the town.
So if you’ve never been, make a note in your diary to go next year and see what all the fuss is about!
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