The Beverley and East Riding Folk Festival

Live Review | Beverley | Review by Allan Wilkinson

It doesn’t take long to acclimatise yourself to the Beverley and East Riding Folk Festival once you’ve got yourself suitably accustomed to the handful of minor changes from the previous year. This year for instance, a new Concert Marquee was to be found on the Festival Village site, which replaces the usual Memorial Hall across town, currently closed for refurbishment. All the main concerts could therefore be accessed within a short walking distance, making those of us suffering from chronic idleness grin like a kindle of Cheshire kittens. The parking therefore had to be separated from the camp site, in order to make extra room on the festival site itself. This was really no hardship at all as the car park was located just over the road from the main site gates. Despite the blustery wind that blew across the camping field on Friday afternoon, the weather was fine when most of the festival goers arrived and the sun was out, which helped to create a good festival atmosphere before a single note had been plucked or a box had been squeezed. The staff were friendly, helpful and on hand to assist those struggling with their tents. My little helper arrived just at the point when I thought the wind was about to scoop up my old tent and wrap it unceremoniously around the Minster tower. Thank you that steward. Notable in this years’ handsome programme was the inclusion of a handful of American visitors going under the ‘Americana’ banner. Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp were there promptly at 7.30pm to perform the first concert of their very first UK visit and the organisers decided it might just as well be a good place to start proceedings for this years’ festival. After a short introduction by David Elvidge the Mayor of Beverley, resplendent in his official regalia, Jeni and Billy, by their own account ‘the smiliest Americans in the world’ smiled their way through a fine opening set of songs from the Appalachians including the a cappella “Miner’s Reward” and the title track from their new album “Jewel Ridge Coal”, opening with their own endearing introductions reaffirming to all that they are each other’s true love. Over in the Club Room, which is part of the main Leisure Complex, singer songwriter and guitarist, Steve Tilston was busy sound checking in preparation for his appearance on Friday night. Steve told me that he was ‘a last minute bolt on, a late addition to the line-up’. Playing an intimate set of songs that span an almost 40 year career, which will be celebrated next year with an appearance at the Purcell Room in February, Steve appeared relaxed and cheerful whilst performing familiar songs such as “The Road When I Was Young”, “Weeping Willow Blues” and finally “Slip Jigs And Reels” preceded by a beautiful tune that I still can’t remember the name of, if indeed I ever knew the name of it in the first place. Whilst Billy Bragg was preparing to headline on the Main Stage in the nearby Leisure Complex, following opening support spots by Paul Liddell and Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, former Long Ryders front man Sid Griffin was at the helm of The Coal Porters, who headlined the Americana Concert in the Concert Marquee. Smartly suited, the band played a storming set of bluegrass songs and tunes including “Like a Hurricane”, “Road Kill Breakdown” and “Mr Guthrie”. Billy Bragg appearances often carry with them the air of a political rally, with a clear emphasis on his own personal commitment to current political issues. At times like these, it’s particularly easy to get an audience on your side, and the room was frequently filled with feverish applause. Songs like “Hard Times in Old England” and “All You Fascists are bound to lose” soon had fists in the air in solidarity. The most surreal moment of the set however, was when the Barking Bard had the Beverley audience crooning in unison (communal singing at the same pitch, not the trade union), to The Carpenters’ “Superstar”, before launching into Dylan’s anthemic “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”. One of the most delightful aspects of the Beverley Festival is the late night sessions held in the Wold Top Marquee, where after hours revellers congregate for some impromptu performances by some of the main headlining guests, who pop onto the stage between lesser known acts, bringing a real sense of community amongst the singers and musicians who attend the festival. Presided over by compere Miles Cain, the carpeted boudoir has become a popular place for all late night festival goers, who just don’t want the music to end. Billy Bragg could be found on this stage in the early hours of Saturday morning, joining the likes of Henry Priestman and Peter Donegan as well as a handful of singers and musicians not to be found anywhere else in the programme. On Saturday morning I spoke at length to Sid Griffin of the Coal Porters, about such things as Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan and Habitat for Humanity, a re-housing project in New Orleans, which his sister is heavily involved in. As the author of Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel, I asked him what the man’s legacy means to him in 2009 and how relevant his music is today. “It doesn’t mean a lot to me personally, I mean I’ve played it, done it, been there, bought the t shirt. I play bluegrass now but I notice he’s a big hero for alt country and alternative young acts of the day. He wasn’t twenty-five years ago. When I was a youngster playing alt country and alternative indie music, no one knew who he was, particularly in the UK. We’d come over here and be interviewed by Sounds and Melody Maker and the NME and you’d say ‘Gram Parsons’ and they had no idea who you meant, they’d always say Graham Parker.. no, no! He’s certainly a name to drop now in the way Alex Chilton was a few years ago. I don’t think you can throw a rock and hit an alt country or indie band that didn’t kowtow to the great force that was Gram Parsons”. Sid’s other passion is the work of Bob Dylan and he was at the festival for the dual purpose of playing some slick bluegrass with the Coal Porters on Friday but also to present an informative talk centered around his book Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, The Band and The Basement Tapes in the Concert Marquee on Saturday morning. The talk, which was both informative and enlightening, was illustrated by a few verses from a handful of Basement Tapes period Dylan songs, sung and played by Sid with the aid of his handy twelve string guitar. Backstage Sid chatted candidly about the subject of his book. “We’ve never had an artist of Dylan’s stature or commercial success, voluntarily withdraw from the limelight as he did back then, so it’s hard to believe when you look at Dylan’s career and all the weird things he’s done that here’s a guy at the top of his game in late ‘66 that voluntarily withdraws from the scene for about fifteen months, and while we think he’s doing nothing, we years later find out he was actually recording all the time albeit informally with his friends, and that he was having a bit of a purple patch, turning out things like “This Wheel’s On Fire”, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”, “Nothing Was Delivered” and so on and so forth”. After being all Dylan’d out by lunchtime, I wandered over to the Club Room to catch Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow’s second set of the festival, having already played their first set, opening for Billy Bragg on Friday night. Their Saturday lunchtime set was probably a much more relaxed and intimate affair, with the two women performing a handful of familiar songs, peppered with good humour. With songs as diverse as Belinda’s “Moon Over Water”, “Blackbird” and the achingly sad “Whitethorn”, together with T’Pau’s “China in Your Hand” coupled seamlessly with Richard Thompson’s “When I Get to the Border”, the couple maintained a great rapport with their audience throughout their hour long set. I spoke to Belinda and Heidi after the gig and asked them about opening for Mr Bragg. “It was great; we weren’t sure how it was going to be, we were quite nervous about it, we knew it would be packed because people were coming to see Billy Bragg but we didn’t know how it would go, but the audience was very warm and we felt it went very very well”. I thought enough time had lapsed to ask slightly awkward questions about Belinda’s work with Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, a band I was pleased to see in the very same room exactly one year before. I was particularly interested in asking how Belinda felt about the Mercury nomination for The Bairns and her crucial contribution to that acclaimed album. “There was a combination of feelings for me on that day, I celebrated that night with Heidi and we watched the programme together and we had a bottle of Champaign ready, we still drank it, we both hoped that it would win. I felt both sadness and pride; it would’ve been nice to have been there to share in that celebration with the rest of the Winterset, but I’ve also been on a journey myself with the album and with the whole process of being with the band and I’ve come out.. I don’t know if I’ve fully come out the other side yet, but I am very very proud of what we all did on that album, and I do listen to it, it’s on my ipod and when it comes on I always turn it up and listen to it and think, wow, it’s pretty good that”. Saturday afternoon was pretty much taken up entirely with the concert billed as the ‘American Party’ in the Concert Marquee, one of the highlights being the impressive Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, one of the surprises of the festival who provided the unsuspecting audience with a set filled with their own unique blend of rock infused Americana. Speaking backstage with the self-styled ‘Hillbilly Pink Floyd’ front man Joziah Longo, who also revealed that someone had addressed the band as ‘David Bowie made Hunky Dory with The Band in the Basement of Big Pink’, and guitarist Sharkey McEwen, I had to ask them about their curious name. “You know it was just like a revelation. We live right near Sleepy Hollow right along the Hudson (River) and I used to walk in the woods there and this name popped into my head. We were a little afraid of it at first but we stuck with it and it’s been very good for us.. gets us a lot of press”. There was a curious presence at this years’ festival that couldn’t be missed. Wherever you found yourself on the site, you would soon be aware of the presence of a tall, slim, mustachioed minstrel, with baggy pin-striped trousers, held up by comic braces, hidden beneath a white vest, complete with a cluster of daisies pinned to his waistcoat, providing the only spot of colour to this otherwise black and white silent movie yodelling banjo player from New York. Curtis Eller was due to play just about everywhere throughout the weekend and our first glimpse of him was during the American Party on Saturday afternoon. Performing songs from his two albums Taking Up Serpents Again and Wirewalkers and Assassins, the unique entertainer brought a sense of the burlesque to Beverley. I spoke to Curtis backstage just before his show and asked him how he would describe himself. “Well, it’s hard to describe but easy to understand; it’s just that old show business thing, it’s like a song and dance routine more or less. I think so many modern performers have got a little lazy with their presentation, nobody knows how to dance like Al Jolson anymore”. Curtis Eller’s songwriting draws on many historical characters and events, from key silent movie stars, assassins, boxing giants and circus people, but manages to maintain a contemporary feel. His high kicking antics, frequent smooching with his beloved banjo and penchant for balancing awkwardly on the front row chairs, whilst the audience maintained a safe distance near the bar, Eller could be credited as the single most engaging act of the entire festival. There was lots going on around the festival village throughout Saturday afternoon with The Transatlantic Connection Concert in the Main Hall of the Leisure Complex with Bruce Molsky and Lunasa, an afternoon concert in the Club Room featuring Jess Bannister, Farino, The Hall Brothers and John Carey, as well as a final appearance by Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow. Skavolution were providing their blend of Jamaican rhythms out in the sunshine, whilst various other community events were taking place in all the marquees scattered around the village, all helped along by the inviting smells of the ample food stall concession stands. Rounding off the American Party concert was the family band known as The Alley Cats, bringing to its climax a memorable afternoon of fun and music with their own blend of old timey bluegrass and roots music featuring dad Pete on guitar, mum Janey on double bass and daughter Polly on some very tasty mandolin. Another new feature for this years’ Beverley Festival was the Acoustic Marquee on the Festival Village site. The marquee was added to provide a platform for drop-in musicians not billed on the main festival line up or in the festival programme, as well as providing comedy and literature events. Holly Taymar was in the marquee on Saturday evening, just as the heavens opened. Her infectious personality once again drew a crowd into the marquee, where she sang a handful of self-penned songs such as “Toes”, “7am” and “Home” as well as a beautiful rendition of the classic Neil Young song “Birds”, to both admiring fans and refugees from the rain alike. One of the festival favourites this year was the old time fiddler Bruce Molsky who could be seen on the Main Stage of the Leisure Complex on Saturday afternoon as part of the Transatlantic Connections Concert and who also gave an ‘old time fiddling from Appalachia’ workshop in the Club Room earlier in the morning. Reg Meuross and Karen Tweed both referred to him as ‘the real deal’ and I caught him on Saturday night in the bar at Hodgson’s pub as part of a session entitled ‘Not the White Horse Folk Club’ where he played to a packed standing room only audience, playing both guitar and fiddle tunes of exceptional quality. Saturday evening brought with it the Midsummer Party and Dance Night Concert in the Main Hall of the Leisure Complex featuring Skavolution, The Lonnie Donegan Band featuring Lonnie’s son Peter, looking and sounding spookily like his dad, with an outstanding set featuring some of Lonnie’s most loved songs including “Rock Island Line” and an entire back catalogue of crowd pleasing classics from a bygone skiffle era. Finally on Saturday evening, an entirely instrumental set by the vibrant Scottish outfit Peatbog Faeries, whilst in the Concert Marquee, the Subterranean Homesick Yorkshire Blues band, Rory Motion and the irrepressible John Hegley, presented an outstanding night of comedy. Other sessions were taking place in the Acoustic Marquee and Hodgson’s Pub, and Miriam Backhouse, Farino and Tanglefoot were in the Club Room providing plenty of activity throughout the festival village. With so much going on, it was impossible to see everything, but with a little help from the team in the Wold Top Marquee, most of the festival artists would once again come along well into the early hours to perform impromptu sets in the aforementioned carpeted boudoir, presided over once again by Miles Cain. Saturday night, early Sunday morning, Skavolution and members of the Peatbog Faeries played late night sets, as well as an a cappella performance by the Canadian band Tanglefoot whose delicious harmonies resounded around the marquee and more than likely filtered out to those sleeping in the nearby tents on the camp site. John Hegley also made an appearance fresh from his hilarious performance in the Concert Marquee with songs accompanied on mandolin such as “Trainspotting”, “Guillemot” and “Jesus Isn’t Just For Christmas”. Sunday morning in Beverley has an unmistakable Englishness about it. I walked over to the car park to check on things when at one strategic point, I found myself surrounded by the almost quadraphonic sound of at least three sets of church bells sounding off from three steeples in the vicinity. The sun was shining once again after a day of rain and Curtis Eller was over at The Friary, high kicking off the day with his song writing workshop. The Dominican Friary is one of the most beautiful old buildings in Beverley, situated nearby the Minster, in a quiet and serene corner of the town. Now part of the Youth Hostel Association, The Friary offers a suitable venue in two of its upstairs reading rooms for some of the quieter events such as Jeni and Billy’s ‘Writing and Accompanying the Contemporary Appalachian Ballad’ workshop, ‘Harmony Singing from Around The World’ with the Beverley Community Choir, ‘Discovering American Stories’ with the Human Compass Theatre Company, and Cassandra Wye’s ‘Story Club’. On Sunday Morning though, Curtis Eller was slightly perplexed at the ungodly hour in which his workshop covering ‘Subject Matter in Your Songwriting’ was scheduled to take place. Over the hour though, the enigmatic songwriter covered some of the many aspects of song writing, delivering an up close and personal talk accompanied by some of his unique songs such as “Buster Keaton” as well as a look at how to adapt traditional songs such as “Mole in the Ground”. Back in the Festival Village, writer Peter Robinson read The Ferryman’s Beautiful Daughter a short story from a new forthcoming collection entitled The Price Of Love, whilst Eliza Carthy played the fiddle, effectively providing additional drama to the story. Towards the end of this special literature event, Eliza sang a couple of relevant songs such as “Worcester City” and “The Baby Farmer”. During the afternoon, whilst Curtis Eller, The Anna Massie Band and Eric Bogle and John Munro featured in the ‘Around The World and Back’ concert in the Main Hall, ‘The Richard Wastling Memorial Concert’ took place in the Concert Marquee featuring the likes of Jez Lowe and Kate Bramley, Miriam Backhouse, Tom Napper, Grace Notes and Damien Barber and Mike Wilson, who brought their own brand of traditional song to Beverley. Damien from the award winning Demon Barbers and Mike from the Teesside family band The Wilson Family, joined forces for a set of songs that included “Onboard a Ninety-Eight” and “The Santa Fe Trail”, which soon had the audience participating in full throttle. During the afternoon Eric Bogle and John Munro could be seen on both the Concert Marquee stage and the Main Stage in the Leisure Complex, bringing a touch of class to their Beverley audiences. The two Scots both now resident in Australia performed a selection of much loved songs, known throughout the world for their intelligent lyrics and memorable melodies. One name that appeared nowhere in the programme or on the publicity posters was singer songwriter Reg Meuross who made an appearance as little more than a visitor to the festival. With a growing reputation as a major league British songwriter, Reg wandered into the café area of the Leisure Complex on Sunday afternoon whilst festival goers enjoyed a bite to eat between concerts and together with Karen Tweed, they played an impromptu set of songs and tunes, seated right there in the lounge area of the café drawing a curious crowd who presumably recognized this unmistakable voice from the previous weeks’ Mike Harding show. Reg and Karen announced that they would be playing later in the afternoon over at The Friary, which ensured a well-attended audience for an un-billed act. “Fool’s Gold”, “Lizzie Loved a Highwayman”, “And Jesus Wept” as well as a few tunes from Karen Tweed were all enthusiastically received by those fortunate enough to attend the concert and would I imagine, warrant a full and proper booking for next year’s festival. Speaking to Reg in the garden outside The Friary on a very pleasant Sunday evening in the shadow of Beverley Minster, I asked him how he had found himself performing unannounced at the festival. “I found that me and Karen were going to be in the area, I was doing some rural touring up in Cumbria doing some village halls solo and Karen was going to be around anyway. We’d done some recording on Friday with Bruce Molsky, the three of us. Karen’s doing a solo album and Bruce was over to do the festival and Karen had booked a church in Blyth in Nottinghamshire where we did some recording and we decided to come up to the festival having called Chris Wade asking if it was okay to maybe do some stuff whilst we were here, basically as late additions”. Reg is genuinely pleasant to chat to and in such surroundings it was easy to chat away without actually realising the Friary room above our heads had filled with his awaiting audience. Reg spoke of his work with his musical peers such as Bruce Molsky and Karen Tweed but also the young fiddler Jackie Oates “I heard her in a folk club pretty much before anybody knew who she was probably, a few years ago now, and I just thought she had a sound, a really authentic sound; I love what Jackie does, it’s so pure, her voice, her playing, there’s no artifice about it, you know, there’s no attitude to what she does, she just does it and I thought I would love to work with her one day but I always thought how does someone like me with that whole background in pop music, rock music, singer songwriter, American folk music, how do we bridge that gap and it was really Phil Beer who achieved that”. Reg and Karen finished their set with the title song to his current album the acclaimed “Dragonfly”, which features Jackie Oates on the recording. As the sun settled over the imposing Minster and Beverley festival drew to a close and as the concessions stands began closing up for another year, most of the festival goers congregated in the Main Hall for the finale concert featuring Seth Lakeman, The Anna Massie Band and former Christians song writer, the Hull Born now resident of Liverpool, Henry Priestman, who was also celebrating his birthday, blowing out an undisclosed number of candles on the cake he was presented with up onstage. Henry performed songs from his debut solo album The Chronicles of Modern Life such as “Don’t You Love Me No More” and “Old” as well as throwing in one of the big hits from his erstwhile pop bands’ glory days with “Ideal World”. Outside the main festival site, the roads appeared almost grid locked as excited fans from across the county diverged on the festival village for a performance by the current poster boy of the folk world Seth Lakeman and his band, who delivered their trademark energetic and crowd pleasing set featuring selections from all four of Seth’s solo albums, including the songs “Soloman Brown”, “The Hurlers” and kicking off with “The Storm”. For a little picturesque town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Beverley sure knows how to put on a heck of a show, and one that has lasted twenty-six years and is still going strong. I was curious to know how Beverley has managed to change with the times but maintain its appeal and I finally spoke to broadcaster Henry Ayrton, who has been coming to the festival from the start. “You’ve got to take your cue from people who are perceived to be on the front line of this sort of thing, people who are attracting the audiences. You would say what are they doing what we aren’t doing and that’s when I think people who are running festivals had to decide that what we’ve always thought of as being folk music is not quite the same as what the public – that we must attract – thinks of what folk music is; it’s a compromise that’s worth making and for survival it’s essential to make”.

Village Voices by Liam Wilkinson

Community spirit is alive and well at the Beverley Folk Festival. Once you’ve arrived in town, passed the majestic Minster, crossed the railway line and entered the grounds of the Leisure Complex, you find yourself in what has been dubbed the ‘Festival Village’. It’s not far removed from the village of Midsomer, but instead of the quiet rows of cottages, there are tents and marquees buzzing to the sound of guitars, squeezeboxes and fiddles, or full to the brim with the aroma of spicy festival food. And in place of Midsomer’s periodic bouts of quaint English murder, there are plenty of folk incidents, episodes of verse and spells of comedy. This year the village has been extended to include a cosy Acoustic Marquee and an impressively spacious Concert Marquee. It becomes apparent, as I stand in the middle of the village with my official programme and pint of Festival Ale, that I probably won’t be spending as much time in the Leisure Complex as I have in previous years. Scanning the schedule, I note the smart planning that has been put in place to ensure that all wrist-banded festival goers get exactly what they want out of this, the twenty-sixth Beverley Folk Festival. How easy it would be, I think, to get from Friday to Sunday without even hearing a fiddle. For those of us who are looking for a bit of spoken word in our 2009 fest, it’s a delight to open the programme and find the likes of Chris Brooker, Mike Wilkinson, Dan Antopolski, Cassandra Wye and Miles Cain lurking on the first page of the schedule – all highly respectable wordsmiths and chatterboxes who, even before the sun sets on the first day of the festival, provide several hours of quality entertainment without the need for a guitar tuner. I note the appearance of big names such as Billy Bragg, Steve Tilston, Seth Lakeman and Peatbog Faeries, all of whom are due to perform in the Leisure Complex this weekend, but can’t help but be tempted away from the main stage by the Village poets. Saturday night presents a real treat for all of us wordaholics with the Concert Marquee’s Comedy Night. Kicking off the show are Yorkshire-based poets and musicians Helen Burke, Miles Cain, Paul Coleman, Dave Gough and Oz Hardwick – collectively known as Department Bob. Their show, Subterranean Homesick Yorkshire Blues has already been successfully performed at various folk festivals and the occasional theatre stage, but seems somehow at home in front of this appreciative Beverley crowd. The format is simple – five writers, five microphones and five decades of pure genius from a man named Zimmerman. And yet, in mingling poetry and songs inspired by Bob Dylan, the show seems to offer much more than a celebration of Dylan’s unwavering influence – it’s more an example of how our many forms of artistic expression can intertwine to create a fine tapestry. When Paul Coleman’s finger-picked blues guitar is fused with the evocative poetry of Oz Hardwick, a perfect picture of Bob and early-sixties New York emerges from the weave. “Sleek and knowing, hanging cool, the cats of Greenwich Village chill…” opens Oz, and soon the sidewalk of Bleaker and the neon Café Wah sign flicker into view. Dave Gough’s deadpan poetic parodies of Dylan songs bring a subtle humour to the show that has the crowd giggling and groaning in equal measure; and, though his compositions often lean towards the northern wit of Les Barker, Dave can be more suitably described as the Yorkshire folk scene’s answer to US poet, Billy Collins. Helen Burke is rooted in the same poetic soil as Dave Gough, but where Dave’s poems are delivered with a restrained, pensive yet comical voice, Helen’s are uninhibited word-paintings that hit the crowd like Pollock’s oils. Her parody of Bob’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, that charges through the mayhem of modern British society, complete with Dylan-style cue-cards strewn across the stage, is worthy of the appreciative applause it receives, as is her biting satire of our celebrity-obsessed culture – the brilliant Bob Dylan’s Toenail. The backbone of the show, however, is provided by Miles Cain, whose seemingly interminable energy is in abundance throughout the entire weekend, running his popular late-night sessions in the Wold Top Marquee on all three nights of the festival. Tonight, however, he’s bringing it all back home with fine interpretations of Dylan’s best songs. The show closes with Miles’s rendition of All Along the Watchtower, a powerfully performed version that brings this unique and enjoyable ensemble piece to a close. As the five microphones are carried into the darkness, a tall bespectacled figure emerges from the back of the stage. It’s Rory Motion – a man described as a singer-songwriter, poet and tree-impressionist – who has been performing on the folk and comedy scene for the last two decades. Despite looking like a bored headmaster who has come along to give another dreadfully dull assembly, Rory sits in the spotlight, crosses his legs and embarks on a surreal trundle along the B-roads of his mind, taking us happily with him. “I come from York” he begins, “so crap they named it once!” Soon, he’s up on his feet, demonstrating the subtle difference between a Sikkim Spruce and a Norway Spruce – just two of his hilarious, though remarkably accurate, tree impressions. His short, blissfully wacky poems manage to delight adults and children alike, as do his meandering monologues and comedy songs. But it’s perhaps his stories and songs about his dad, the kind of Yorkshireman who would smoke coal and believed that Geoffrey Boycott “came out of the sea off Bridlington on a golden chariot, pulled by seven golden whippets”, that leave the sides of this Beverley audience well and truly split. With only a few minutes gap, there’s hardly time to recover before John Hegley appears on stage with his trademark glasses and mandolin. For those who are familiar with Britain’s foremost performance poet, it’s no surprise that Hegley seems somewhat miffed to be here. He delivers his poems and songs like a cantankerous postman, unsure why he’s even doing this job at all. He treats the audience, photographers and hecklers like annoying kids at a birthday party, and yet the audience is spellbound, often too busy guffawing at the last quip to catch the next. You’re never clear as to whether the poems and songs are meant for children, adults or the child inside every adult, but it soon seems entirely reasonable to be laughing at poems about blancmange, octopuses who visit doctorpuses and Pancake Man. Indeed, after an hour of John Hegley, you emerge from the muggy marquee unnerved at the fact that you might just have to return to the pest that is the real world. Luckily, the buzz of the Beverley Festival Village ensures that the return trip is a comfortable and enjoyable one. On Sunday, the crime writer Peter Robinson appears in the Concert Marquee to read a recently published short story. He’s backed by Eliza Carthy, whose haunting fiddle tunes and murder ballads perfectly complement Robinson’s fiction. It’s becoming something of a trend for folk musicians and novelists to come together on stage for a mutual performance – Ian Rankin and Jackie Leven have been delighting audiences with their shared shows for some time. If someone were to drop a pin in the marquee this afternoon, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the Beverley Minster bell, striking the hour as a couple of hundred people are completely absorbed by this superb exhibition of two art forms colliding. What better way to spend the last afternoon of the festival than in the company of Robinson/Carthy and a grizzly little story of murder and the sea? It’s a credit to the festival organisers, and to John Godber, playwright and patron of the festival, that I leave Beverley this year having enjoyed a heady mixture of words and music, complete with the excitement that next year may bring more of the same.