Shepley Spring Festival

Festival Review | Storthes Hall, Huddersfield | Review and Photos by Allan Wilkinson

Andy Cutting appeared to be the busiest musician today as the 11th Shepley Spring Festival got underway at their new home at the sprawling Storthes Hall in nearby Kirkburton, just outside Huddersfield. The button accordion/melodeon player didn’t stop for breath as he flitted from one area to another, first of all playing an hour-long solo set during the opening concert in the afternoon, then conducting an informal workshop in the Acoustic Room and finally playing with Topette! on the main dance floor inviting festival goers to take their partners. The first sign of dance was during Mel Biggs’ ‘Playing for Jigs’ session out in the sunshine, with some Morris demonstrations. The new venue proved to be a hit with regulars and newcomers alike, as all the stages are within the same complex, with all the catering, bars and accommodation close by. Recovering from a bout of flu, the Orkney-born singer songwriter Mervyn Driver delivered a couple of tender sets, interspersed with some intriguing banter surrounding his unconventional background, whilst OBT and Andrew Waite & Luc McNally got stuck into the tunes, bringing some of the instrumental magic back to Shepley. For those ready to exercise their tonsils, both the Shepley Singers and She Shanties raised the roof, before the young trio Aelfen played into the night.

“Do you want some Bob Marley?” asked Glen Latouche, as Edward II made sure everyone stayed on the dance floor for the final concert of Saturday night at this year’s Shepley Spring Festival; that is everyone except the few souls who chose to watch the Eurovision Song Contest in the Cinema instead! The band included such favourites as “Dashing Away”, “Night Nurse” and “Wild Mountain Thyme” in what turned out to be a predictably hot and steamy set, perfectly placed to round off a fun second day of the festival, which saw concerts, open mics, workshops, sessions, dance displays and children’s events around the various areas of Storthes Hall, the festival’s exciting new venue. Jack Rutter, the new festival patron, took his role literally by attempting to be in several places at the same time, delivering an illustrated ‘lecture’ on the acoustic guitar, then taking part in a live interview along with Bryony Griffith, who between them talked about the history of the festival so far, before performing his first solo set of the weekend, sandwiched between the fine local singing siblings Ruth and Sadie Price and the wonderfully switched-on Belshazzars Feast, whose irreverent humour and astonishing musicianship entertained a packed house in the upstairs Farnley Concert Room. Other highlights of the day featured festival favourites Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith, Dave Eyre talking to the previous night’s headliners OBT (Tom Oakes, Jon Bews and Daniel Thorpe), Narthen, a new collaboration between Barry Coope and Lester Simpson and sisters Jo Freya and Fi Fraser, Marc Block who came along to sprinkle some much needed fairy dust, the great musicianship of Rowan Tree, whilst Kate Howden and the up and coming singer Iona Lane delivered some of their own enchanting songs and music throughout a full and highly entertaining day.

Regardless of your religious/spiritual persuasion, Sunday morning at a British folk festival feels immediately restful, even if there’s the sound of long swords clashing together and bells jingle-jangling on several primed shins as breakfast eggs are being served sunny side up. A spot of Tai Chi, a little clogging and some communal singing courtesy of the She Shanties makes a pleasant morning all the more pleasant. With the two Paul’s of Belshazzar’s Feast entertaining early risers in the concert room, the lunchtime concert followed shortly afterwards, with a return visit to the festival by Cheshire-born singer Molly Evans accompanied by the ever so versatile Jack Rutter. Kate Howden kept the songs coming during her short set, which was followed by Rowan and Anna Rheingans, who brought some of their empathetic sibling musicianship to the stage throughout a thoroughly impressive set made up of both delicate and complex tunes from around the world. Bryony Griffith appeared on the Farnley Room stage, firstly to deliver her solo set of songs and fiddle tunes, then to introduce the young musicians known as TradMad, giving us a glimpse at some of our potential local folk stars of the future. Rounding off the festival, everyone congregated on the main dance floor for a sublime opening set by Kitty MacFarlane, whose songs were interspersed by clever sound effects associated with her passion for nature, Moore Moss Rutter, who not only played better than ever, but also surprised us all with the news that this would be their very last gig and finally Lady Maisery, the three-piece wonder group, featuring the talents of Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans, who provided the audience with a touch of class. Keeping to tradition, Will Noble closed the festival leading a chorus of the “Holmfirth Anthem”, but not before festival organiser Nikki Hampson made a brief appearance on stage for a few words of thanks. A memorable weekend of laughter and tears.