There’s a hidden garden in Birmingham full of beautiful people. The sun shines. There’s a hill and a lake, and between them sit 2 stages. The beautiful people and I sit on the hill and watch alternate bands by merely turning our heads a little. There is no need to move at all. The only effort is when we have to get up for a beer or a call of nature.

This is such a lovely small festival, with a big line-up, that I considered not reviewing it at all in case more people came. It’s a Folk Festival but like many such there is a hell of a lot of rock bands. So what is Folk? I heard two great definitions from acts here: from the excellent Efterklang, something like folk came first and therefore must be the root of all music, so all music is effectively just developed folk. And from the equally excellent Be Good Tanyas, great to have them back: its folk if it involves lots of tuning and awkward stage banter. Both sound good to me.


Everyone sounds good in such a nice environment, though there is a temptation to lie down and rest the eyes in the sun to the quieter bands. No worries about that for Sundays’ headliners and perhaps my favourite experience of the weekend (at the festival anyway…) the Dubliners, sorry the Dublin Legends, as most of the originals are dead and this lot don’t look far off. But appearances can be deceptive…as they roared through all the classic pub songs, from 7 Drunken Nights (but there are only 5...) to Molly Mallone, all the fans, Irish or just wannabes, sang every word. And there were LOTS of Birmingham Irish, giving vent to all those memories of dancing, drinking and swinging the odd punch.



Another band who brought their own beer swilling audience (beautiful people run and hide!) was old local favs Ocean Colour Scene. They played all of the classic LP Moseley Shoals, in Moseley where it was recorded, and again everyone knew all the words. Great fun. Other locals were even more raucous; with a name like Dirty Old Folkers you knew what to expect – but we did not also expect an onstage battle between a full size panda with a light sabre and Death, during a boozy rattle through the Lord of the Rings (abbreviated) as written down the road by little known author JR Tolkien. Other songs featured political anti-banker lyrics and references to that fact that not all us Brummies live in Moseley, and were equally danceable. Seems they do a pantomime show every Xmas – well worth going to on this showing.


Other highlights:


Edwyn Collins, given massive applause just for still existing after 2 brain haemorrhages. As he said, the talking is still a bit dodgy but the singing – no problem. He still has that trademark voice, and a great band, covering all the hits plus poignant newer numbers like Home Again, and Dilemma and 31 Years (Of Rock and Roll) from the new album Understated.


Efterklang, off kilter Danish pop played by Hawkwind, with ultracool front man Casper Clausen literally smoking in his white suit. They even brought us presents in a little bag from the crowd at their last festival End of the Road, and we gave them some to take to their next, a teenage gig in Denmark.


British Sea Power, great power, pure theatre, with more huge live bears, leaf-waving fans and even a small UFO flying over taking photos.


Lucy Rose, nervous playing here as she said she wasn’t folk enough (see above), delivered a storming set, the last one of her intensive summer of festivals.


Best discoveries of the weekend – new (proper) folk duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, playing haunting eccentric stories from their new long? player, Mynd; and Washington Phillips, the long deceased Texan gospel singer who recorded just 16 songs, one of them being the superb What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?, covered beautifully by the Be Good Tanyas.


Thanks to all involved and to Cousin X and all his lovely friends, especially the Peaky Blinders (soon to be a new BBC drama, it seems).


Kevin Hand



Edwyn Collins