Saturday 5 September 2020

The Virtual Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2020

Hello, thank you for popping in. I'm enjoying a quiet Saturday after a busy week and even though the sun is shining outside, I'm hiding away indoors because I really want to share our lockdown festival experience with you while it's all still fresh in my mind and still giving me a little bit of fizz. 

Since 2009 we have spent the August bank holiday weekend at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival, camping on our county showground.  (I wrote a comprehensive post about my history with the festival in 2015 which you can find here if you'd like to read it.)  Sometimes it has been our main holiday and sometimes it hasn't but it has always been a high point of our year and something we look forward to for months in advance.  I usually buy our tickets in December.  This year, the decision to cancel the festival was announced in April - I mean, you really can't have 5,000 people packed into a marquee in the time of Covid-19, can you?  This came as a blow to us but all was not lost: a virtual festival was to be posted online with music, dancing, workshops and children's activities over two days.  We couldn't go to the showground but we could stay at home in Shropshire and make the most of it.  Plan A was to erect our tent in The Teacher's back garden so that we could have some kind of camping experience and project the entertainment onto her shed but alas, we discovered that our tent is too big and wouldn't fit.  Harrumph.  Plan B was to hang out in her conservatory and furnish it with bunting, fairy lights and blankets.  The Teacher and her father rigged up a screen using the roof of her swinging bench, a sheet and a bunch of clothes pegs.  With a laptop, a projector and a speaker we were sorted until we discovered that during the daytime, there was too much light for the projection to be visible, so we brought in a television for the afternoon sessions.

Here you can see Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel on stage in the main tent at the festival in 2018 and Benji Kirkpatrick and The Excess online in the conservatory in 2020.   We really appreciated the fact that Benji and his mates had dressed their barn in the colours of our county flag (and one of our festival marquees).

So, we had music.  What else would we need?  Well, some people have described the festival as "a beer and cider festival with music"  and the Best Beloved and The Teacher usually enjoy the libations offered in the beer tent so the Salopian Brewery offered festival packs for sale and I bought two packs, one of which came with two free glasses.  This act earned me a huge number of wife points.  I like good beer too but since the festival introduced a wine and cocktail bar a few years ago, the cocktail has become my daytime festival drink of choice.  The Best Beloved had no idea how to make a mojito until last week but he is a quick learner.  Here are hers 'n' his outdoors at the 2017 festival (that was a cucumber bellini and it was delish)...

... and indoors at the 2020 festival.

When we were explaining our plans to Tom Kitten he remembered that we had wristbands last year.  He loved his wristband and wouldn't take it off for days afterwards and as he wasn't even two years old then, we were surprised that he remembered.  I took some cotton yarn and a crochet hook with me to his house last weekend, he chose the colours and fairly soon we were all sporting wristbands. 

The festival is like a buffet: there are different bands playing on four stages and you can wander up, listen for a while, stay if you like it or, if not, sidle away and listen to somebody else and so I have discovered and enjoyed artists I wouldn't otherwise have come across.  This year was different because there was only one musical performance at a time but we had decided that we would watch them all with open minds.  I wouldn't have entered a tent to listen to Truckstop Honeymoon because they don't play the kind of music I usually enjoy but they were great!  Tom Kitten thought so too, he was totally absorbed in their music.  We'll definitely go and see them live if they are at next year's festival.  

The other revelation to me was Sheema Mukherjee.  Sitar music has never floated my boat but after Sheema's performance each of us said, "That was lovely!  I didn't know I liked sitar music!"  We'll go and see her next year, too. In fact, on the back of Sheema's concert we watched Anoushka Shankar's Prom concert on BBC4 last night which was absolutely wonderful.  That'll teach me to discard my prejudices in future.  

There was more we could have tuned in to but I wasn't in control so I was on somebody else's agenda.  We tried the lullabies and the stories for Tom Kitten and Cottontail but they weren't engaged.  My cousin, in another county, enjoyed the ceilidh with her family on Saturday evening and sent me a joyous photo of her son dancing with their dog!  I'm not disappointed, it's all there on YouTube and I'll catch up. 

It was an extraordinary festival for this extraordinary year.  I thought I was disappointed but when I was looking after Tom Kitten on Tuesday he asked me if we could have another festival.  When I asked him what he liked best about it he answered that he liked the lights and the music.  Really, I can't be disappointed, can I?  We've already got our tickets for next year. 

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x