Cambridge Folk Festival

Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge

Happy Birthday, Cambridge.

Once you were an earnest young girl, intent on a meaningful relationship only with those who could warble a shanty, or fiddle a reel.

But maturity has mellowed you. Now you are 40 you can flirt with virtually anyone. Hence performers as diverse as Divine Comedy and Jimmy Cliff were invited to your party.

I have known you since you were 12 and over the years you have seduced me with a marvellous rainbow of musical colours – Joan Baez, The Pogues and Joe Strummer last in the memory.

This year, you did not let me down – although why you allowed Neil Hannon to gatecrash is beyond me.

You introduced me to the pumped-up energy of Asian rockers Dhol Foundation and the sweet harmony of Nashville newcomers the Old Crow Medicine Show.

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I met some old chums, like Loudon Wainwright III and Ralph McTell, and thankfully you still had an invitation for the always superb Levellers, Gillian Welch and Bert Jansch.

For me, Norfolk-born Beth Orton was your guest of honour. Lyrical and haunting, she surely has a voice made in heaven. Mind you, Portuguese fado diva Mariza ran her close with a stunning set.

If she blew away the 10,000 guests at your Big 4-0 bash last night, it was veteran reggae and soul star Jimmy Cliff whose energy and enthusiasm held you in the palm of his hand on Saturday.

No coincidence, Cambridge, that the title of his biggest hit sums you up. Wonderful World. Beautiful People.

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