Cromer folk festival sweet music to the pier

The curtain will soon go up on the 13th Folk on the Pier event at Cromer. Richard Batson spoke to organiser Scott Butler about how this firm favourite in the roots music calendar began.

Folk fans will be flocking to Cromer next weekend for a festival that is now a firm favourite in the roots music calendar. Hundreds of them will pack into the Pier Pavilion and many local pubs, clubs and hotels Next Friday to Sunday to savour a rich menu of headline and fringe acts putting a real springtime buzz into the resort.

But anyone thinking this might be a stereotypical bearded, jumper and sandal-wearing 'folky' event will be surprised by the feel of this festival, which always seeks to add crossover genres from jazz to 'prog rock' along with comedy into the mix.

That is down to the background and beliefs of its creator Scott Butler, who has nurtured his baby from its conception and infancy through its transition to a teenager – without the accompanying personality transformation.

'The festival is not just about the music. It is the setting. People come from the Midlands and South-East and make a break of it. And because it is in a seaside variety theatre, I like to keep it quirky. I don't like elitism and stuffiness,' he explained.

New attractions this year include singer and former Coronation Street star Denise Black, who played hairdresser Denise Osbourne, who is appearing at Cromer Pier's Pavilion Theatre with her band Loose Screw performing folk rock songs with a gipsy flavour.

This year puts more emphasis on singers and songwriters, with fewer larger instrumental electric acts.

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The festival was born out of Londoner Mr Butler's passion for folk rock music which dates back to the 1960s.

The bedrock of the programming always featured the English folk and folk-rock tradition, vital for keeping the faithful returning to Cromer, said Mr Butler, who lives at nearby Overstrand.

Twelve of the festival's 13 years have been on the pier. It had to move inland to a marquee in 2004 while renovation work was being carried out to the jetty and theatre – unfortunately the same spring which provided 'force eight gales, fog and heavy rain', recalled Mr Butler.

'It was memorable, but we stoically carried on and felt it was important not to miss a year.'

Thanks to that stoicism and passion for music this unique folk event now has no peer.

For the full story and main programme of Folk on the Pier see the EDP Sunday supplement in tomorrow's EDP.

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