Folk festival stays by the sea

RICHARD BATSON A popular musical festival is steering a new course, back to its seaside anchorage at the end of Cromer Pier.


A popular musical festival is steering a new course, back to its seaside anchorage at the end of Cromer Pier.

The Folk on the Pier event was poised to head inland to a new venue, after eight years at resort, in a bid to reduce costs.

But promoter Scott Butler said that after a rethink a slimmed-down, but still high-profile festival, would be returning to the pier in the spring.

Two other major concerts, featuring folk rock legends Fairport Convention and a rhythm and blues day, were also making the same switch.

Back in August Mr Butler announced the inland migration to the recently-renovated Northrepps Cottage, at Overstrand, as he sought to cut the £40,000 overheads for the folk event, which had grown from two to five days over the years.

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Having personally ended up £15,000 out of pocket through promoting the folk event, he said the pier theatre was a “luxury” he could no longer afford.

But this week he said the festival was heading back to the pier after “extensive negotiations and very positive agreement for the future” between his Deckchair Productions company, pier owners North Norfolk District Council, pier operators Openwide International and with backing in “cash and kind” from the Cromer Past Present and Future regeneration group and Cromer Town Council.

Mr Butler said he was “excited and delighted” that the three major music productions were now re-scheduled to Cromer Pier.

He stressed that the move did not reflect any failing on the part of the excellent Northrepps Cottage, but that the real overriding concern was “ultimately that of capacity”, which favoured the 500-seater pier.

There had also been feedback about festival-goers saying that a longer event was providing too expensive because of accommodation costs.

The festival has slimmed down to a three-day format from May 11-13 while upgrading its line-up to 18 top professional acts, including original Fairport fiddle legend Dave Swarbrick in his own band Swarb's Lazarus.

Also high on the bill were world music award winners Terrafolk from Slovenia, and a return by raunchy English folk-rockers Oysterband along with Scottish folk group Battlefield Band.

The other events also being worked into the pier programme are:

t A Head Down No Nonsense Boogie experience - six top acts performing rhythm'n'blues on Saturday March 3. In the afternoon there is the vocals and guitar of Francis McGillivray and Mike Burke; the earthy blues of the Spikedrivers; and rock and blues band Freeway Jam. The evening kicks off with the intimate duo the Jives, before the Hamsters rattle the walls of the Pavilion with a Jimi Hendrix set, followed by the Wilko Johnson Band, fronted by the original Dr Feelgood guitarist. (Tickets £20 all day; £10 afternoon, £15 evening)

t the following day the “Godfathers of English Folk,” Fairport Convention visit as part of their 40th anniversary tour. Showgoers will be able to buy a limited edition CD EP, which is raising money for the Cromer Lifeboat - a cause the band has helped in the past.

Information and bookings for the two march events are now available through the Cromer Pier box office on 01263 512495. Full details of Folk on the Pier 2007 will be announced in January, with bookings from February.