Review: Ex-Smugglers reunite for an afternoon of musical treasure at Cromer Folk on the Pier festival

Folk on the Pier 2014. Scott Butler, festival producer.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Folk on the Pier 2014. Scott Butler, festival producer.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

It was the most unusual venue for a gig at this year's Folk on the Pier festival – and probably anywhere else along the entire Norfolk coast.

Cromer's lifeboat house is well used to 'shouts' but Saturday afternoon saw it filled with upbeat tunes, chorus songs, stepdancing and plenty of good humour.

With the performers perched on the Cromer lifeboat, their audience – numbering at times more than 60 – stood around the lifeboat viewing platform.

And, somewhat surprisingly, the lifeboat house proved to have particularly good acoustics.

As a special attraction at this year's three-day festival, Paul Wegg (guitar and vocals) and Robbie Nash (melodeon) – former members of the now disbanded Cromer Smugglers - got back 'Together Again'.

The afternoon was much more than a reunion gig. The Smugglers long included members of the lifeboat crew and the group was always a major charity fund-raising group in the town.

Several former Smugglers were present to join in, heartily, with songs from Paul and Robbie and there was much pleasure among the audience to see Robbie in excellent playing form after undergoing major surgery earlier this year.

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Many of the afternoon's songs and tunes had links with the sea – and happily the weather remained sunny and fine with a relatively calm sea and no 'shouts' to interrupt the musical proceedings.

Special guests who joined Paul and Robbie were Folk on the Pier regulars Tom Leary (fiddle) and Gareth Turner (melodeon) who was moonlighting from his other job that afternoon – as compere on the pier theatre stage.

Adding more local support were stepdancers Chris Gill and Fiona Davies – following in the footsteps of her dad, the late Richard Davies, a former coxswain of the Cromer lifeboat.

Just yards away, on the pier theatre stage, there was a good variety of acts to please the afternoon audience.

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Fabian Holland had an engaging stage manner and good line in songs with some well-observed insights on family relationships, town eccentrics and the joys of Spring.

Cajun, zydeco and swamp 'n' roll from the bayous of Staffordshire, courtesy of Elvis Fontenot and the Sugar Bees, got the theatre audience into an upbeat, dance-based, mood, with invigorating tunes and songs in both English and French.

By contrast ever-popular singer-songwriters Chris While and Julie Matthews performed a good many of their thoughtful, reflective and sensitive songs to a very appreciative audience.

As part of the festival fringe, Norwich-based writer and radio presenter Richard Penguin presented the second of three teatime showcase sessions at The Hotel de Paris.

Sadly I missed opening act Nobodaddy but trio Kiss the Mistress greatly impressed with Balkan and gipsy tunes and kora player Safo Kanuteh, accompanied on guitar by Adam of Nobodaddy, proved to be a fine singer and master of his instrument.

For detail of free events on the festival fringe today see www.folkonthepier.co.uk

Brian Gaudet

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