Sunday review: Final night of Folk on the Pier festival in Cromer finishes in style

Cromer Folk on the Pier festival patron Ashley Hutchings. Picture: SUBMITTED

Cromer Folk on the Pier festival patron Ashley Hutchings. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

In true Folk on the Pier tradition, this year's Cromer folk festival closed last night in grand style.

After a weekend packed with excellent performances, both on the Pavilion Theatre stage and at fringe events around the town, came a mighty concert set from one of the very best.

Oysterband, along with Fairport Convention, are among the very top favourite groups among the festival's loyal supporters.

Last night's performance by the folk world's very own 'meninblack' was a triumph by the new six-piece line-up.

Oysterband can always be relied on for intelligent, well-written, thought-provoking songs – set to great rock tunes tempered with folk influences.

And frontman John Jones (vocals and melodeon) is one of the most charismatic and passionate singers in the folk-rock world.

Fans were treated last night to a good selection of classics from the band's long back catalogue – Meet You There, When I'm Up I Can't Get Down, By Northern Light, Bury Me Standing, The Road to Santiago and a rousing All That Way For This (dedicated to the General Election result).

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And several songs from the band's most recent album, Diamonds on the Water, took on extra power and appeal in live performance.

Guitarist Alan Prosser took over vocals for an exquisite version of Si Kahn's Mississippi Summer (recorded with June Tabor in 1990) and fiddler Ian Telfer led a lively set of 'Irish tunes written in England'.

The encores of Like A Swimmer in the Ocean and then an emotional Turn Out the Lights, performed from the very front of the stage, without any amplification, gave fans the chance of an anthemic singalong.

Earlier in the day came some festival highlights of very different kinds.

Ashley Hutchings, 'the guv'nor and founding father of English folk-rock', who is patron of the festival, reminisced, read some of his lyrics and CD sleeve notes, in the packed ballroom of the Cliftonville Hotel.

Singer-songwriter-guitarists Ken Nicol and Becky Mills – who had appeared on the pier theatre with Hutchings the day before – played short sets of their own material before joining The Guv'nor for his own moving Song of Two Bridges.

The Richard Davies Memorial Session, a must for traditional folk fans, is now a well-established part of the Cromer festival.

Organised once again by Fiona Davies, daughter of the late Cromer lifeboat coxswain, this year's session featuring songs, step dancing and plenty of tunes by the versatile Rig-A-Jig-Jig Band.

This year, Friends of Norfolk Dialect (FOND) – in a clever bit of festival programming – preceded the Richard Davies session with an hour of Norfolk songs, tunes, poems, readings and squit.

All was capably organised by Diana Rackham who also quizzed the audience on Norfolk dialect words.

In contrast to the old, Richard Penguin's third Tea-Time Showcase of new acts at the Hotel de Paris featured impressive song and vocal duo Joe and Mary (actually John and Wendy!), the hypnotic loop guitar compositions of Andy Butler and the engaging cover versions and original songs of singer-guitarist Matt Watson.

Open song and music sessions at The Albion over the weekend featured a good selection of local and visiting performers, and there were reports of exceptional theatre and fringe performances by The Hut People, The Old Rope String Band, The Bounty Hounds, and Gregg Cave and Nick Ellison.

BRIAN GAUDET

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