Van Morrison Sinéad O’Connor Ladysmith Black Mambazo Richard Thompson Rosanne Cash Afro Celt Sound System Loudon Wainwright III The Full English Cara Dillon Peggy Seeger Lúnasa Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita Sarah Jarosz Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham Oysterband Julie Fowlis My Darling Clementine Yves Lambert Trio Peatbog Faeries Brian McNeill McGoldrick McCusker Doyle Eddi Reader O’Hooley & Tidow Whapweasel Old Swan Band Megson The Young’uns ...
Cambridge Folk Festival, one of the premier music events in Europe and one of the longest running and most prestigious folk festivals in the world, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014.
Held each year since 1965 in the beautiful tree lined park of Cherry Hinton Hall, the four-day outdoor festival attracts around ten thousand people, many of whom return year after year. The festival is renowned for its unique atmosphere and an eclectic mix of music and a wide definition of what might be considered folk.
The best traditional folk artists from the UK and Ireland rub shoulders with cutting edge contemporary acts, the finest American country, blues and roots artists, acclaimed singer songwriters and world famous names. Bluegrass, gospel, cajun, zydeco, jazz, world, klezmer and ceilidhs are also regular features.
The line up has reflected the many changes in the music scene from the 60s to the present and is always a hotbed mix of the old and the new. The list of performers who have appeared reads like a who’s who and the Festival continues to be a launching pad for many well known artists.
The story began in autumn 1964 when Cambridge City Council decided to hold a music festival the next summer. They approached local firefighter and political activist Ken Woollard who was a regular attender at the newly formed Cambridge Folk Club. He wanted a festival that preserved the values of the fast evolving folk club movement and expressed his socialist ideals, one which covered a wide spectrum of music, and most importantly had a friendly family atmosphere.
For the last 21 years, the Festival has been programmed by Eddie Barcan, who worked as Ken’s assistant for three years prior to his death in 1993. The last two decades have seen a huge growth in awareness and popularity of the festival, in part due to great reviews and many years of national television and radio coverage, but most often due to word of mouth and recommendations.
Most artists still perform more than once over the weekend on the different stages: Stage 1, housed within a giant marquee in front of the main Festival arena, the Stage 2, a more intimate venue, and the Club Tent, hosted on the Festival’s behalf by five local folk clubs. There, in addition to invited artists, members of the audience including some well known names get up and perform.
In 2011, The Den was launched, as a stage dedicated to emerging talent. It is located just another area for young people called The Hub, away from the bustle of the main stages, and set within a beautiful Indian marquee. In addition to booked artists, 15 minute slots are set aside daily for musicians attending the Festival and there are sessions at night.
Renowned for its unique parkland setting, great facilities and family friendliness, the festival offers something for everyone with street theatre, music workshops and sessions, raucous ceilidhs, open stages, a youth area, internet café, kids’ ceilidh, storytelling, free creche, paddling pool and playground, real ale bars.
In February 2014 the Cambridge Folk Festival has been awarded a prestigious award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The Festival received The Good Tradition Award which is given to a person, group or organisation for their contribution to the preservation, dissemination and continuance/progression of traditional music over a number of years.
Festival Manager Eddie Barcan said "We intend to celebrate 50 years of amazing music and great times in style this coming summer and look forward to welcoming everyone to Cambridge in July".
Photo Credits: (1) Cambridge Folk Festival (website); (2) Lúnasa, (by William Kennedy Piping Festival 2013); (3) Cara Dillon, (4) Afro Celt Soundsystem (by Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup); (5) Julie Fowlis, (6) Sinéad O'Connor, (8) Sarah Jarosz (by Walkin' Tom); (7) Richard Thompson (by Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2012).