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Published: August 31st 2016
Bank holiday Monday and I'm doing my last shift as steward manning the artists’ gate. There’s not many artists coming in now and some punters are already drifting home. Some of them have been camped here since Thursday, I came on Wednesday in time for a perfect sunset and the quiet of a few stewards camped by the hedgerow. The following morning people were queuing from 5am to camp in groups and that evening they were singing and playing before the festival started on Friday.
This is quite an epic folk festival - been going for 52 years, though it was held in Towersey village itself until two years ago when it moved to its present site in St Mary's fields in Thame, two miles away. It's my first time but it feels familiar, like Cropredy or Larmer Tree, both of which I have been to often. There's a tent dedicated to dance, mostly ceilidh, but one session of swing and jive. I've often been in there stripping the willow and parley vous-ing, though after a four-hour shift on my feet I can't manage many dances.
Headliners have been Billy Bragg, preceded by Kate Rusby (sparky Yorkshire lass with the voice of an angel), Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, Edward II, Tom Robinson band, Midge Ure, and various red hot country bands. I loved Old Country Union with harmonies to do justice to Tom Petty and Steve Earle, and Roy Bailey that I only heard two songs from before my shift, so I had to listen to him on YouTube whilst manning the gate. The Dung Beatles were pretty good too.
I love festivals: wandering about with wonderful food on offer, a selection of stages to choose from, stalls selling interesting stuff and workshops. I went to a ukelele session today; I was hopeless but it was fun playing with a group, even if I could only play some of the notes.
The festival is small enough (only 3000 punters or so) to see the same people constantly, but it was serendipitous that I was on the gate when a long time work colleague and her husband came in.
Now it's time to hang up my patchwork trousers, as the next trip, in three days’ time is a city break tour by train, which will need a completely different wardrobe.
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