Standing in a sheep barn, supping a pint of fine ale, Palmer’s Gold I think it was, and rocking just a few yards away, from one of the finest voices the UK has ever heard, and sounding as good as he did in the 80’s.
There was no commotion, just Lloyd Cole and his guitar, which seemed to be physically part of him; an extension of his body and soul. The warm crowd bellowed for more at the end of his one hour set, which had been a master class of musical craft, and he lit up the barn with Forest Fire.
To my shame it was my first visit to the Purbeck Folk Festival, and yet I have been holidaying at Corfe Castle, at the Ram family’s Norden Farm since I was a teenager. My partner Emma had been much more observant and had noticed the posters, for this year’s Purbeck Folk Festival : Idlewild, The South, Eddie Reader, and Lloyd Cole, just to mention a few of the names that stood out…”how can I possibly have missed this event before?” I berated myself.
So on the last night of holiday with the various off spring back home, and attending the Reading rock festival, we descended into the valley, with stunning views of the sun setting Swanage sea one way, and the all commanding Corfe Castle the other.
We couldn’t hear a sound, which made us wonder if we had come to the right place, but then we spotted the first Yurts and Wigwams poking out from the trees.
We entered the site, ushered in by the wonderful smells of world cuisine and wood oak smoke, and maybe candles. Now we could hear the music, but it was so much more than that. Out of the tent to the right was a clarinet rich man’s voice, caramelising some verse. Laughter from the left, then invited us that way, and all around was a buzz, of chatter, smiling anticipation and people of all ages mingling and exploring the sights, sounds and creativity, on a myriad of stalls.
It was Sunday evening and there so much to see, bands on several different stages, and the sound from each didn’t interfere with the others. The music was playing in genuine sheep barns, with gates, and the odd bit of wool clinging to the walls, which gave the whole atmosphere, a wonderfully real and wholesome feel.
Barrels of the finest beers and ciders were racked on the back wall of the bar barn, and with so much to choose from at very reasonable prices, I just wished we’d had been here for the whole day.
I still had time to grab a pint before joining the crowd in the long barn for Lloyd Cole. The acoustics and lighting were first class and did everything to enhance the experience.
We still had time to then move to the High Barn where we were in for a real treat. The fantastically entertaining Caravan of Thieves. Not a band I had heard of before, but wow what energy and diversity: so much that I downloaded the album the next day.
I only got a glimpse of this year’s festival, but would definitely come back. I am not neccessarily a folk follower, but would say this festival has something for all, whatever your tastes and age. It’s not just the impressive headline acts but the wonderful surprises you will get, whether it be the Thieves from the USA or more local Roving Crows.
I have been to all kinds of festivals and gigs, and this is right up there. My partner Emma is not a festival goer at all, but she loved it and felt really at home …especially when nature called. She was incredibly impressed over by the cleanliness and efficiency of the organic wood toilets. All totally environmentally friendly and allowing nature to take it’s course in more ways than one.
I have always been in love with Swanage and Purbeck as a whole, but now I have discovered one of its gems. I am sorry I have missed previous Purbeck Folk Festivals, but am glad I got to the best one yet and now I am on a mission to prove to my 17 year old Lucy, why she missed out going to Reading.
Thanks to Paul, Phil, Mick and Cath and all the volunteers who made it possible. It was a stunning event.