LIVE REVIEW: Todmorden Folk Festival, 15th-17th April

A festival round-up

O'Hooley & Tidow

A weekend ticket covered five concerts and a story telling session with Ursula Holden Gill’s gripping tales drawn from everyday life. In between you could catch a free show of dance groups.

Not easy to give every musician the space they deserve – so here are impressions and examples.

In general, themes were familiar but songs not necessarily so. The cuckoo, appropriately for this time of year, appeared more than once. Sister was drowned by jealous sister. And the Devil, having carried off an angry wife, found she was too many for him and brought her back home.

There were also newer themes. In a set of mainly sad songs on Friday, Karina Knight sang of the Mary Ellen Carter, wrecked by a drunken skipper but brought up again. On Saturday night Richard Parkes sang of the World War I Xmas truce, and also of the recent floods in the Calder valley. O’Hooley and Tidow sang ‘Two Mothers’, a song about adoption inspired by the story of the UK kids in care who were sent out to Australia, and ‘Beryl’ celebrating cyclist Beryl Burton. The most glamorous act of the evening and probably of the entire festival had to be Mr Wilson’s Second Liners who came in looking like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with lights in their hats, and had people dancing in the aisles of the Unitarian Church to their bright brassy music. Then the clog dancers joined in…

On Sunday Outside the Box sang of oil rig builders and Dan Walsh and Alistair Anderson gave us ‘Real Steel Reel’, written for a pan band. And Ruth and Sadie Price sang about a human sacrifice in ‘Barley Queen’.

Also memorable were She Shanties, who appeared on Saturday afternoon and seemed to have taken on some extra crew since the last festival. They had us roaring out their sea songs.

Look out for next year’s festival on 28-30 April 2017.

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I came to Todmorden in 1979 with my record collection but have gradually become converted to live music