LIVE REVIEW: Todmorden Folk Festival – 3rd-5th May 2019


Multiculturalism is alive and well and living in Todmorden. So is the English folk tradition. They flourish together, as shown by the Todmorden Folk Festival.

To mention just some of the great acts, Janet Russell’s satirical performance included comic songs about both rail and road travel. The Coffee 22 cafe offered singer Matt Besford and also a view of dance groups performing across the road: what is more, his performance of “I’m a Believer” inspired two women in the cafe, who by their gorgeous costumes were from “400 Roses”, to dance.

The fabulous group “Soma” performed twice, at the Methodist Church and at Site Pizziera. Their repertoire includes a combination of a grim Scots song about two ravens with a more lyrical Ukrainian song about the forest.

The stupendous Red Hippo began their set with the old Irish tune “Sheebeg and Sheemore”, which included a whistle and sousaphone contest.

The performers included two groups of able young musicians, the fresh and versatile Orladh and Leo, and Heather, actually a group of three, who included an enticing performance of “Wild Mountain Thyme”.

Sheelanagig, with the energy of a whirlwind, were the ideal act to close a Saturday night concert. People were dancing in the aisles at the Unitarian Church.

A lot of the action was outdoors, the weather being kind. Your reviewer enjoyed the beautiful voice of Sarah Yaseen, whose set included “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, and danced with the lively Jamaican Folk Ensemble, before leaving to catch a lovely join-in set by She Shanties. There was just time to return for a couple of lively tracks from DJ Mayeva.

Martin Simpson’s moving act included memories of other folk singers, including the wonderful Roy Bailey, who was his father in law. He also sang a song inspired by Ken Small, who discovered a sad secret from World War II at Slapton Sands. His encore was “The Times They Are A Changing”. Maybe he’s right.

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