Review of Mitcheldean Folk Festival Showcase Concert

Jules de Bharra, Tracey Dixon and Rob Swannack

Jules de Bharra, Tracey Dixon and Rob Swannack

The 3rd weekend in July was a feast for music lovers in the Forest of Dean, for whilst Coleford’s Music Festival brought large numbers in to the area, Mitcheldean Parish Church played host to a stunning showcase concert featuring seventeen acts over more than eight hours. Following the presentation of the British Empire Medal to Pam Martin by the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, guests and parishioners were treated to some fine country dancing by the children of Mitcheldean Primary School. The concert itself commenced with a virtuoso performance of Spanish guitar playing by eleven year old Finn Wicks, whose control and artistry stunned the audience, impressed by a skill that belied his young age. The Minstrels of the Forest treated everyone to a display of Early Mediaeval music, both performing and explaining the traditions of a genre that was matched by their period attire. A change of mood and era was signalled by Vapor, a trio featuring stunning soulful vocals by lead singer Onika, accompanied by guitarist Mark Venus and guest saxophonist Tom Selway. Their powerful and professional performance of mostly original ballads echoed a quality that is matched on their two recent CD recordings.

Travelling all the way from Shropshire was the highly impressive Kim Lowings Trio, a pared down version of the band who recently released their acclaimed album Historia. Fetauring Kim as lead vocalist and accompanied by guitars and citern, their impressive set featured a range of songs that told stories augmented by sweet stirring vocals and accomplished musicianship. There followed an engaging performance by Mitcheldean’s own Tracey Dixon, whose vocal dexterity and lilt is well known to regulars at Mitcheldean Folk Club. Accompanied by Jules de Bharra for some songs, Tracey’s haunting songs held everyone spellbound and were received with rapturous applause.

In mid-afternoon both audience and stage were swelled by the arrival of the Primary School Choirs, a collection of over thirty children from the Primary Schools of Walmore Hill, Blakeney and Pillowell. Their performance of traditional and contemporary songs wowed the church crowd, supplemented by individual youngsters reading a selection of well-chosen poems. There followed Bygonz, a duo featuring Gillian and Rob Guest, whose performances on pipe and tabor, English bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy gave everyone a highly entertaining tour through the traditions of music and songs from an age long gone but not forgotten. Guitarist and vocalist Rebecca Kay then entertained us with a selection of elegantly crafted ballads, also creating some engaging harmonies when accompanied by guest vocalists who joined her on stage.

Festival and folk club stalwarts Greenwich Village have grown in confidence and skill with each appearance in Mitcheldean, and this guitar duo of Clive Shaw and Simon Richards from Lydney did not disappoint, with powerhouse guitar playing, augmented by vocal harmonies and harmonica, giving festival-goers a taste of American influenced country folk-rock. Following were Uke in Hand, who eminate from Drybrook’s Rose in Hand pub, which has played host to budding ukulele players from around the Forest. They treated us to some clever arrangements of familiar songs old and new which went down well. In the absence of Jimbob James, our very own busking bus driver Ben Coulson proved an admirable deputy, and his accordion accompanied tour of original Gloucestershire bus songs and familiar strains had the audience all joining in with his very singable choruses.

At 6.00pm MC Clint Mann took to the stage to perform, mixing songs of the Forest and its mining history with more energetic thrashing guitar songs about celebrating of the glories of life. Again, the audience joined in with choruses and foot stomping. Jules de Bharra was next up. Ably supported by guest vocalists including husband Ian, she once again treated us to subtle and beautiful arrangements of mostly contemporary songs, some with a touch of ukulele. May Thrill are another act who have been regulars in Mitcheldean and beyond, and their set this year saw the trio accompanied by piper Polly, creating a stirring mix of traditional folk tunes and songs with their usual distinctive twist.

The last three acts provided a fitting climax to the show. Asha Faria-Vare is a singer-songwriter whose lilting vocals and delicate guitar-playing enhance original songs that tell stories about relationships, saxophonists and political protest. Accompanied on some songs by her father, Asha held everyone spellbound with one of those “your could hear a pin-drop” performances. A change of style was signalled by Mice in a Matchbox, a duo from Oswestry. Sally Stamford’s gushing and gorgeous vocals were accompanied by Jim Rolt’s lively guitar to produce a highly entertaining set that was influenced by their experience of sailing around the Caribbean and selling lemonade, giving everyone bucketloads of fun.

The evening was rounded off by the ever popular Crooked End who fused progressive rock, jazz and folk in a virtuoso performance of such complexity that the word unique could not be used as a cliché. Built around the Taylor family from Ruardean, they provided a distinctive brand of excitement and skill that proved a fitting end to this year’s Showcase Concert. Last but not least, the whole experience in Mitcheldean Church was enhanced not only by the dedicated team of parishioners who served food and drinks throughout the day but also the amazing technical wizardry of Dave Stephens, who ran the sound desk throughout the whole event and provided swift changeovers and a fantastic sound system for a concert that showcased the amazing range of talent from the folk of the Forest and beyond, and which many suggested was the best one yet. Onwards to 2017!

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Advance Programme now available

Crooked End performing at the Parish Church

Crooked End performing at the Parish Church.

The advance programme has been published for the Mitcheldean Fete and Folk Festival 2016, listing the various events taking place throughout the weekend, and the acts that will be performing at the Showcase Concert on Saturday 16th July.

It is formatted to be printed on A4 paper and folded in half to create an A5 booklet. The file is in .pdf format. If you do not already have a program on your computer which will open this file type, please see the Software Downloads section below.

Software Downloads

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Concert at The Brewery Tap on 28th May 2016 (7:00-11:00pm)

Mitcheldean Fete Concert 2016 28 May V4

Here’s the revised programme for the concert at The Brewery Tap in Mitcheldean. Looks like it’s going to be a good night!

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Pre-Festival Fundraising Concert at The Brewery Tap on 28th May 2016

Mitcheldean Fete & Folk Festival Concert Saturday 28th May 2016

Come along to our pre-festival concert at The Brewery Tap in Mitcheldean on Saturday 28th May. Eight great acts will be performing between 7.00-11.00pm, giving you a taster of what is to come in this year’s Mitcheldean Fete and Folk Festival. There will also be an opportunity to purchase (at only £1.50) the 20 page Festival Booklet and Programme, and also, in case you missed it, (at only £5) the sampler 19 track CD from the 2015 festival. There’s also a fantastic selection of beers, ciders and more on sale at the “Tap”. The event is entry free although you may be cordially invited to make a contribution towards the festival’s expenses fund!

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A Taste of Mitcheldean Folk — Revisited

Here are some further sample tracks from the CD that was produced by some of the artists appearing at the 2015 Mitcheldean Folk Festival.

The Busking Bus Driver

Ben Coulson, the “Busking Bus Driver” at Mitcheldean Folk Festival

You can get your copy by visiting Mitcheldean Folk Club or contact the Administrator to order online.

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2016 Young Poets’ Competition

2016 Young Poets Poster Copy

Here is the poster that gives details about the 2016 Young Poet’s Competition, held as part of the Mitcheldean Fete and Folk Festival.

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2016 Festival Concert Application Form

Mitcheldean Fete 2016 Concert Application 1

It’s time to start planning for the 2016 Mitcheldean Folk Festival! Your committee has met and can confirm that the dates for the main events will be Friday 15th July – Sunday 17th July – as usual the third weekend in July.

We have already had enquiries from people who would like to perform in the showcase concerts, so we’ve posted a provisional application form here so that you can download it and send us your details. Although the arrangements are yet to be finalised, we’re aiming to hold (as with last year), a Pre-Festival Concert at the Brewery Tap on Saturday 28th May (7.00-11.00pm), with the Main Festival Concert running over eight hours in Mitcheldean Church on Saturday 16th July (1.00-9.00pm). We also are hoping to having opportunities for busking in and around Mitcheldean on the Saturday when the Fete is taking place.

If you are interested in taking part in any of these three musical events, please fill in the application form with your preferences and details. Last year we were oversubscribed with applications and some people were disappointed; we cannot guarantee anyone a slot but will try to fit in as many of you as possible, though this may well mean that you will only be able to perform in one of the two concerts. Mitcheldean Fete 2016 Concert Application 1

To apply, send in your application form either by post to: Clint Mann, Edgehill House, Plump Hill, Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire GL17 0EY or by e-mail to:  You can also hand in your form during the meetings of Mitcheldean Folk Club (in the White Horse on the 2nd Thursday of each month) where forms will also be available between December – February. Hurry though – we need all applications in by no later than  Thursday 18th February, 2016.

As well as these concert events, there will be all sorts of other things going on, including the Fete, the Poetry afternoon, the Sunday Folk Walk, music sessions in the evenings and a Barn Dance. So – watch this space for further details.

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A Taste of Mitcheldean Folk

Here are some sample tracks from the CD that was produced by some of the artists appearing at the 2015 Mitcheldean Folk Festival.

May Thrill in concert at Mitcheldean

May Thrill in concert at Mitcheldean. L-R: Bill Taylor, Hazel Baker, Roy Stirzaker.

You can get your copy by visiting Mitcheldean Folk Club or contact the Administrator [Mobile] to order online.

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…and we walked in Fields of Gold

Singers before the Folk Walk

Eden Tanner, Andy Scarf and Bill Taylor, singing a song before departing on the Folk Walk.

The last part of this year’s Folk Festival was the Folk Walk. Starting with breakfast in the White Horse, the group set off for the first short leg to the Lamb Inn. The theme for songs here was animals and we were joined by two dogs and a puppy in the beer garden, two of the dogs and their owners continuing on the full walk.

Lunch was at the Yew Tree, Longhope with some enjoying a Sunday roast from the carvery and others taking the lighter option of sandwiches. Faith and the Forest was the theme here, with the Yew Tree being a common sight in churchyards.

Eric the dog getting a lift from Tracey

Eric, the smaller dog had to be carried through this field of oil-seed rape.

At the Box Bush end of Longhope the bar in the Nag’s Head was already home to some live music by two locals on electric guitar and vocals so the party retired to the new decking in the rear garden and found a cosy space around the sides of a bouncy castle, with songs on the theme of horses.

After a short walk to the Farmer’s Boy Inn , which featured a second bouncy castle, the group took shelter from the sun under some large table umbrellas (or parasols?)  and enjoyed songs on the theme of farming before a traditional group photograph in front of the horse mural on the side of the pub. Many also took advantage of the ice cream bar before departing.

among the fields of barley

Participants in the Folk Walk passing through a field of barley between Longhope and Mitcheldean.

The return to Mitcheldean passed through fields of barley and herds of cattle. Wild camomile was growing at the edge of one field, and the cherry trees along Bradley Court Road provided a welcome snack for those who could reach! Relaxing albeit briefly back at the White Horse, it was soon time for our American visitors from Renegade Rose Morris to retire to their lodgings at the Oakraven Centre, with many of the survivors joining them for a chilled out evening of good food, good company and music.

A big thank you to everyone who walked, sang, played, danced, watched, listened, and to all our helpers both front of house and behind the scenes. See you next year!

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And so it begins…

Folk session in the Brewery Tap

Folk session in the Brewery Tap

The Mitcheldean Folk Festival 2015 has begun. The Friday night regulars at the Brewery Tap are being entertained by (and in some cases joining in with) a mixed bag of musicians from near and far. Some have come from across the Atlantic Ocean whilst others have come from just across the road.

Come and join us this weekend for what promises to be a great event!

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