Event Review + Gallery: Bromyard Folk Festival (Bromyard, Herefordshire; Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th September 2021)

With the dance tent already in full swing, the live accompanying bands Banter and Urban Folk Theory were at large most often and their unflagging efforts were as much of a spectacle as the dance portion itself. The Urban Folk Theory was more favoured among the younger audiences here, challenging the folk scene and tilting the tradition toward the 21st century – a very traditional dance style meets mechanical dance beats meant it was impossible to stand still. We were immediately greeted by a cheery gathering of ceilidh heads; a few novices with some degree of experience, many well practised and the mavericks among them – this lively display was enough to occupy an entire evening.

Stuart McCallum and Ríoghnach Connolly were among the first acts to tempt us into the main arena, no less than a two minutes’ walk – from anywhere. Having watched Ríoghnach steal the show as a backing singer for the Afro-Celt Sound System at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival this year, it came as a surprise to learn about her captivating duo, The Breath. A contemporary two piece with Irish traditional at its very core, each spellbinding song closely followed a lively, five-minute rapport with her audience that was both side-splitting and larger than life, a curious contradiction.

The Breath

Having spoken to some of the punters at Bromyard, not surprisingly, many were in attendance only to catch Edward the Second due to perform on Saturday evening. The dance floor was the fullest it had been throughout the weekend. One of the less traditional among the artists this year, or at least seemingly within the folk scene since their reunion in 2015, it has become something of a novelty to see them once more. Reggae, zydeco of and blend English folk song together is arguably what makes them indefinable and therefore a must-see live act.

Edward the Second

One of the first notable features was the recognition of the Dave Jones bar, having been impressed by their contributions at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival two weeks previously. Complete with a good beer guide and thirst-quenching ciders on tap, it was a capacious and charming space for drinking, jamming, or enjoying a peaceful interlude between acts.

Set on the Welsh borders, this little festival is as much about community as it is the main event. A pop-up bar in Bromyard town, and accommodating pubs played host to session players and Morris teams inside and out. Food, merchandise, craft, amenities and general accessibility to the Bromyard Folk Festival, all felt well above festival standards having been witness to so many. All good things come in small packages.


Photos ©: Gwen Moon

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