Live music, mass gatherings and the unadulterated palate of the natural world combined have become the perfect antidote for many more people due to the effects of cabin fever since the Covid-19 global pandemic. Without a doubt, this year’s footfall far exceeded pre-lockdown levels, perhaps due to its late summer berth and the need for more of this, not to mention the brilliant, all-encompassing festival itself.
Not only does this event offer more of the traditional and contemporary folk, roots and everything in between, naturally we are seeing more of the non-western traditions: world music, the weird and the wonderful. If you were lucky enough to catch Kanda Bongo Man on the Turtle Doves stage, you’d have already succumbed to the stimulating rhythms of Congolese rumba.
This year, as always, the old and the new existed side by side with the world’s most prestigious ensembles, soloists and dance troupes. Black Umfolosi are a traditionally acapella group who specialise in the song and dance of southern Africa. Alongside their fascinating performances this year, these guys were found hosting dance workshops throughout the duration of the festival. Zulu dance is an expression of playfulness, happiness and ceremonial tradition, but some of their routines exist only to express and address the issues driven by the social and political injustice at its core. It is fair to say the Shrewsbury Folk Festival is a flourishing cultural event.
The session players, Morris teams, workshops, and its punters are an unchanging centrepiece to the festival, the camp sites are a constant hub of music and joviality. The festival’s longest standing groups will always have their special place here, such as Show of Hands and Skerryore, which draw in some of the oldest and the youngest crowds to the event. Popular names like Thea Gilmore, TomWilson, DellaMae, TheUnthanks, EdwardII were on the line-up this year, and the legends among them topped the bill for the most primitive voices on the folk scene. And Judy Collins was a poignant end to a really great show.