July 12th, 2009

wildhunt, masks, border

Dancing The Other Side of the Border

Having just got back from Ely, I should probably write up about Chepstow.

As small festivals go, I was really impressed. As festivals go it was wonderfully laid back, but still had some brilliant ideas in terms of the way it was organised.

I was particularly impressed by the way they allocated camping space for each of the performing sides (something I've never seen at any other festival), so you didn't have to worry about sending someone up in advanced to bag the space. You could just turn up find your area and pitch your tent as you arrived.

The general layout of the festival seemed to work quite nicely too. The daytime morris performances were all in town while the evening entertainment was all up near the campsite at the racecourse. This meant you didn't get the situation like you do somewhere like Sidmouth where your not sure whether to stay in town for the concerts or wonder up to the Bulverton for the ceilidh and yet you don't spend the whole weekend stuck on the campsite like you do with Towersey.

The procession was really well thought out as well. Rather than having the traditional long procession through the town, which ends up tiring out everyone who takes part and because sides generally keep stopping to do figures for the audience tend to bottleneck, they had a really short one on the bridge over the River Wye so that you processed from England into Wales and they spaced you out, so the team in front had nearly finished before the next one started.

Because I was out with Thrales, I missed the Friday night acts, so I'm not sure what they were like, but from what people were saying the highlight were 3 Daft Monkeys.

On the Saturday, I spent most of the evening in the Moondance ceilidh. I'd never heard them before, but was very impressed by the energy they had and how original they were. I'm not generally a funk fan, but when you put traditional folk tunes on top of it, it just seems to just work somehow and also given that a lot of ceilidh bands I've seen seem to either stick with the traditional folk or go down a more rock based path, it was quite nice to have something different for a change. Also, as the funk gives the rhythm a greater focus it really suited Roger Watson's calling style in the same way Boka Halat do. Will definitely be keeping an eye out for them in the future.

Wild Hunt aren't as into Ceilidh's as Gogs, so I failed to drag any of them along (although a few of them did turn up later), which in some ways also made a nice change as if I go with a large group of people I know I tend to dance with them most of the time (admittedly that's because I like dancing with them), but this was a wonderful opportunity to dance with complete strangers all evening. Admittedly, there were lots of familiar faces from IVFDF there as there was a large contingent of Exeter Folksoc (although I don't really know any of them) and at one point I was apparently even face to face with ladyofastolat and kingpellinor, although the internet being what it is, I had no idea it was them.

After the ceilidh finished I wondered over to see Seth Lakeman. Although he seems to be a fairly household name, I'd never heard him. He's certainly very talented and has immense amounts of stage presence, but it just felt like he was trying to hard to be mainstream pop and as such he didn't sound as original as he probably could. That said, although I wouldn't actively go and seek him out, but if I was at a festival where he was playing and there wasn't anything else that caught my eye I would be quite happy to listen to him again.

Stayed over on Sunday evening too, although the festival had finished so there was no more entertainment, but it did give an opportunity to wonder around the castle, which is well worth a look, as although it's in ruins you can still go up some of the towers and along parts of the walls.

To top it all off, even though we were in Wales, it didn't rain until we'd finished dancing.

In short, if I get invited back to Chepstow with any side, I'll probably be there like a shot.
gogs

Digging Deeper Into Ely Folk Festival

I've been to Ely loads of times with Gogs now, but I think this year has to have been the best one I've done with them. The side seems to have somewhat mellowed in the past few years and they're all a bit more laid back about dance outs. This has got to be a good thing as it's much more fun without everyone stressing around you.

Called another procession for Gogs, which I thought went ok, but I'm not sure the rest of the side agrees with me on that one. My general thoughts were to spot where the largest congregations of the audience were along the route and, as long as the side in front weren't too far away at that point, do the figures there. After all, the whole point of the procession is for the dance sides to display themselves to the audience (ok, that didn't quite come out as I meant it, but I'll leave it there anyway just to inflict you with the mental image). However, given the amount of complaints they gave me afterwards, Gogs don't want to do it like that. Oh well *shrugs*, might be better if I don't do another one then.

Other than that it went quite well, we had 2 good spots, one outside the Cathedral and one on the High Street, which got us reasonable audiences. I often wonder if they could find a better spot then outside the Oliver Cromwell house though, as there never seems to be any audience when we've danced there, but I suppose they need a certain number of spots to accomodate all the teams and can't have them all in the city centre. The last spot got a bit disorganised because of the packing up of the market and the fact that it had been moved earlier in the day as it was supposed to be in the middle of a main road (clearly the organisers must have got a bit fed up of all the faff of dealing with Morris Dancers)! However, that basically just meant the last spot finished early, so it wasn't much of a problem.

A few of us stayed for the evening concerts afterwards. Given the number of years we've been going, it seems strange that we haven't all done this before (Helen and Ruth have, but generally people go up for the day and come back). Very tempted to see about going up for the whole weekend next year and camp even if we only dance on the Saturday again.

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Generally a good line-up. It seems a shame I've never thought to look at what happens at Ely in the evenings before, but at least I had it suggested to me this time.