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Virtually FolkEast

Not Quite But Nearly…

There are a small group of Eastfolkers who, on Sunday gained unique FolkEast bragging rights.  Over pints in the Cobbold Arms or the Halfway House in years to come they will sit and tell tales of FolkEast 2020. Yes, they will say, we were there in 2020, on the Sunday, when the heavens opened but failed to stop the party.  Disbelievingly, those listening will say, calling out the lie – but 2020 was the year of the great pandemic. All the festivals were cancelled that year.  Ah yes, those with bragging rights will say, nodding sagely, but the virus didn’t reckon on the determination of the Marshall-Potters!

When Becky & John finally had to announce the cancellation of FolkEast at Glemham Hall back in April, it came as no great surprise.  We all knew it was unlikely to take place, but somehow hearing it announced as a fact, cut deep.

But they both wanted to make something happen.  Something to keep the spirit of FolkEast alive – more importantly, something to show musicians and Eastfolkers alike that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  They presented a plan to East Suffolk District Council for a small festival in their garden.  Twenty-nine pitches of up to six people separated by corridors.  A one-way system in operation for getting around the site, hand sanitizing stations in all the right places.

Their plan was approved. On the weekend which would have seen thousands gather on the plains of Eastfolk, just 174 people would attend each day of a two day event called ‘Virtually FolkEast’.  But this was not a virtual gig.  This was a real live event with live musicians playing to a live audience, in a safe environment.

Those attending on Saturday were entertained by Honey & The Bear + two, Katherine Priddy, John Spires alongside a virtual Peter Knight, Gardeners Cornered, The Hut People and FolkEast patrons, The Young’uns with Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys quartet rounding off the day.  The original plan was to livestream Saturday’s show, however high winds made for poor sound recording, so that was postponed until Sunday.

With the same artists lined up for Sunday, the day started well.  Kelly Bayfield and poet Dean Parkin were masters of ceremonies with Dean having the task of writing a unique poem based on the audience’s comments during the afternoon.

The afternoon began unseasonably sunny and warm for a FolkEast event, with veteran Eastfolkers keeping a weather eye on the sky, the younger ones checking weather apps on their phones.

Although I had seen Honey & The Bear only two weeks ago at Snape, the inclusion of Toby Shaer on fiddle and Evan Carson on percussion brought another dimension to their excellent set.  Katherine Priddy is an artist I had hoped to see live earlier in the year, but a pandemic got in the way. It was a real treat that she made it to this gig – so obviously delighted to be mixing with fellow musicians and playing to a live audience.

John (squeezy) Spires was in fine form playing alongside a virtual Peter Knight.  Such was their performance it induced “flashmob Morris Dancing”!  John also did a fine job talking vegetables, alongside Steve Coghill in Gardeners Cornered which featured musical vegetables…

It was about now that mother nature decided we were all having far too much fun.  What is a summer music festival without some rain?  The heavens opened.  As musicians headed for cover and technicians sought to separate the electrics from the water there was a slight delay to proceedings. However, the audience, pausing only to don wet weather gear, stayed put – we were NOT going to be deprived of our live music!

The delay brought about a slight change in the running order and the introduction of a new band – “The Young’huts” were formed when The Hut People and The Young’uns merged their sets.  With the rain still driving onto the stage, a masked umbrella holder protected Sam Pirt’s accordion, whilst David Eagle entertained us with some improvisation, scat style.

By the time Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys came on to round off the day the audience were soaked, dancing and still having fun.

FolkEast has always had a special atmosphere and although we couldn’t hug old friends we hadn’t seen for months, nor make new friends over a pint of Green Jack, what we could do was enjoy being together albeit in our socially distanced two meter squares.

Virtually FolkEast was a genius idea and well executed.  By making it happen safely, Becky and John and their team upheld the trust shown in them by East Suffolk Council who licensed the event.

Thank you to all involved in making this event happen.

Virtually FolkEast in the paddock.