Three years ago in a newly vacated wedding marquee on Castle Carrock’s village green Richard Johnstone hosted a “one off” one day folk festival. I can still picture him at the end of the evening waving a long finger in the air to indicate the singular nature of the event. Thankfully, Richard decided to ignore himself completely and the 18th to the 21st of July saw the fourth Music on the Marr music festival, held, for the first time since that memorable first day, in glorious cheery sunshine. The event which began so informally has now grown into a prestigious but four day musical celebration which, owing to its fine location, the dedication of almost 50 volunteers and the ongoing support of the Duke of Cumberland pub, retains a charm all of its own.
Continuing a tradition begun last year, the festival opened with a free “pay what you can” session on Thursday evening which was very well attended and included a thrilling set of fast flamenco fun with a Cumbrian twist from local youngster Matt Mellor ably supported by his guitar teacher, Ben Draper. Acts from Shropshire, Texas and Edinburgh rounded off the evening, signposting the geographical scope of the festival.
Friday evening boosted the international flavour with perhaps the stand out act of the whole festival – Africa Entsha from Soweto. These four young South Africans thrilled the audience with astonishing A Capella singing of the highest order, all while their taxi was waiting to take them back to Cheshire! Their version of Let It Be brought the tingles out all over. The excitement level continued with the performance of Scottish folk rockers Manran whose relentless Highland energy typified the excitement we have come to expect from the final acts of the evening at Music on the Marr.
The afternoon acts on both Saturday and Sunday tended to be of a less energised character but boasted some of the finest names in British folk, including such fine emerging talents as Blair Dunlop (son of legendary Ashley Hutchings), and the award winning duo Gilmore and Roberts along with more seasoned talents as Roy Bailey and one of my favourite artists, the marvellous songwriter Steve Tilston. Come and see Steve in the Watson Institute on Octobr 25th – it will be a treat.
Dunlop, Gilmore and Roberts reconvened on Saturday evening as part of the new, loud and dynamic Albion Band following on from a masterly set of fingerstyle guitar and accordion from Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting. By now it was clear that we were watching the Premier League at Division Three prices!
The festival closed on Sunday evening with a marvellous flourish. The North Eastern a capella outfit Pegleg Ferrett reprised the vocal excitement of last year’s memorable shanty group Kimber’s Men. Following them was the superb Scottish/Breton instrumental duo Calum Stewart and Heikki Bougaut fresh from a run up Jockey Shield. The penultimate act of the festival was the hugely popular Californian singer Kristina Olsen whose wit and warmth won over the audience completely. Such ribaldry within earshot of the Parish Curch. Finally it was the turn of The Mighty Doonans to bring things to a close with a rip roaring set of tunes, humour and unforgettable step dancing from the lovely Frances Doonan. A fine conclusion to the best MoM so far.
A report of this length cannot possibly do justice to the array of musical talent on show over the four days. Some 152 performers entertained a total audience of almost a thousand people who consumed 4,600 pints of beer and two very large pigs, with salads and other help generously provided by the pub. In addition, the event raised almost £1,300 towards the restoration of the Church, itself the venue for much fine music including n uplifting Young Musicians’ Showcase.
Plans are already underway for next year’s Music in the Marr. I suggest you put the dates July 17-20 in your diary forthwith!
- Gary Weston