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Warwick Folk Festival - an insider's guide

There’s now’t so eclectic as Folk. Whatever your tastes in music and entertainment, this week’s Warwick Folk Festival has something for you - as folk writer, singer and musician PETE WILLOW testifies.

New guitar strings? Check.

Throat lozenges? Check.

Sun cream and showerproof jacket? Check.

I’m just about ready for my annual 10-mile trek down the A46 to enjoy the 2017 Warwick Folk Festival.

Now celebrating its 38th year, the music and dancing kicks off on Thursday July 27 and takes over the town until Sunday night. I’ll be there in my capacity as performer (appearing with two different line-ups), programme-writer and lifelong folk fan.

I’m doing a couple of shows as part of Willow & Tool Band, including a Sunday lunchtime performance in a pizza restaurant (The Dough and Brew). Hopefully by then, I’ll have recovered from a wild Saturday night session of mainly Irish music and songs when my other band, Sly Old Dogs (pictured below with Pete Willow,first left) takes over the Roebuck pub.

Visit the main Festival site in the grounds of Warwick School, or the choice of free events in the town centre ‘Warwick Fringe’, and you’ll find everything imaginable that could come under the folk banner. From shanty singers to Dylan impersonators, clamouring banjos to barbershop harmonies, furious fiddles to winsome tin whistles, all these and more play their part in a joyful celebration of music that you would never associate with The X Factor.

Morris dancing is of course inescapable but look out also for spectacular displays of rapper dancing, molly dancing and even belly dancing.

A glance of the Festival website - – confirms the event’s reputation for presenting international ‘big names’ alongside a wide choice of artists from the local folk and acoustic circuit. For my part, it’s very humbling to share the billing with this year’s main attractions.

My set with Sly Old Dogs coincides with the Main Stage set by superstar folk-rockers Oysterband (pictured top)but we probably won’t pull away too many of their audience. Friday night’s highlight is Australia’s world-renowned, testosterone-fuelled 15-voice choir The Spooky Men’s Chorale while Sunday night’s closing concert features Scotland’s chart-topping songstress Barbara Dickson (right)

Presenter and world-music promoter Andy Kershaw sets out his one-man show of adventures and insights. Award-winning singer-songwriters Jez Lowe and Steve Tilston appear as soloists and super-duo. There’s even a taste of 1940s and 50s French cabaret when Eve Loiseau

(below, right) performs the songs of Edith Piaf on Thursday evening. And all of this is only – ‘ow you say – the aperitif.

Of course, it’s possible to avoid the headliners and still enjoy the Festival programme, packed with pub sessions, children’s entertainments (including the Panic Circus Big Top), workshops, art tours, lectures, Steamchicken’s pub jazz tour, a big choice of ceilidhs and social dances and free concerts on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon in the Town’s Market Place.

Folk clubs may come and go but the folk festival phenomenon continues to flourish and Warwick has a well-earned place as one of the most popular family events in the country.

The last weekend of July sees the culmination of efforts by a humungous network of volunteers, venue managers, stewards and sponsors, co-ordinated by the unflappable Festival Director Dick Dixon, whose involvement goes back to the very first Warwick Folk Festival when he supplied the beer for the ceilidh.

Tickets are available on the website or the Booking Office in Bridge House Theatre, Myton Road - 01926 776438.

And if you fancy joining in with the chorus of Wild Rover, or tapping your feet while eating pizza – come and find me in the Fringe. That's me in the hat with the Willow and Tool band, below.


Something for the weekend? Pinky and Perky crime spoof at the folk festival - an unlikely twisty tale FREE to read

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