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Eurovision - Warwick Folk Festival Style!

K.C.Jones. Photo © John Wright.

Music for the people, by the people (and a tadpole!) - a review of Warwick Folk Festival’s take on the Eurovision Song Contest. Review by Pete Willow

What would Cecil Sharp, Francis James Child and Ralph Vaughan Williams have made of it all? And would present-day music collectors regard Eurovision as a rich and fascinating source of folk songs?

A visit to last month’s Warwick Folk Festival would be enough to challenge anyone’s preconceptions on folk music, especially on the Sunday morning when Leamington’s internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter and comedian Keith Donnelly hosted one of the event’s most popular regular features, ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Folk’.

Each year, Keith persuades folk acts – some local, some national names – to perform a musical take on whatever theme he comes up with. They’ve already covered Elvis and Abba. This year it was the Eurovision Song Contest and 16 acts leapt at the chance to take part in a glitzy tribute.

Keith Donnelly. Photo © John Wright.

These included The Harvesters’ version of Puppet On A String, with an Appalachian Step Dance routine that would have proved a challenge to Sandie Shaw’s bare feet, and Maria Barham’s song about her old car which goes ‘Boom Bang A Bang when I change gear’!

Warwickshire trio, Alkevan performed Norway’s 2022 entry, Give That Wolf A Banana, complete with wolf masks and inflatable bananas. Australian folk star Enda Kenny played his version of Ireland’s 1965 tear-jerking entry Walking the Streets in the Rain, wisely wearing a cagoule, as Keith Donnelly had plenty of ‘rain’ available in bottles.

And did you know that the classic Italian pop hit Volare, only came third when it featured in the 1958 competition but was expertly performed by last year’s Warwick winner, Allan Richardson.

Bill Bates. Photo © John Wright.

Sadly, he couldn’t repeat his triumph this time. There were too many hot favourites for the prize of playing their song at the Festival’s main stage evening event. They included Daisybell’s rendition of A Little Peace (German winner 1982), Paper’s Circus’s Heroes (Sweden 2015), Bill Bates’s visually delightful version of Waterloo, and even KC Jones’s spoof Icelandic entry JaJa Ding Dong (from the 2020 US comedy movie, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga) presented with obligatory Viking helmet and inspiring enthusiastic call-and-response chorus singing by the audience.

Strong contenders all, but the winner had that extra edge of silliness that captures the spirit of this bizarre event – and Keith Donnelly’s sense of humour. This was Steve Andishaw, whose performance of UK’s 1985 entry, Love Is would have surely produced another British winner had it been performed with the accompaniment of a musical tadpole!

Steve Andishaw. Photo © Pete Willow.

I think I need to explain. Imagine someone playing a tune on a bicycle pump, converted to look like a tadpole and producing a musical arrangement that subtly complements the tender melody of the song. That is what made Steve such a popular winner.

With the addition of Keith Donnelly’s Euro-jokes (German sausages made out of seagulls, taking a tern for the wurst – that sort of thing!) and the hilarious interval set by Bonzo and Doris, this was just one of the highlights of what turned out to be a memorable and highly acclaimed folk festival.

Discover more about Folk Music at and the Warwick Folk Festival


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