FolkEast festival is just a couple of months away, and this year's festival promises to be bigger and better than ever! Paul Amer from The Suffolk Coast popped along to the press launch to find out what's in store for festival goers this year...
Walking into the Press Launch for Folk East 2017, we are struck by a moving tableau of colourful people with colourful characters, set against a scene of Industrial bygone age, still breathing a smokey existence in rural Suffolk.
The Long Shop Museum is the location for the launch and it's clear that the festival is strengthening its ties to the community and underlining the historic connection of Folk music with the cultural heritage of the county.
The museum is a draw for visitors to the area and offers volunteers the chance to assist in the maintenance of monoliths that once kept the cogs of enterprise turning. The original Leiston works was a significant force in employment, drawing people from as far afield as Sheffield (by foot!) to seek work.
Today, though, it makes way for the museum.
Engineers in overalls work amidst the artistic hubbub of the Folk community, attending to the maintenance of a steam engine with a sign appealing for donations at the large wheel.
Russ of The Long Shop Museum brims with pride at the yard full of people admiring the scene.
Canopes of duck on bright, verdant lettuce leaf by Truly Traceable and coal-fired, sourdough pizza parade for those gathered around.
Coffee ground from Brazilian and Vietnamese beans, fair trade (of course!) and roasted this morning by the Suffolk Coffee Company.
A Green Jack Brewery keg (Golden Best) sits invitingly placed on a table and Adnams proudly offer Copper House Gin with tonic water and fresh cut citrus fruits.
Will Pound & Eddy Jay sit poised to tease the crowd with a demonstration of what they have to offer at this year's festival, conducting an interview centered within the heart of the museum. A sudden burst of music from their combination of harmonica and accordion which seem to take on a life of their own.
The sentinel like figure of The Consuelo Allen, stunning in green and red, awaits its task of rolling out the FolkEast poster for 2017, as produced by Print To The People.
The crowd subdues in anticipation, the engine exhales its steam as it pumps pistons to an inaudible beat. Then, the silence is broken as the whistle pierces the atmosphere at the hands of John Marshall-Potter to begin his introduction.
Following the customary welcome from the organiser of the festival, the roller emits another shrill blow and progresses towards the woodcut of the poster and within a few seconds, a large copy of the design is produced in crisp monochromatic detail.
The launch continues in the Victorian factory building.
Sean Cooney introduces his group of singers, Folk East patrons: The Young'uns.
They begin in unison but soon separate into trademark harmonies, telling the tale of a refugee. They stand casually, putting the gathered audience at ease and able to enjoy the musicality and political, sometimes humorous, narrative of their song.
Their second number continues the energetic delivery, treating us to a melodic story about historical figure Bob Cooney. Their third, a rambunctious Sea Shanty titled 'Rolling Up, Rolling Down'.
The harmonies of these gents, while difficult to separate, are as distinctive and individual as the Steam Engines they perform in front of.
They tell me that it took time to develop the vocal blend we enjoy today. "We started out belting songs and getting drunk, as you do! But we learned from each other and adapted to give those harmonies a finesse, if that's not too pretentious?", says David Eagle. It certainly isn't and the warm, humble nature they exhibit comes across just as well in their performance.
I ask the boys which acts they are looking forward to as festival patrons and Michael Hughes enthuses about the whole range of the line up but highly recommends Beoga as they ride their well-earned tide of popularity
After a brief interlude of a Music Hall ditty about a sizeable marrow from Matthew Crampton, The Broadside Boys grab the relay baton and perform guitar based songs. Softer ballads this duo produce with a romantic style. David Eagle can't help but underpin the material with a gentle bass line as he stands nearby which encourages some of the crowd to also join in.
Alden, Patterson & Dashwood up next with a country tint to their style. A young trio of guitar, fiddle and steel slide Dobro with a sweet Celtic vocal singing of a mountainous journey, the harmonies underpinning an account of an American Civil War soldier leaving his sweetheart with the promise of return while the mournful warning from the fiddle puts his promise into doubt.
'By The Night' is their second song. A powerfully gentle travelling tune that sounds fresh and timeless at once. Again, the audience pick up the mantle to encourage the weary pilgrim on their journey.
The band tell me they came together in a natural way, organically blending their own individual styles and finalising their set when given an impending gig.
Their focus is to enjoy the English folk material they play and it shows, not just on their faces but on the faces of the audience as they take in the sound on this sunny day.
Will Pound and Eddy Jay round off the taster with a dramatic tone, the breath seeming to flow from the bellows of the accordion to the harmonica with an urgency that something amazing is on the horizon!
Tunes from Ireland, Sweden, Quebec and The Balkans give a global feel to this diverse example of the acts on offer at this year's FolkEast as the pulse of the accordion carries the language of the harmonica, combining in communication that seems to take no stop for breath, even as the key changes, no break occurs as the mouth organ is swapped, nor for the percussive beat boxing that hides in some of the bars.
Each song is a story, building in tension with no words necessary. Each pattern of notes is a character with a mysterious back story that unfolds before your ears.
"Our backgrounds are very different", explains Eddy. "Will came from a Folk family with a tradition of Morris Dancing and I was based in the theatre. It's the combination of those beginnings and the way we challenged and dared each other that blend our instruments. You can't always tell who is playing which part and we use all the tricks of our instruments to make the sound."
There is so much to look forward to at Folk East this year with a range of acts that will leave you open mouthed and open hearted!
For more information and to book tickets, visit www.folkeast.co.uk