Todmorden Folk Festival 2022

“What’s the name of the place we’re going to again? Post-mortem?”

I’m with my brilliant, Spanish academic friend and we are on an adventure to a pretty little market town. Paula is the sort of person who talks to everyone and everyone.

In this spirit, the previous night she had met an environmentalist Colombian percussion outfit who play raucous tunes on a range of instruments recycled from plastic household items.

They told her they were performing at a festival the following day: why not go along?

So she, and therefore we, did.

We heard the jingle of bells as soon as we got off the train. Morris groups were roaming past the ‘spoons and the Lidl, and outside the pretty little indoor market a huge puppet with a hammer was tormenting local dogs.

We went to the community centre to pick up programmes, and ending up eating at a cafe in the market, which was a time travel device transporting you to 1952. They still have spam on the menu, and I had to explain to Paula a) what spam is and b) why it is still served in some places. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Less expectedly, I had to explain what a chip butty is. You’d have thought this would be on the life in the UK test she was forced to pass to continue being an academic here.

After our pies (no spam) and mushy peas, we made our way to the working men’s club (Paula: “will I be allowed in?”).

Upstairs was yer classic roll section in the round, with various men – and it was almost all men – taking it in turns to waggle their accordion or perform an Eric Idle cover. There was a palpable excitement that this was all allowed to happen again, and there were some beautiful songs and some lovely stories.

“I see you’ve got a ukulele in your hand”, said the de factor leader of the session, and so I was gently encouraged, for the first time in my life, to sing a song at an open session.

I did “This Can’t Go On Forever”, inspired by the elated mood of post-lockdown communal love, and despite my shaky hands and even shakier voiced it was well received.

Half way during my song, the Colombians arrive and sat down next to us. Let the culture clash commence!

They were glorious. Gorgeous flute, brilliant vocals, insane rhythms. After doing two numbers, they suggested a “jam”, which means we were treated to the sight of old guys with accordions and fiddles trying to pick up the furious, scattershot tempo of drums from thousands of miles away.

This ended up a shambolic cacophony, but the broad grind on the faces of everyone in the room suggested this was a cross-cultural experiment that had done its job.

I ended up doing five numbers:

This Can’t Go On Forever

Union Miners

First Dog In Space

Come Back From San Francisco

Bottleneck at Capel Curig

I only recorded the Magnetic Fields number, which you can hear below. But I got nice feedback about my own songs from some musicians I really respected, and I have the confidence now to do more open mic and folk events.

It is interesting how much scarier I find singing to performing comedy, though. I deffo feel more of a fraud in this environment, perhaps due to my lack of knowledge and musicality.

But I’ll be back.

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