Retroladytyping …

A Weekend in the Country …

13906812_10154210413285708_5187920445790161889_nIMG_0679… at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2016

There is a music festival which takes place every year for three days in a field, in the village of Cropredy, in beautiful rural Oxfordshire.   MrP ‘n’ me have been twice:  last year we were celebrating a BÍG zero-type birthday for me; this year our excuse reason was our forthcoming Ruby (40th) Wedding Anniversary.  Next year … who knows … Ruby+1, big zero + 2, big zero + 5 for him?  Now that’s an idea –  retirement celebration?)   One thing is for sure, we will be there.

This is no ordinary, small music Festival; not is it a Glastonbury – anything but.  It is billed as Britain’s Friendliest Music Festival and it is.  Before our first year, when we were Cropredy Virgins, I was concerned.  I had only been to a very small day-long local folk Festival.  I had several questions:

  • Would we be looked down on for not camping? I don’t do camping, not any more, not until they invent a tent where you can plug in a hair-dryer and which has divan beds.  We stayed in a small hotel nearby and we weren’t the only ones.  You could spot the Cropredyites  while checking in – they were either wearing flower garlands,  Cropredy t-shirts of varying vintages and condition,  probably a hat or, most likely, all of those.    They were also, on the Thursday afternoon, in a hurry   to get through the necessary admin/credit card detail and luggage-leaving  before hot-footing it to The Field.
  • Would we be able to take chairs?  Being of a certain age, MrP and I like to sit down, with the option of standing when the urge takes us.
  • What if it rains?  Answer:  we would get wet.  In which case, could we take umbrellas?

    It did rain; we did take umbrellas; we did get wet!


  • Would the music be loud, very loud, or deafening?
  • Food?  Would there be much choice and, more worrying would we get food poisoning, and, following on from that, what about …
  • Toilets?

Before we visited for that first time, I checked out the Fairport Cropredy Convention website and found the answers to the above were:  No, Yes, Yes, Sometimes, Yes lots, No  and they’re fine.  Consequently, we survived and even enjoyed that: our virginal experience.

So, on to this year –  We don’t ‘do’ Valentine’s Day.  We’ve been married for ages,  and are cynical about the whole cards and red-roses commerciality of that day, so we just don’t, anymore.   I thought.

However, this year he excelled himself and made me realise that familiarity doesn’t mean one can’t be surprised.    On the Day, he presented me with an envelope containing tickets for this year’s Cropredy Convention, a sticker for my car so I could advertise my Cropredy-ness to anyone stuck behind me at the traffic lights,  14063874_10154555662807873_5768096231142589063_n plus a three-day booking at a nearby hotel, the same one as last year – for both of us, appropriately,  with it being a Valentine’s Day surprise.    The other excuse  reason was the feeling that  “we should do something”  to mark our forthcoming Ruby Wedding Anniversary.   That was to be that something – Cropredy, a few months early, but no matter.  I can live with that.

Cropredy tickets

I could  write the rest of this like a diary entry, but it would run into many pages and would keep flipping back to earlier entries.   My head is full of thoughts, feelings, emotions. sights, tastes and sounds.  So, I shall try to limit myself to my personal highlights – actually it was one huge  highlight, but I’ll  pick those which stand out now a few days have passed.

For the Festivally uninitiated, the first  stage is queuing to be wristbanded.  These wristbands are not just any wristbands.  They are Cropredy wristbands, made of embroidered fabric – a bit like Cash’s nametapes for those who remember those (most Cropredyites, being of a certain vintage, will).  As such, they are a permanent fixture for the duration of the Festival, meaning that rather than showing a fading hand-stamp each day, or finding an increasingly battered ticket, you high-five, or wave at one of the Stewards on entry to The Field.  I still have last year’s, on the kitchen notice-board and the 2016 version will be joining them, along with Festival photographs.

Once on that Field, a kaleidoscope of colour, sound, lights, smells (from the food outlets nothing else –  apart from a few unidentified ‘sweet’ smells), happiness and well-being engulfed us – all the better this year because we knew what to expect.  We weren’t disappointed.  It was all there:  mirrored, sequined sunshades, flags, headbands, hats, folkie folks of all generations and,  already, music – promising three unforgettable days of music, merriment and friendship.  Cropredyites are friendly folk.  People make way for you to find your special spot.  We were lucky:  we have friends, who were already on-site and saved room for us (thank you Lesley and Steve, especially for saving my space when I wandered off to get a cuppa and returned quite a while later with a hat!)  but if that hadn’t been the case, it would have been fine.  People budged up, moved chairs, blankets and picnics to make room for newcomers.  It’s that kind of Festival.  Friendly.

The Field

We’re in there somewhere …

Day One starts in the late afternoon with an Acoustic set by the boys themselves – Fairport Convention, short but very, very sweet.  For me, made all the sweeter because I took a close-up (of the screen, but it made me happy) of my personal favourite, and slight middle-age crush, the divine Chris Leslie.

IMG_0772.JPGI don’t know whether it’s his hair, his glasses, his headwear or the fact that he and I have actually hugged at a previous show in Frome.  (Resisting the urge to shriek like a lovestruck teenager at this point)  Actually delete that, I do know, it’s his singing voice.  I can only describe it as gentle, yet strong.  Every word is clearly enunciated, every note sings out clearly of his enjoyment of his art.  To compound that, he is a minor genius on just about every stringed and woodwind instrument, particularly the fiddle and especially when he duets with another band member, Ric Sanders, also a Master of the fiddle.  Their duets, and the interaction between them, is a delight to see and hear.  They truly are masters of their craft.  IMG_0783.JPG





One of the many great features of the Cropredy Festival is that less well-known acts are given space to show what they can do.  One such was CoCo and the Butterfields, consisting of a beautiful lady, CoCo, with her band.  To say they were entertaining is to massively undersell them.  They were all multi-talented.  CoCo has the voice of an angel.  Her power, depth, tone and emotion put the likes of Adele to shame.  She has one of those voices which means you feel compelled to stop what you are doing, stand still and just listen.  Just as you think you probably won’t move for a while, she seamlessly segues into another song which allows the  members of the Butterfields to showcase their talents individually and together, dancing and interacting with the audience.  She certainly knows how to play a crowd does CoCo.    You  are released,  able to move again and relax into whatever you were doing till she  showcased her incredibly mesmeric voice.

Coco and the Butterfields

CoCo and the Butterfields

The highlight of  the second day, for me, was Steeleye Span.  I had seen them before, but not at an outdoor Festival.  I thought I knew what to expect.  I was surprised.  They were rocky, folky, bluesy, every genre possible and a few more unknown to me, probably a hybrid of all the above.   They performed several numbers from their new album, Wintersmith,  which I am going to have to buy.  Maddie Prior, who past that big zero birthday,  can still, as they say, belt out a good tune.  She is incredible, not for her age, just incredible.  She had the whole field of people with her, whether singing – especially when singing, or talking.  We were all there, singing, clapping and laughing with her.  Of course she sang All Around My Hat.  As she said, she had no choice.   In her attempt at an introduction to it, she sighed and said,  “It needs no introduction; just sing the bloody thing!”  We did.  Superb.  Classic.  “We will wear the Green Wi-illo-ow … for a twelve-month a-and a Day! ”

Steeleye Span

Steeleye Span

Richard Digance performed, as he always does, on the final day at 12 noon.  For those who don’t know, he is a singer and … I hesitate to use the word comedian, because he isn’t.  He is just very, very funny.  He talks (and talks) especially to those of a certain age which, as he said was most of the audience.  The thing about the Cropredy audience, he observed as he surveyed us all,   is  no-one worries about what they look like, because “after all, you aren’t going to pull.  Are you?”  Well, no probably not, but we intended to enjoy ourselves, maybe shed just a few of our inhibitions and have a fantastic time.  Who cares about appearance?  Not us.  His ‘special’ thing is the Cropredy Morris.  I shan’t say any more about that – just check out this YouTube link.  You will need to actually go to YouTube first, because of copyright, I think.    You had to be there really… if you ever are, don’t forget to bring a white hanky.

As a contrast, and largely as a tribute to the late Dave Swarbrick, who died earlier this year, and was a former member, master musician and friend of Fairport Convention, he played an instrumental tune,  during which he suggested we think about those who were no longer with us.  It sounds sad, but it was just very moving.  I thought mostly about MrP’s childhood friend and best man, Alan, who died this year and would have loved Cropredy.  I also remembered, of course, my Mum, who died two and a half years ago, who wouldn’t have.   Never mind – she would definitely have loved seeing us all having a happy time and we were, being happy to be in a special place, with like-minded folks and remembering the good times with her.  Perfect.

Swarbrick bench

‘Swarb’s’ Memorial Bench outside the Brasenose Arms, Cropredy village

I mentioned above that Fairport always include unknown bands in their line-up.  The most memorable, I think, were a couple of brothers from Australia – the young Pierce Brothers.  They were just making their way into the musical world, were at the end of a long tour, were tired, had driven a long way in a camper van, busking their way around Europe and performed at various small venues. This was their last performance, before getting on a plane for the long journey home to their much missed family.   Musically they were brilliant, varied, accomplished, acrobatic and just wonderful.  Personality-wise they were everyone’s sons – personable, good-looking, quickly established a rapport with the audience and just all-round lovely young men.  It’s a very middle-aged mum thing to say, but their mothers must be so proud of them.  As an unexpected bonus, as they were talking about flying home … there was a flypast of The Red Arrows!  Everyone’s heads turned, but it just seemed normal for Cropredy.   Maybe they wondered what was going on down below and decided to take a closer look.  I expect it was a routine flight,  but it was so special, so timely and so Cropredy.


Pierce Brothers

The Pierce Brothers

As is often the case, the best is last.  The closing set on Saturday is always Fairport Convention themselves.  Not much needs to be written about them, apart from the fact that they were their accomplished, entertaining selves.


Playlist (via the Fairporter’s FB page)

My absolute favourite is John Condon, but Matty Groves, which is usually their ‘before the encore’ piece is always fantastic, so much so that. on this occasion,  I just had to text a like-minded, but absent, friend at almost midnight to say it was being performed.  (Sorry Tom; that’s Cropredy)

They are all brilliant at what they do, not just musically, but in their relationship with the audience.  They feel like friends.  They say we are their friends too.  That’s a lovely sentiment to end a wonderful three days.  It’s traditional that the audience join in with Meet on the Ledge and we did, with gusto, before going our separate ways.   We will Meet on the Ledge, When It All Comes Around Again.

I could mention many other highlights – Ralph McTell singing Red and Gold, at sunset; the general feeling of well-being in Cropredy Village with the villagers taking the opportunity to sell their unwanted and home-made items, to set up coffee and breakfast stalls; the Churches selling breakfast; the pop-up breakfasts, the best of which was The Fairport School Cropredy Breakfast in the school playground, prepared and served by the teachers, parents and children of the school to raise funds for computer equipment.  Yes, we did partake – every day.  It was a perfect opportunity to meet with other Cropredyites in the sunshine,  discuss the music and put the world to rights.


This year the sun shone – throughout!



These are the highlights.  I shall have to save the rest for another Blog.  If you’ve read this far, thank you.  You have staying power.   You won’t need that if you ever experience the Random Loveliness that is this Weekend in the Country; the time just flies by.   Please do visit Cropredy, whether for the Festival or not (but especially for the Festival).  It is a beautiful village, has two pubs, two churches, one canal, one of those shops which stocks everything,  a railway  and lovely understanding residents who cook a great breakfast and accept an annual invasion by a kaleidoscope of temporary residents whose only aim is to have a good time, while appreciating the efforts and tolerance  of those who accommodate all this Random Loveliness.



As a postscript to this piece, which I wrote a week ago, I’ve since discovered that, unknown to me, my photo was taken by an unofficial photographer and posted on the Fairporters website, where presumably it will stay for anyone to view.  Oh dear … it’s not very flattering.  Shall I post it here?  Um … well, in keeping with the ‘not caring about appearance’ mentioned above, I probably should.  14055121_1238528869525710_3540130837573106137_n

I must add that, contrary to appearances, I was not asleep.  I was either looking down at my knitting (yes, I did take my knitting and I wasn’t the only one.  Anything pretty much goes at Cropredy), reading the programme or in a state of complete meditative bliss.

There is a great deal I could add and probably will at some point.  However, my brain needs time to process and sort all I saw, heard and, most of all, felt, during those three days.  It was wonderful.  We’ll be back next year for Fairport’s Fiftieth Birthday.