With the exception of the Festival concert (this year with the Furrow Collective and winners and finalists of local song and New Roots competitions at the town’s Malting Arts Theatre), the St Albans Folk Festival is a largely local affair showcasing a wealth of talent from around Hertfordshire. This is supplemented with talented performers from further afield, like the great Polly Morris up from Dorset, a Day of Dance featuring fifteen different dance teams, plus a variety of music sessions and workshops.
Saturday showcase sessions this year were timetabled throughout the afternoon in the beer gardens of four handsome and welcoming public houses around St Albans town centre and in an upstairs space in the Waterstones bookshop – where the stage was appropriately set up in front of the fitness and wellbeing section.
For our part, we played a couple of short sets, first in the nicely intimate setting of The Garibaldi pub beer garden before moving on to perform a second set in Waterstones where a decent number of folk followers mingled with shoppers listening in whilst having their afternoon tea.
It was great to see so many friends from the St Albans, Watford and Redbourn folk community at the venues and around the town, including Festival organisers Alison Raymond, Kim and Martin Olyett and Julian Mount and fellow performers Malcolm Hobbs, Nigel Moorcroft and the members of Jack Tar. It was also great to see my old schoolmate and fine banjo player Rich Payman again and catch up with his news.
Thanks and congratulations in equal measure to the festival organisers for both taking folk music to the good people of St Albans and for mounting yet another successful event. The organisational complexity of the festival - not just the timetabling of the performers but liaising and negotiating with the venues - must be enormous but, as a mark of the event’s success, everything seemed to progress very smoothly through the afternoon.