Friday, September 30, 2011

Steve Knightley - free live stream of our Hive show

If you weren't one of the lucky 100 people to get a ticket to the Steve Knightley gig at The Hive in Shrewsbury this weekend don't despair - we've decided that you can watch it from the comfort of your own computer.

For the first time - and a follow on from our live festival webcasts - we will be broadcasting Steve's concert live, thanks to the technical wizards at Microvideo. The gig can be followed at from 7.45pm on Saturday and will be available until Thursday, October 6.

Steve's concert is the latest in the monthly series of folk concerts we organise
at The Hive, an intimate venue in heart of Shrewsbury.

Stream is from 7:45pm on Saturday 1st October

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review of Refolkus

We've received this amazing review of Refolkus from a festival attendee and wanted to share it with you all...

Shrewsbury Review from a Teen’s Point of View

The train edging closer to the rural fields of Shropshire, I sat back and casually opened the neatly folded piece of paper on the table in front of me. This humble piece of paper contained the Shrewsbury Folk Festival’s youth programme timetable, so with great anticipation, I opened it. Rather guiltily, I must admit, I expected the stereotypical, quintessentially ‘folky’ pot-pourri of morris dancing, clog dancing, fiddle workshops, and banjos. So I was, indeed, both surprised and excited to unearth that instead I faced a diverse range of street theatre, rapper dance, samba band, vocal workshops, withy sculpting, and learning to how to do henna tattoos! This was indeed true to fact as I discovered 2 hours later to see busy withy-sculptors buzzing around like bees in a hive, and a crowd gathering for street theatre. Although we all love and know these folk-promoting workshops, I’m sure these keen young folkies would have seen all that before. It was refreshing; I’d only very vaguely heard of withy sculpting! Sadly I‘d arrived too late for withy, but not to be disheartened, I sat nervously inside the marquee, awaiting the start of the street theatre workshop. I felt lightly out-of-place for reasons quite hard to place, most seemed younger than me, a few a bit older.

Overall the workshop was great fun, starting with the norm of name games and ‘walking round the space’ games. However, amongst this there was an imaginative twist….. We analysed chance tableaus, freeze frames from our journey around the room, with adept detail. Our individual ideas spanning from wedding to bullying, we then used newspaper to create objects and invent stories, our stimulus the River Severn. Two days later, I caught up with Julie Langford, one of the group leaders, and she explained where their ideas came from: ‘We like to make things about places’ she told me, ‘…we do a lot of things inspired by the way that place makes us feel, when we were driving into Shrewsbury and we passed the river we thought that would be a really evocative thing for young people to think about, for the basis of a story.’ Personally I think the stimulus was definitely an appropriate and inspiring idea, and I think all of us were lost in the majesty of our unique river.

Next up was rapper dance, which we started by standing in a large circle and just learning the simple steps. We then split up into groups of sword-dancing experience and consequentially into smaller groups of five. Across the next 2 days we proceeded to learn several simple steps under the guidance of our instructor Nicol, from occasional side Smut Rapper, including ‘Coach and Horses’, ‘High Level’, ‘Breastplate’, ‘Lock’ and ‘Spin.’ This was a great experience, as we all had to work co-operatively as a team, and trust one another to remember those killer words: ‘Swords up whilst moving!’ The whole episode felt rather reminiscent of my childhood games of Doctor Doctor to be honest, except we actually managed to untangle ourselves with a few days practise! I relished the fact that there was an opportunity to participate in such an inimitable activity that perhaps I couldn’t do in London; whilst I thoroughly enjoyed street theatre, I have done a lot of drama in my time, but only rapper once before in London. It’s fantastic that there’s such a great amount of youth interested in traditional dance, and we were lucky to watch the young dancers from Smut Rapper perform. In fact after our performance on the Monday I talked to one of the professional dancers, Alice Codey, who explained a bit about Smut Rapper, she said, ‘Smut Rapper isn’t actually based anywhere, we’re an occasional side….all our members are in dance teams across the country….we’ve been doing the for the last four years now.’ I think it’s fantastic that these folk-dance enthusiasts from all over Britain come together every so often, and annually come to Shrewsbury to teach keen 12-25 year olds who may have no experience or may even be in a side themselves. This was definitely an instrumental part in the youth folk programme at Shrewsbury.

I couldn’t take part in everything on offer, as I mustn’t forget the highly anticipated music workshops, singing, samba and big band. I sat in on a few samba band sessions, and what first struck me was the effort and concentration that was blatant to see when I saw approximately 40 teenagers in a state of complete focus. A rare sight in a school assembly. Even when the leader dropped her drumsticks, as they skidded across the room, the djembes, congas, bongos, kettle drums, cowbells and sticks carried on a ’beating! The call and response was clearly well-rehearsed as they gave a polished performance even in rehearsals. I asked one participant, Julia, about the samba band: ‘We started off with a few exercises, then learnt to play the drums’ she told me, and explained what she liked about it ‘I liked all the different sounds, I really enjoyed it.’ It’s great to have such a brilliant reception from the percussionists, it is after all organised for their benefit to learn in a fun and relaxed environment.

I didn’t get a chance to sit in on the singers or the big band, but reflecting on the singers’ performance, it was note-perfect, tuneful and interesting to hear, in particular their last song. As they stamped their feet there seemed a powerful message in the song, mantra like perhaps: ‘all the earth is sa-a-cred, in every step you take, all the air is sa-a-cred, in every breath you take.’ I was happy to see the youth programme leader Cait Leach and Open Mike winner Rosie Hood sing along with the kids. It was clear to see the impact on the audience with their audible whispers saying ‘very, very good.’ Big band had miraculously crammed onto the stage, guitars, violins, saxophones, clarinets and more amidst the people. They too gave a high-standard performance, remarkable considering the short amount of time they had to piece together a performance. Not forgetting the act that kick started the show, the samba band. I asked young drummer Louis Marsh to sum it up in 3 words and instantly his quick response was ‘loud’! Certainly true, but the audience seemed to revel in the cacophony, it was rousing and fun. The percussionists were obviously relishing their new-found skills, or perhaps reminding themselves of the fun of drumming.

After the performance, I asked 2 members of the audience; who had no children or friends performing in the show, what their comments were on all three performances: “I thought they were wonderful, lovely to see so much enthusiasm from young people doing a whole range of things……a marvellous combination of talent.” It’s fantastic that these young people managed to nearly fill a 2,000 seat tent, let alone get such a positive response, they showed amazing courage performing in front of such a huge audience, and I’m sure this is aided by the tutors’ encouragement.

Of course it’s one thing for the audience to enjoy it, but another to have the pupils honestly full of praise for the course. Eleven year-old Hope Rodenhurst took part in six projects: henna tattooing, rapper dance, singing, street theatre, withy-sculpting and ham-boning. Only the latter was not as good as she hoped, but only because the vast majority of the participants were a lot younger than her, “they were loads of small children, it didn’t really work”, (SFF note, the hamboning was part of the children's festival rather than Refolkus which explains why it had younger children, but we'll look at a session for teens next year!) she agreed that perhaps they could have split in half, a younger and older group. Nevertheless, she said her favourites were the henna workshop and singing. “In singing you got to perform it and in henna it was just really fun […] you got free henna tubes….I had it done as well as learning a bit how to do it.” Her suggestions for next year’s courses were tap, ballet and individual dance. It’s clear that the performance was an appealing factor, as Hope mentioned. Her friend Celia Holland also had a suggestion for next year: “I think in some of the things they could have the performances on one day, they could spread it out a bit so the things that don’t need as much practise are on the first day.” But another participant Catherine described her first time sword-dancing as “nerve-wracking but exciting” as she has seen rapper-dance before but never tried it. It’s brilliant that children like Catherine get to experiment with folk-dance and learn about it from professionals, for free!

Overall, the youth programme at Shrewsbury folk festival is diverse and educational, most importantly fun! It’s successfully showcasing the fun in folk and making folk accessible to the next generation. Hopefully all folk festivals can have such inspiring youth programmes, and organisations like English Folk Dance and Song Society and Shooting Roots are making sure that teenagers learn about the cultural music and dance history of England. Who knows, some of these children may become the next Jackie Oates?

By Cherry Elliott-Millar

Age 13