Thursday, August 16, 2007


There hasn't been much to write about lately.

Tomorrow my wife and I are going on holiday to Santorini for a week, so there will be something to write about when we come home. It looks like there is no easy Internet access, so there won't be any interim reports.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cropredy festival

The second weekend of August is like the High Holidays of the folk-rock world, when its epicentre is Cropredy, normally a small and sleepy village a few miles north of Banbury, which is itself normally a small and sleepy town several miles north of Oxford. During this weekend, twenty thousand people descend on the village to celebrate Fairport Convention's Cropredy Festival.

This started way back in 1977 when Fairport played a benefit gig for the village Town Hall (two of the band were resident in the village), continued through the years when Fairport was only a dormant band (1979-1985) and has become triumphant in the many years following the reunion. This year the group are celebrating their 40th anniversary (first gig played in April 1967 in a bowling alley in Golders Green) and as such the festival takes on a special hue.

I've been to several Cropredies, but do not intend to go again. First of all, there's the geographical problems, then there's the fact that Fairport's current repertoire does not find favour in these quarters. But probably the most important factor is that I don't enjoy sitting in a field for two days, twelve hours at a time, being alternatively rained upon and then roasted, whilst listening to music which I don't particularly like. Presumably I'm getting more narrow minded as I grow older. If I were living within driving distance of Cropredy (say 50 miles), then probably I would have no reason not to attend, but that not the way things are.

Here's a piece which I wrote some years ago about the 30th anniversary festival in 1977. The band always hold two 'warm-up' gigs in Banbury a few days before the festival where they run through their material, sometimes with the special guests that will appear with them (but mainly not). To my mind, these warm-ups are better than the real thing: one can hear properly, one is seated properly and one has undisturbed sight lines. Once I considered going to Banbury in order to see the warm ups then leave before the festival, but somehow I convinced myself to give the festival one more try. Never again. Anyway, here we go back ten years ....

August 1997: I am in Banbury for the 30th anniversary Cropredy. I had a ticket for the first "warm up" concert, which took Fairport from "Angel Delight" through to the present day, but for some reason didn't have a ticket for the second night. Thinking back on it, I didn't know at the time who was going to be playing each night, and also I don't think that any tickets were available for the second evening.

Anyway, it's about 7:30 in the evening, I'm resting in my b&b and it's starting to rain. I think about the great time I had the evening before and remind myself that RT is playing tonight only a mile away from where I'm staying. But it's raining and I don't have a ticket. After a few minutes of indecision, I decide to wander down to The Mill. One can hear the music from outside, and I stroll around the building trying to figure out where the sound is coming from. Eventually I find an open door on the right hand side of The Mill facing some strange building (which I eventually realise is an indoor swimming pool), and go inside.

This is the stage door! I'm just out of sight behind the speaker stand, and watch what must have been one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen. In the interval, Richard takes some fresh air just outside the stage door, and I have my first halting conversation with him ("Have you ever wanted to come to Israel?", I ask. "No", he replies. "But I've got many friends there. In prison.") Imagine minute long pauses between each sentence in that Pinteresque dialog. I get Richard to sign the previous evening's ticket but refrain from telling him how wonderful he is.

During the second half, I'm joined by Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders at my vantage point and chat with them whilst they're being mesmerised by what's happening on stage. Right at the very end, it's "Si Tu Dois Partir" for an encore, and Maartin Allcock can't be found. I very seriously consider going on stage and playing the keyboards, which are at this time maybe only two steps away, but before I can make my Cropredy debut, Maart comes along and plays the song.

So I did miss a little of that extraordinary evening (but someone later kindly gave me an excellent reminder of it), but on the other hand obtained a better view than almost every one else present.

1988 was also a great festival as far as I am concerned. Although I didn't go to the warm ups, I did go to a free festival in Gravesend where Fairport were playing. I was privileged to meet with the chaps before the show, and even had a song dedicated to me (it was the day before my birthday). At the festival proper a fortnight later, I hang out with the band and had a wonderful time. Here's some commentary from the Fairport list ...

This gig as far as I was concerned was great. As Chris Fribbins stated, the listing for the show there isn't a lot to say about the music except to say I`m now waiting for Croppers. The Wishfulness Waltz was dedicated to No'am (by Ric) as it is his birthday today. It was great to meet up with list members some of whom I had already met and those that I hadn't. Saying that, it was a shame to find out that another list member was there whom I didn't get to meet. Chris, did you see any of the rest of us or did we all manage to miss you?

It was great that David Hughes and his wife Karen managed to get there with their two children. His mother's loss was our gain. Hope to see you both again at Croppers.

[Tony Ecclestone]
Am I the first one back?
Great to meet No'am, Martin & Sally, CB, DH & family, Dvina & Mark (again), & Miranda on the phone!
Good gig.
Shame the bar closed at 7.00!

[David Hughes]
Went to Fairport gig, Gravesend, with family. The List persons there were as mentioned by Tony Ecclestone - they were all wearing Cup Man T-shirts. Before the gig, their presence was noted by Simon who referred to them as "The Cup People".

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nothing new under the sun

I see that nearly two weeks have passed since I last blogged. Nothing much has been happening in that time, or rather nothing extraordinary.

It was my birthday last week; we celebrated by having dinner and watching The Simpsons in a cinema complex just north of Tel Aviv. The film was funny but not overly so; it doesn't match up to Shrek, for example (I haven't yet seen the third installment).

Days have been spent working hard; yesterday was a day full of minor triumphs. By the time evening comes and I've taken the dog for a walk, I'm too tired to do anything.

Satellite TV here is showing the British Channel 4 programme "Skins". So far we've had two episodes. Much more female nudity (including full frontal) than I would have expected from such a programme. I found out from the Internet that it was filmed in my adopted home town, Bristol, but there are few background shots making it hard to recognise the environment. It's not like later episodes of "Teachers" which frequently had recognisable shots of the city.

We went to a fairly religious wedding one evening, an event which deserves an entry of its own. Maybe later today I'll write about it.