With Sidmouth Folk Week due to kick off this week (1st – 8th August) we’re coming close to the end of our series of interviews ‘Sidmouth Folk Week Memories‘ in which we ask artists to share their memories of the festival from the past. Today’s guest is a multi-instrumentalist and singer and has been in many bands including Old Swan Band and Blowzabella. She is Jo Freya:
When did you first come to Sidmouth, and what for?
I first came in 1974 I think. It was a family outing with mum and Fi. Who knows? The Old Swan Band might have been playing and we went pretty much every year from then on.
What do you most remember about your first (and/or subsequent) Sidmouth festival experiences?
Too many memories to go through. I remember the tar barrel rolling in the Arena. Dangerous but exciting. I was involved in some way but can’t remember how. Events in the Drill Hall….themed events were fantastic. I had a beehive hairstyle done for the rock’n’roll night and sang as part of the band with Cathy Lesurf and Oysters. Taffy Thomas drove in to the drill hall on a Triumph motorbike! Also the musical nights in there were brill. I exited a sword box with Mike Bettison. We even managed to change t-shirts inside! And, finally, the Beach Store. I had a wonderful performance in there with Packie Bryne which involved the two of us playing his home made bagpipes which were penny whistles linked together with rubber shower tubing.
Do you remember the first song you sang, tune you played, story you told, the first dance you called or danced or played for?
I don’t remember the first. I do remember being recorded for radio two in the Drill Hall with my sister Fi. The stage was at the back of the hall along with the loos. We finished an unaccompanied ballad in harmony, Lovely Nancy and someone flushed the loo…classic moment.
Do you have memories of particular venues ?
All of the above, Arena, Beach Store, Drill Hall and all the others Ham Marquee, LNE, Bulverton, Manor Pavilion, The Volunteer etc
Do you have memories of particular people you met at the festival? Or particular performances?
Already mentioned some though La Bottine Souriante in the Arena were fantastic, and Kepa in the Ham Marquee.
One particular person should be mentioned. Max Lazarus. He went every year and became my number one fan because I asked him to dance when I was 16 and no-one else seemed to want to dance with him. He went on to sponsor me financially in many ways including buying me a bass clarinet which I still have. The supporters of the festival who don’t perform are as important as those that do. Sadly Max is no longer with us.
What are your lasting impressions of the festival?
It feels like part of my life. Much hilarity, great music, lasting friendships. A platform for my development over the years. I miss it if I don’t go for at least part of it.
What are your hopes for the future of the festival?
I hope it finds someway of working towards keeping artists there for more than the one performance. One of the great things that used to happen was the possibility for impromptu performances, the cross-over of artists, guest appearances and the fun themed things. Much of this wasn’t paid work but people were willing to muck in if they were there already. I have come to believe that a true festival is more than a series of performances. It’s a celebration of what else happens because the performers and the public are there…if you see what I mean.
Jo Freya performing as part of Blowzabella – ‘Oliver’s’ and ‘Two Beers’
Festivities at 60th Sidmouth FolkWeek kick off – with Ralph McTell’s pre-festival concert at the Ham Marquee on 31st July, 8pm, followed by a festive holiday week of music, dance and song from 1st – 8th August
More here: http://www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk/