In our recent review of this year’s Fairport Cropredy Convention (which you can read here) some words from Fairport violinist Ric Sanders helped guide us through all the music that Fairport members past and present were involved with during the 50th Anniversary Cropredy weekend. But during the half hour or so we spent with him, he had a lot more to say about all things Fairport, and Cropredy in particular.
How has it felt to be involved in these 50th-anniversary celebrations?
“I’m loving all the stuff about the 50th anniversary, it’s really a celebration of all things Fairport and the most amazing history of a most amazing band. You’re talking to a Fairport fan as well, I’ve been in the band 32 years but I was a fan before then and a friend of the guys before then. So, I’m just loving the celebration. But I’m also looking forward, we’ve got tours, we’ve got a short UK tour and a Scandinavian tour round about October time and I will be absolutely looking forward to just ‘business as usual’.”
Back in the day, Fairport went down well in the States. Any thoughts of trying to do that again?
“Tentative offers have been made, we haven’t toured the States in over 10 years. But it is difficult, everything is more difficult. Fairport has always had a loyal following in the States, but you couldn’t call it a large following.”
And quite a few of them are over here at the moment.
“Quite a few have come over with Nancy Covey’s Festival Tours. We played Aunt Sally with them the other day, on Wednesday. Aunt Sally, that Cotswold game that’s a cross between Morris Dancing and Kendo. They thrashed us, we got like 2 and they got 11 or something. It’s impossible to hit it, you know. Google ‘Aunt Sally’ and I presume it will come up. The other day I Googled ‘Swan Vestas’, and you know what came up? No matches found.”
They don’t let you talk a lot on stage, do they?
“You can see why. So, we might go back to America, but I doubt it. Travelling’s not the fun it was. I personally don’t want to go back until Donald Trump’s been impeached.”
For a few years now, Cropredy has kicked off with a short acoustic set from Fairport. How did that come about?
“That’s always fun, you know. We stole that idea from the wonderful Levellers. They’ve played here a couple of times, and when we played at their festival, Beautiful Days, they started out welcoming everyone to their festival with an opening acoustic set. So, we had a quick group meeting and thought we’ll steal that idea. Yeah, it’s a nice thing to do. It’s lovely to just get out on that stage.”
“Yesterday had a special resonance for me because, following an epic, epic struggle with pancreatic cancer, our dear friend Bobby Bragg, the comedian, died last year. For many years he compered this festival with the great actor, Geoffrey Hughes, who also, sadly fell to the dreadful cancer. We did a special tribute for Bobby, we played a tune, Port Merion and Neville Wooler, our wonderful video director, who puts all the images up on the screens, he put together a beautiful montage of lovely Bobby memories, and I was playing Port Merion and I was quite choked up, that was my biggest worry for the festival, was I going to get through that because my hand was shaking a little bit because it was for Bobby.
“There’s a tree called Jonah’s Oak in the corner of Cropredy field, where quite a lot of people have had their ashes spread, starting off with the late great Johnny Jones, sometimes known as the Arthur Daley of folk rock, who was Fairport’s manager and get goer for many, many years. Jonah, Johnny Jones, was the first person to have his ashes spread at Jonah’s Oak… …and at 2.30 on Sunday we’ll be spreading Bobby’s ashes and playing a few tunes. We’ll also be spreading the ashes of Dave Pegg’s older brother, John Pegg, ten years his senior and a lovely, lovely chap. Emotional but, again, celebratory.”
Do you have a personal, favourite Cropredy memory?
“My favourite Cropredy memory. Well, there are so many. Let me think about it. Going back to my very first year playing at Cropredy. I joined the band in 1985; it was only a 2-day festival back then remember, just Friday and Saturday, there wasn’t a Thursday. I came on Friday as we’d made the album, Gladys’ Leap. The core of Fairport then was just Dave Pegg, Simon Nicol and Dave Mattacks; they were Fairport. Dave Swarbrick had decided he didn’t want to be involved because he had Whippersnapper with Chris Leslie, and he didn’t feel quite in sync with all the new material. But they wanted to do an album anyway so they went ahead and asked Richard Thompson to guest on it and they asked me to play on a few tracks. I got a call ‘would you like to come and play on the Fairport album?’ which I couldn’t believe, they had a fiddle player already! I didn’t know the band politics that were going on. And Swarb, although he’d kind of, sort of, left the band at that time, ‘85 was the last time he played Cropredy as a member of Fairport rather than me. So I just came on the Friday, which was lovely, and then the next day I had to go up to the Edinburgh Festival where I was doing a cabaret show playing jazz with, amongst other people Julian Clary, that was a wacky show, and Jeremy Hardy.
“So, 1986 was my first year as a band member, and that will always stand out in my memory. People often say, were you nervous and I can’t quite remember how nervous I was, I must have been, mustn’t I? I’d done some gigs with the band by then, and the Fairport audience was always incredibly welcoming. I was worried they might think, it’s not Swarb. It’s some jazz/rock freak, what’s going on? Where’s the cigarette? But that didn’t happen, and on top of that, I suddenly found myself playing the blues on stage with Robert Plant. And I thought, this ain’t bad, is it? I quite like this.
“Robert’s been a great friend of ours over the years and made many Cropredy appearances. He is, in fact, on our Fairport 50:50@50 album singing Jesus on the Mainline, tell him what you want. It was a track we recorded at a warm-up gig at The Mill in Banbury a couple of years back. And he just turned up. He was on a train to somewhere and saw Banbury. Oh, I’ll get off. He got in a cab, turned up and said Could I do a song? Well, let’s think… YES. I would say some of the great Cropredy memories have been playing with Robert and some of the other fantastic guests that we’ve had.
“And then there’s the field. Yesterday, the love of my life, Angela, she loves walking around that field. She walked me round that field; I was exhausted, we went round every stall, I got this jacket, it’s a nice jacket. We went round every stall about seven times just to check. Then we’d walk all the way back, but remember that one, we’re coming back. So I have a real blur of memories of walking around the field. And just meeting people, even yesterday is a blur, but it’s a beautiful blur. And another thing, there’s a book here, somebody should do a book. A photographer should do a book of Cropredy dogs. There are so many fantastic Cropredy dogs. And Angie, when she goes around, she has to stop and cuddle every dog. And so do I. So I think there’s a book there. A photographer should go around and the money should go to the RSPCA, something like that.”
“We’ve got Petula Clark tonight. And it’s an unusual choice; people have been saying to me for weeks, why have you got Petula Clark and we say, well, because we couldn’t get Vera Lynn. So they say, who are you getting next year? Gracie Fields all being well. Dave Pegg saw her in concert, and the connection was our sound man, John Gale, the guy who does the Fairport sound and co-produces, well I say co-produces, let’s just say produces, our albums. He did sound for Petula’s recent tour. Dave Pegg went to see them, I think it was at Birmingham Town and said it was absolutely incredible. I remember Petula Clark; I loved her songs so much, sometimes I’d just go out and sleep in subways.”
Unknown voice: Was that downtown?
Yeah, that was downtown.
Hang around Ric Sanders too long, and everyone starts to think they’re comedians.
Fairport Convention will embark on the next phase of their Golden Anniversary celebrations in 2017 with an autumn UK tour this October – continuing their sixth decade on the road.
Fairport Convention’s line-up is Simon Nicol on guitar and vocals, Dave Pegg on bass guitar, Chris Leslie on fiddle, mandolin and vocals, Ric Sanders on violin and Gerry Conway on drums and percussion.
Fairport Convention 2017 Tour Dates
Fri, 20th Oct – Emsworth, Baptist Church
Sat, 21st Oct 0 Ilminster, Square & Compass
Sun, 22nd Oct – Ilfracombe, Folk & Roots Festival
Tue, 24 Oct – Newbury, Corn Exchange
Wed, 25 Oct – Gloucester Cathedral
Thu, 26 Oct – Ludlow, Assembly Rooms
Fri, 27 Oct – Stow on the Wold, St Edward’s
Sat, 28 Oct – Leicester, The Y Theatre
Sun, 29 Oct – London, Nells
More here: http://www.fairportconvention.com