Dartmoor Folk Festival

A weekend of fine weather, plus top musicians and entertainers, helped attract a record crowd to the 33rd Dartmoor Folk Festival held at South Zeal, near Okehampton.

A weekend of fine weather, plus top musicians and entertainers, helped attract a record crowd to the 33rd Dartmoor Folk Festival held at South Zeal, near Okehampton, last weekend.

Many events were full-to-capacity - visitors from far and near going along to see some of the top names in the folk world performing alongside the very best local musicians and singers.

"The aims of the festival are to revive and preserve the traditions of Dartmoor, the music, dance, song and crafts"

Hugely popular roots duo, double BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2010 winners, Show of Hands, kicked off the event with a gig for 600 people in a huge marquee at the village playing fields, where the Festival was centred. A range of other concerts, workshops, a music hall and Sunday afternoon arena event, hosted by The Yetties, were also sell-outs.

The Yetties, from Dorset, who have been performing across the country for 45 years have announced that they are intending to stop in April 2011. Many people ensured they were there to see them perform, fearing it may be their last chance locally.

The hugely-acclaimed Dartmoor Pixie Band, formed by the late founder of the festival, Bob Cann BEM (who died in 1990), also helped get the festival off to a flying start on the Friday evening.

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The official opening was by Simon Hall, author and BBC South West television news reporter. He paid tribute to the association which runs the festival and to their dedication in holding a successful community event which maintains the traditions of music, dance, songs and crafts of the area.

The festival included a packed programme of workshops, concerts, ceilidhs and song and music sessions. Other events included a ramble over Dartmoor, church service and a Grand Dart-i-moor Fayre.The children’s festival, a relatively new aspect of the festival, for which it has received much praise, had its own programme, which ran over two days.

There were record entries in the Dartmoor Broom Dance championships and more than 40 primary school children attended a workshop to learn the dance steps.

Championship winner was Elsa Frangleton (9), from South Zeal. Her elder sister, Beth, was the winner last year. Second was Amelia Bazeley (8), with Molly Marvin (9) placed third and Alice Knight (7), placed fourth.Winner of the Dartmoor Stepdance championships was the festival chairman, Jason Rice, who last won the title in 2001. Jason was placed second last year.

The stepdance championships involves dancers trying to out-step one another on a 15-inch square board on an old hay wagon. Junior Step Dance champion was Matthew Stoner (11), from South Zeal, who learned the dance steps at a workshop during the morning of the festival and earlier with Matt Norman, a previous Step Dance champion, during a workshop run with Wren music.

The festival featured many dance teams and local folk band, “The Ramsley Miners”, which includes Thomas and Charlie White, great-grandsons of Bob Cann, playing in the grand Music Hall at the end of the festival.

Local crafts were on show and demonstrations, included reed rope making. Hundreds of festival-goers camped in the festival campsite.Other celebrated folk artists included Les Barker, Brian Peters, The Claque, The Carrivick Sisters, The Four Star Trio, Polkaworks, Baz Parkes, Poppets Puppets and Mog.

Celebrated local artists include The Dartmoor Pixie Band, Tony Beard (The Wag from Widecombe), Jimmy Tamley, Dave Wills and Rob Pudner.Many music lovers travelled from the famous Sidmouth Folk Festival to enjoy more of the same in the foothills of Dartmoor.

Performers, the Carrivick Sisters, Charlotte and Laura, said the Dartmoor Folk Festival was the 28th at which they were appearing so far this year and declared it the “best to date”.

Association president, Joyce Cann, widow of the late Bob Cann, agreed it was “the best festival we have had for years” adding “It was wonderful”.Chairman, Jason Rice, said: “It was very good. We had a record attendance due to increasing the capacity of the marquee.“We were then able to accommodate more seating for concerts.”Jason added: “I must also pay tribute to the high quality of the artists and thank not only the sponsors and all those who support the festival by coming along, but the people of South Zeal who, while pleased to see the event take place, are also pleased to see less traffic and a return to normality when it ends.

“The aims of the festival are to revive and preserve the traditions of Dartmoor, the music, dance, song and crafts, and we, again, managed to do this. “I must add that I was thrilled to win the Dartmoor Step Dance championships again, too.”

Secretary, Jane White, said: “It all went smoothly with no glitches.“We were lucky with the weather and both of the afternoon events were able to take place outside. The craft marquee was excellent and we had one of the best line-ups ever.”

Press officer, Alan Quick said the festival was helping to turn the region into a serious hub for the musical genre. He added: “The folk scene in the South West is very vibrant. “In this case, it really brings the community together, and it appeals to all ages.”

Plans are already being made for next year’s festival from August 5 to 7, 2011.

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