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Time Tunnel: The At The Barrier Cropredy Gallery

A pictorial memoir of Fairport’s Cropredy Convention – 1979-2019.

Here at At The Barrier, we make no secret of our admiration for Fairport Convention and, in particular for their annual (well… until recently, anyway….) bash in the Oxfordshire village of Cropredy.

Fairport’s first significant appearance in their “home” village took place on 17th July 1976, when around 750 invited guests assembled in the garden of Prescote Manor, then owned by Anne Grossman, the widow of Labour MP, Richard Grossman. In 1977, the event was opened to the public and, by 1978, the attendance at what was becoming an annual event in the village reached almost 2,000. Following Fairport’s decision to “Call it a Day(!)” in 1979, they scheduled what was to be a final event in the village – their “Farewell” concert – the climax to an enduring tour and the end of folk-rock as we knew and loved it. At The Barrier was present on 4th August, 1979, the day of that “Farewell” concert, and you can read our recollections of the day here.

Since then, of course, Cropredy Festival has been an annual event of growing importance, with attendance regularly reaching the 20,000 mark and, until the whole shebang was stopped dead in tracks in 2020 by the COVID pandemic, we’ve been there just about every year. And we were so desperately looking forward to packing our tents and suncream, and heading, once again, for THAT field at Home Farm, Cropredy for the 2020 festival. Sadly, as we all know know, it wasn’t to be – and now, for understandable reasons, Fairport have announced that it won’t be possible to hold the festival in 2021 either.

However!! In early July Fairport Convention announced that, by some way of minor compensation, they will be playing a show on 5th August in the garden of The Brasenose, the pub in Cropredy village that featured on the back cover of the band’s 1973 album, Fairport Nine. It will be the first time that Fairport have ever played at this esteemed venue and attendance is limited to the 250 people that the garden can accommodate. Happily, At The Barrier will be amongst those present to enjoy the show and to bring news and pictures of the event to the many Cropredy regulars who will be unable to attend. Watch this space!

In the meantime, the At The Barrier team thought we’d share some of our photographic memories of the past 42 years of the magical Cropredy Festival.

Quite a few of the At The Barrier team are Cropredy regulars – John Barlass is a perennial – he’s been to every festival since 1979, barring the 1981 show that was held at Broughton Castle Park (see below.) Dominic Walsh entered the fray as a six-year-old in 1989, Howard King in 2014 and late arrival Mike Ainscoe’s been on board since 2018. By virtue of that, just about all of the photos in this gallery up to and including 2017 are from John’s own archive and Mike’s contributions (notable for their infinitely superior quality) start to appear from 2018.

Disclaimer! – The quality of the photographs in our gallery is directly related to the standard of the equipment used to capture the images. Up until 1982, John was using a Kodak Instamatic – and it shows! From 1982, until the early 00s, John used a Pentax K1000 SLR camera, and the results were somewhat better. The standard moved a notch higher when digital photography became the order of the day, and the best pictures in our archive are those taken by our photographer supreme, Mike. Just about all the pictures in this gallery are from the cameras of John and Mike. the only exceptions are the album cover shots, which are taken from the Google Images library and the shot of the tee shirts through the years from 2010, which was taken by professional photographer Simon Hadley.

So – sit back – scrolling fingers at the ready – here is the At The Barrier Cropredy Gallery: 1979-2019.

1979

The “Farewell” show. Fairport, Theakstons and tears.

We thought it was all over – but it wasn’t.

1980

And they’re back: the first Reunion Festival

Richard and Linda Thompson (featuring John Kirkpatrick), Steve Ashley & Chris Leslie, Peggy performs in an agricultural labourer’s smock and Richard Thompson rejoins Fairport!

1981

Getting better, growing stronger

The festival outgrows Pewitt Farm and moves to Broughton Castle near Banbury. The only year we weren’t present as I’d booked my holidays before the date was announced. I contemplated flying back from Guernsey for the festival, but was “dissuaded” from doing so by my wife. Instead, I spent the day moping around the island wearing my 1980 Festival tee-shirt… A great time was had by all (so I understand), the GPs were fantastic and the live album Moat on the Ledge was released to commemorate the event.

1982

Back to Cropredy – Fairport 9 Reunite

Fairport perform Babbacombe Lee on Friday night and are joined by long-distance guests Jerry Donahue and Trevor Lucas on Saturday to reunite the “Nine” lineup. Festival guests include Bob Fox & Stu Luckley, The Maddy Prior Band and the magnificent Home Service. The AT2 cassette preserves Fairport’s set for posterity.

1983

Hot Weather, Albions and Liege and Leif

Fairport reform the Liege and Lief line-up, Richard Thompson Big Band headline on Friday night and The Albions, with Cathy LeSurf make their appearance. The weather was fantastic. A recording of Fairport’s entire set is released as “The Boot,” a 2-cassette set.

1984

A true Folk Festival

A very folky occasion, with Fairport sharing their bill with Steeleye Span, The Battlefield Band, Pyewackett (below, bottom right), the Ian Campbell Folk Group and Swarb’s new acoustic outfit, Whippersnapper (below, top right).

1985

Year of The Big Yin

I moved house from York to Derbyshire just a few days before the 1985 festival, and, although I managed to get to Cropredy, I hadn’t sorted my affairs sufficiently to be able to take my camera, so I’ve no pictures to share from that year. The festival was a stonker though – Neil Innes (R.I.P.), Arizona Smoke Review, The Albion Band and Vin Garbutt all excelled, Fairport played a Full House set and both Jerry Donahue and Trevor Lucas returned to reprise the 1982 Nine triumph. And surprise guest Billy Connolly had us rolling with laughter!

1986

No Swarbrick, but an epic set includes Plant, Matthews, Gregson and Collister

The bill included a stunning cajun set from The Electric Bluebirds, a final-ever appearance from The Sutherland Brothers – bolstered by DM, Peggy and Jerry D – and Brass Monkey blew our socks off! The field started to take on the appearance that we all know and love. A recording of Fairport’s set was released as The Other Boot.

1987

Year of the Tull

Fairport’s 20th Anniversary year. Ian Anderson and Martin Barre join Fairport for a Jethro Tull “set-within-a-set.” Steve Ashley returns, with Chris Leslie still in tow. Yet another official “bootleg” tape was released – The Third Leg – featuring Ian Anderson performing Serenade to a Cuckoo.

1988

Expletive Delighted, and Filarfolket make Saturday afternoon their own!

I took my camera to Cropredy in 1988 but for some inexplicable reason, the only photograph I took was a picture of my mate Dave sitting in The Bell at Great Bourton. Fairport’s set was a lower-key affair after the star-studded performances of the previous two years, but did feature the glamour of the Parker sisters, Sheila and Sheryl. Sweden’s Filarfolket were fantastic. The back cover of the festival programme comprised a caption competition relating to a photcall of Fairport with celebrity Madame Cythia Payne.

1989

A classic year. Guests for Fairport’s set included Steve Harley, Julianne Regan, Radio One DJ Mike Read, Ian Anderson and Martin Barre. Elsewhere on the bill, Climax Blues Band had the field rocking, Elaine Morgan and Sally Barker both put in entertaining sets and All About Eve blew everyone away, particularly with their set opener – their version of She Moves Through The Fair and their crowd pleaser, Flowers in Our Hair. And the Wadworth Brewery dray horses, Major and Sailor even put in an appearance to inject added glamour to the event!

1990

It poured down!!

A festival most vividly remembered for the torrential downpour during The Bootleg Beatles’ set on the Friday evening. Saturday’s bill included The Julian Dawson Band (featuring Jerry Donahue), The latest incarnation of The Albion Band, Kieran Halpin (with Maartin Allcock) and The Fureys. Gary Brooker joined Fairport on Saturday night and regaled us with Conquistador and A Whiter Shade of Pale.

1991-2001

I can’t believe it now, but, whilst I attended and enjoyed every Cropredy Festival between 1991 and 2001, I didn’t take a camera to any of the festivals held during those years. And the irony is that there were some great years in amongst it all – I really regret taking the decision to “travel light!”

Highlights of those “lost years” include:

1991 – A blistering set from Fairport. Richard Thompson played an extended “set-within-a-set,” and Andy Fairweather-Low got up to give us Wide Eyed and Legless. Beryl Marriot and The Waterboys’ Anto Thistlethaite were amongst Fairport’s other guests.

1992 – Fairport’s Silver Jubilee, and Ric was unable to play having severed tendons in his arm in an accident. Chris Leslie stepped into the breach and performed admirably, as evidenced by the 25th Anniversary Concert CD memento of the two sets that Fairport played over the weekend. His delivery of I Wandered By a Brookside is one of my fondest Cropredy memories. Fairport were augmented by Robert Plant, Ralph McTell, Julianne Regan, amongst others.

1993 – A star-infused Fairport set that delighted many yet dismayed some. Fairport were joined by Roy Wood, who played a fantastic mini-set that included Flowers in the Rain, Fire Brigade, Blackberry Way and I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day, Robert Plant revisited his Led Zeppelin days with Misty Mountain Hop, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and You Shook Me, plus a whole lot of other stuff including Jesus on the Main Line (a version of which later surfaced on Fairport’s 50:50@50 CD in 2017) and Everything But The Girl and Heather Wood also joined the fun. The Friday night show was utterly stolen by The Lenningrad Cowboys.

1994 – Lindisfarne revisited their extensive past on the Friday evening and Fairport got back to basics on the Saturday. Fairport’s only concession to “outside” material was a memorable performance of When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease by the one and only Roy Harper.

1995 – I particularly enjoyed Procol Harum, Waulk Electric, The Poozies and The Hamsters in 1995. Roy Wood returned to play a joint “set-within-a-set” with his Big Band and Richard Thompson. RT’s performance of I Heard it Through The Grapevine was superb – and it’s preserved for posterity on Fairport’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes album.

1996 – My first exposure to Edward II and Show of Hands, two bands that were to loom very large in my consciousness, thanks to their respective 1996 Cropredy appearances. Jerry Donahue’s Hellecasters were also amazing. Swarb, RT and Jerry D all joined Fairport onstage, as did Sam Brown, who did a soul miniset. 1996 was Maart’s last Cropredy appearance as a full member of Fairport, although he was to return as a guest pretty well every year until his final, sad, farewell appearance in 2018.

1997 – 30 Years of Fairport! Where did the Time Go? An absolutely fantastic weekend – Fairport played a set of their early stuff (up to and including Liege and Lief) on the Friday evening, and then continued where they left off for their Saturday evening set, during which Ashley Hutchings performed the role of a schoolmasterly MC. RT, Swarb, Jerry D, Ashley, Judy Dyble, Bruce Rowland, Maart and Dan Ar Bras all came along to relive their Fairport experiences. and the parts of the deceased members, Trevor Lucas and Sandy Denny were played variously by Ralph McTell, Vikki Clayton and Cathy LeSurf. And if that wasn’t enough, Osibisa, The Saw Doctors and John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett (amongst others) all played excellent sets. Fairport’s two sets were captured in their entirety on The Cropredy Box triple CD set.

1998 – Perhaps a lower-key affair after the fun of 1997, but a great weekend nonetheless. annA rydeR played her first Cropredy show, Roy Wood came back, this time to headline the Friday night performance and Hank Wangford and Loudon Wainwright III (a long-standing hero of mine) were both captivating. Highlights of Fairport’s set included Chris While’s rendition of Who Knows Where The Time Goes and Strawbs’ Dave Cousins performing Ringing Down the Years, his touching ode to Sandy Denny. Both of these highlights are preserved on the Cropredy 98 live CD.

1999 – The year the rains came. It absolutely tippled down during Richard Thompson’s Friday night show, causing many audience members to seek the limited refuge of their tents. Unfortunately, that meant that many of us missed the reportedly excellent Barrage. The rain persisted throughout Saturday, and nearly all my friends decided that 2000 would be a Cropredy-free year for them…

2000 – …I didn’t, and the Y2K show was a stormer! The weather was blazing hot all weekend, and the line-up was amazing! Y2K was the year in which the festival was expanded to include a Thursday show, and a reunited Incredible String Band and a return performance from All About Eve got things off to a storming start. Little Johnny England and Robert Plant’s new outfit, Priory of Brion kept things rolling on Friday and Bob Fox (promoting his still excellent Dreams Never Leave You album), Stackridge and Show of Hands prepared us for another epic Fairport set, augmented this year by former members Ashley, Swarb, Iain Matthews, Maart and Jerry D, plus others including Eddi Reader and Martin Carthy. Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening was when Supertramp’s vocalist Roger Hodgson joined the line-up for versions of The Logical Song and Breakfast in America.

2001

I’d returned from a holiday in the U.S.A. just two days earlier and was still suffering from jet lag, with the result that I was awake throughout each night and asleep on a polythene sheet in the arena for a good part of each festival day. My memories of the 2001 festival are, therefore, somewhat vague. We were tremendously privileged to enjoy a hit-laden Thursday evening set from the great Lonnie Donegan, and performances from the Eliza Carthy Band and Brass Monkey were memorable. Fairport previewed their forthcoming XXXV album and Ian Anderson made an unannounced guest appearance.

2002

Happy Birthday Fairport! XXXV today!!

At last – I’d remembered to take my camera! Fairport’s 35th anniversary and they were joined onstage by every living member except DM and Judy Dyble. The Dubliners, Eddi Reader and Oyster Band all excelled and Fairport played sets on both the Friday and Saturday evenings. Compere Bob Fox kept things rolling with a few songs between sets and the queue for Richard Thompson’s shift at the signing tent stretched right around the field. Recordings of Fairport’s two sets were released as the Cropredy 2002 CD.

2003

The hottest weekend ever!

Saturday 9th August 2003 remains the hottest day ever recorded on the UK mainland – and we spent it sat in a field with no shelter and copious volumes of Wadworth’s 6X. It was marvelous. And the music was pretty good too. This year’s highlights included The Trevor Burton Band, Procol Harum, Albert Lee and Denis Locorriere (the “voice of Doctor Hook.”) Chris Wile and Julie Matthews’ Blue Tapestry (a band dedicated to covers of songs written by Joni Mitchell and Carole King) were majestic, and Fairport premiered their latest album, The Wood and the Wire.

2004

Fairport survive inner-upheaval and climb the Next Hill

The first festival since the break-up of Dave and Chris Pegg. We were all worried that it might not happen – but it did. Earl Okin returned for the first time since 1979, Family Mahone (with Mark Radcliffe) payed tribute to The Pogues and Jez Lowe, annA rydeR & Steve Tilston and The Jerry Donahue Band were all excellent. And so were Show of Hands, Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies and Friday bill toppers Jethro Tull, who played a set of solid-gold hits. Fairport focused their set on their new album Over the Next Hill, an enduring personal favourite of mine.

2005

Woodstock Revisited. “Gimmie an F!”

The psychedelic year, as characterised by Country Joe and the Fish and a thumping set from Zappa tribute band, The Muffin Men, complete with former Mother, Jimmy Carl Black. Chris Wile and Julie Matthews enchanted as always, Jah Wobble entertained, Richard and Danny Thompson knocked us off our feet and The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain were awesome – particularly with their cover of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Fairport’s set was focused upon the band’s own material, delivered with help from Jacqui McShee, annA rydeR, Tiny Tin Lady, Richard Thompson and co-headliner Beth Neilsen Chapman.

2006

You know how, sometimes, you put something in a place that is so safe that you can never find them again? well I’ve done that with the photos that I took at the 2006 Cropredy Festival. And that’s a shame, because 2006 was a particularly enjoyable year. We had our first taste of Feast of Fiddles, Steeleye Span demonstrated what a good band they still were and 10cc took us on an extensive tour of their hit-filled back catalogue. Best of all, John Martyn played an awesome set that included Cooltide, Couldn’t Love You More, Solid Air and, of course, May You Never – the last time that I, and many others, were to see him. Fairport played another set that comprised mainly their own material, with the exception of a short interlude when they were joined by Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook.

2007

A very Happy Fairport 40th Birthday party

Fairport celebrated their 40th anniversary by playing two Cropredy sets – the first to commemorate that momentous year of 1969 and the second celebrating the post-1985 years. Both were magnificent! Wishbone Ash and Jools Holland wowed us on Thursday, whilst Friday was action-packed, with the splendid Mad Agnes, Viva Santana and The Richard Thompson Band all providing the perfect complement to the vintage Fairport set. I particularly enjoyed Strawbs’ Saturday afternoon set when they revisited their From the Witchwood/ Grave New World heyday. Forty years…! As I’ve already asked… Where DOES the time go??

2008

Rain, Mud and Great Music

A great year, despite the weather. Whapweasel and John Tams & Barry Coope were awesome on Thursday and Family Mahone, Stackridge and Joe Brown all played classic sets on Friday. On Saturday, the rain came, and it persisted, despite noble attempts by Ashley Hutchings’ Lark Rise Band and Legend to use the power of music to blow it away. Those who gave up the ghost during the Muffin Men’s or Julie Fowlis’s sets missed some wonderful music, all topped off by one of Fairport’s best ever Cropredy shows. This year’s set-within-a-set was a Sandy Denny tribute, ably paid by Vikki Clayton, Chris Wile, Kellie Wile and Kristina Donahue. And Robert Plant popped onstage for a memorable Battle of Evermore duet with Kristina. If you missed it, the show’s highlights were captured on the Live at Cropredy 08 CD.

2009

Buzzcocks! Steve Winwood! Seth Lakeman! Nick Kershaw! and…….Cat Stevens!!

The 2009 festival got off to a blistering start with a Thursday night double bill of Buzzcocks and the great Steve Winwood. On Friday, Scott Matthews played a blinder, Ade Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds entertained us with their folky adaptations of punk and new wave hits (their take on Kraftwerk’s The Model was a particular favourite), Mark Kermode brought his Dodge Brothers to the Cropredy stage and Seth Lakeman premiered his new album Poor Man’s Heaven. And on Saturday, it just kept going – The Churchfitters, Feast of Fiddles, Dreadzone (who worked the whole field into a sweaty lather), Nick Kershaw and Ralph McTell were all excellent. Fairport’s Saturday evening set featured selections from their new Festival Bell album, and the soon-to-be-revived Babbacombe Lee, a Richard Thompson mini-set and, in what was perhaps the year’s worst-kept secret, a “surprise” appearance by Yusaf (aka Cat Stevens) who joined Fairport for four numbers, including, to my personal delight, a version of Peace Train from the Teaser and the Firecat album.

2010

More Rain!

We knew we were in for a wet weekend when the rain started to tumble down during the festival’s opening set by Keith Donnelly & Flossie Malavialle. Unbelievably, Status Quo were the Thursday bill-toppers, but I felt that Thursday’s real honours were a three-way split between Thea Gilmore, Pauline Black and the aforementioned Donnelly & Malavialle. Martin Taylor’s Spirit of Django were an early Friday highlight – the calm before an afternoon/evening storm of Little Johnny England, The Dixie Bee-Liners, the wonderful Little Feat and Bellowhead. On Saturday, Breabach (featuring At The Barrier fave James Lindsay on bass) were wonderful, the reggae course was served by New York’s Easy Star All Stars, whilst the prog course was a Rick Wakeman extravaganza. Martyn Joseph tried gamely to hold off the rain before Fairport took the stage for a set dominated by their Excalibur project. The set’s real high point, however, was a surprise appearance by Dave Swarbrick, who joined Fairport for renditions of Crazy Man Michael and Sir Patrick Spens.

Photographer Simon Hadley arranged a photo session featuring the tee shirts from every Cropredy festival to date – with members of Fairport “hidden” amongst the rest of us. Can you spot them?

2011

So pleased to be there!

In early 2011, I took a job in the Middle East. I’d already bought my ticket for that year’s Cropredy, and as I watched the line-up develop, I experienced dual emotions of hope and desperation – would I be able to get the time off to fly back to the UK for the festival?? By early August, my attendance was looking unlikely as a major stage of the project I was involved in was looming but, at the weekend immediately before the festival, my boss tipped me the wink – I could go!

And what a relief that was. The Home Service made their comeback appearance and were superb; Hayseed Dixie finally made it to Cropredy and blew us all away. We got our first Cropredy sighting of Manchester’s Travelling Band; Seasick Steve played his collection of home-made instruments and was joined onstage by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. On Saturday, The Blockheads (featuring erstwhile Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt, who was depping for the otherwise engaged Norman Watt-Roy) were magnificent, and Horslips made a long-overdue return to live performance. Elsewhere on the bill, Badly Drawn Boy, The Coral, Blair Dunlop and UB40 all made great impressions. Fairport performed Babbacome Lee in its entirety and, as I was due to be be on a plane back to Dubai the very next day, Meet on the Ledge took on an extra poignancy as our group of friends and family linked arms and shoulders to sing the chorus.

Cropredy 2011 was indeed a year to remember.

2012

Fairport are 45!

Fairport celebrated their 45th birthday in 2012 with their By Popular Request album, the tracklisting for which they balloted their fanbase. The now customary reggae slot was switched to Thursday evening and Legend once again duly obliged with a set of Bob Marley covers that got everyone into the birthday party mood. Squeeze were the Thursday bill-toppers and they surged through a set richly peppered with their many hits. Leeds band Ellen and the Escapades were a pleasant surprise on Friday, as were the now mighty Larkin Poe. The Saw Doctors and, particularly, Richard Thompson both turned in scorching performances which Joan Armatrading had the unfortunate task of following. Ashley Hutchings returned with his Morris On Band on Saturday and worked through a condensed history of the influential Morris On series of albums, with as many of the original musicians as he was able to gather. Big Country were another pleasant surprise and they got the crowd onto their feet on Saturday afternoon, before Denis Locorriere (the voice of Dr. Hook – remember?) continued with the business of preparing us all for Fairport.

Fairport themselves were joined by a plethora of former members and close associates, including Swarb, DM, Jerry D and Richard Thompson to deliver a set that was really a potted history of the band’s 45 glorious years.