One of our favourite festivals makes its long awaited return this year; Fairport’s Cropredy Convention.
Scuppered due to COVID and lockdowns, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention is back, and with a bill that is as expected, varied and plentiful.
Over the next few weeks, in the run up to this years event, we will share insights from the band into what makes their Saturday night slot unique.
Traditionally, Fairport Convention close out the festival on the Saturday night of the festival. More recently, they have taken to opening the festival on the Thursday too; usually as an acoustic act.
What usually makes the show so unique is the special guests that augment the set the band play. It has, over the years, seen many different and varying people play with the band.
Last week, we welcomed Gerry Conway back to the site. He previously wrote in our Why I Love column here. Gerry penned a short but sweet piece about how the guest slots are formed for the festival. This week, we welcome Chris Leslie back to the site. We’ve welcomed Chris several times on At The Barrier (read here). Here, he takes us all the way back to when he joined the band and his memories of Cropredy.
Since joining Fairport back in 1996, the Cropredy Festival has given me lovely opportunities to play with some amazing musicians who I have listened to and admired from afar…
Back in 2000, Fairport had been working on a project called Excalibur with a producer called Alan Simon. Many musicians were involved including Roger Hodgson from Supertramp. Whilst performing some shows in Brittany, Roger agreed to come and do a few Supertramp numbers with us during our Saturday night set at our Cropredy Festival. Because of Roger’s schedule, there would be no time for rehearsals… so it fell to me to sing the vocal parts at band rehearsals…oh so high!
As I remember, Roger arrived at the festival when we were already on stage into our set. When it was time, he came on to huge applause, sat at the piano, and struck the keyboard into “Breakfast in America”… he was so bang on, it was solid as a rock. We then went into “The Logical Song”, “Open the Door”, and “Give a Little Bit”… such a joy for us all on stage, and of course the crowd loved it!
Another great memory is playing with Robert Plant during our Cropredy set in 2008. As a tribute to Sandy Denny, Robert wanted to sing “The Battle of Evermore”. I was so thrilled to get the chance to play that classic mandolin part live on stage with Robert. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder at any piece in my life, to make sure I got it as close as possible to the fantastic original vibe. Another Fairport Cropredy set joy.
In 2013 Nik Kershaw joined us for a couple of his numbers… one of my favourites songs from him is “The Riddle”… Imagine my delight when he chose to do that with us. I came up with a low D whistle part, which was so fab to play in such a great song – he is such a brilliant musician and song writer. And imagine the double joy also being joined by the incredible guitarist Martin Barre… it was another memorable Cropredy moment for me.
These three songs stand out for me as some of my favourite songs from the festival over the years. I feel so fortunate to be involved…
Our thanks go to Chris for his words; Cropredy is a special place and the collaborations that occur are always unique.
Fairport’s Cropredy Convention takes place on 11th, 12th and 13th August. You can buy tickets online here.
Take a listen to Fairport playing with Nik Kershaw and Martin Barre at the 2013 festival; one of Chris Leslie’s favourite memories.