Live Reviews

Beardy Folk Festival – Shropshire: Live Review

Beardy Folk Festival, Hopton Wafers, Cleobury Mortimer – 15th – 18th June 2023 (beards optional)

Beardy Folk Festival – where music, merriment, and magnificent facial hair unite in perfect harmony. Nestled deep amidst Shropshire’s lush green fields and embraced by nature’s serenade, this enchanting festival captivates all ages with its vibrant celebration of folk music and culture. Beardy Folk Festival is a hidden gem that celebrates the best of folk music in a warm and inclusive atmosphere.

One of the standout aspects of Beardy Folk Festival is the remarkable sense of community that permeates the entire event. From the moment you step foot on the festival grounds, you’ll be greeted with smiles and open arms and this is just one of the reasons that Beardy has built an army of loyal fans who return year after year to this; still growing, but relatively small festival, now in its sixth iteration.

The festival’s lineup of artists was nothing short of extraordinary. With a careful curation of established folk icons and emerging talents, the musical program offered something for every taste. From foot-stomping bagpipes to soul-stirring intimate ballads, each performance resonated with passion and skill. The diverse range of musical styles kept the atmosphere alive and ensured that every attendee discovered something new and exciting.

In between the harmonies and melodies, the tantalising aromas of the festival’s food offerings waft through the air, Beardy Folk Festival has been evolving and embracing the culinary aspect of the event with care and attention and each year has added to the culinary offerings based on feedback received. There is now an excellent variety of food available from breakfast until late, including vegan, pizzas, the world’s greatest burgers, crepes, kebabs, curries, ice cream and fish and chips. The superb food is complemented by a well-stocked bar, which supplies real ale from the local Hobsons Brewery, both the food and bar are keenly priced so you won’t break the bank either.

Beyond the music and food, Beardy Folk Festival excels in providing clean and well-maintained facilities.. The shower and toilet facilities were regularly cleaned and adequately stocked, even during peak festival hours. This attention to detail in maintaining the facilities showcased the festival’s commitment to creating a positive and hassle-free environment for all its festival goers. The camping areas provide ample space for both tents, campervans and car, so no lengthy and arduous hikes are required to get to your pitch. The inclusion of a designated quiet camping zone allows for a restful night’s sleep for those seeking some tranquillity away from the lively atmosphere within Hopton Court’s walled garden.

One cannot discuss Beardy Folk Festival without mentioning the family-friendly environment that prevails. The festival actively welcomed children and offers dedicated spaces and activities to engage the younger audience. From circus workshops to storytelling sessions, children had the opportunity to explore their creativity and develop a love for folk music. This commitment to fostering a love for the arts from a young age is commendable and is one of the reasons that Beardy Folk Festival is set apart as an inclusive and family-friendly event. The festival is also welcoming and safe for solo and female attendees, which is one of the reasons why you will see the same faces year after year.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to keep older guests amused either, in addition to the music there was daily yoga, a 5k fun run, jam sessions, singalongs, introductory instrument lessons, late (ish) night disco and you could even have a go at blacksmithing, or you could simply pitch up and enjoy the (predominantly) fantastic weather that Beardy has enjoyed over recent years.

It’s a testament to the friendly and chilled nature of the festival that musicians were often seen to turn up early and stay late, feeling comfortable to mingle with the festival-goers without being unduly hassled, rather than hiding away in the (very comfortable) green room.

As for the music, Beardy 2023 was the most ambitious line-up so far with big headline acts each day as well as a jam-packed itinerary of over 38 acts to keep on top of. Beardy boasts a main stage – and as we found this year it has no problem in hosting the bigger bands that have 15+ members, a more intimate acoustic stage in the marquee and performance spaces in the Orangery, the lawns and the woods, this year we also saw the addition of the pallet stage which afforded the opportunity of 15 minute sets for anyone brave enough to have a go.

In addition to the headliners, the standout performance for 2023 came from Nati Dreddd, who had the acoustic stage audience in the palms of her very talented hands. Nati built real connectivity and gave a performance that was heartfelt and genuine – at the end of her set comments such as “highlight of the show” and “I really love her style” were overheard as audience members decamped and heading back over to the main stage.

Thursday evening was opened by The Weeping Willows, Dan Sealey and headlined by Valtos, awarded ‘Up and coming artist of the year’ by the Scots Trad Awards 2022, they seamlessly blended modern dance with traditional arrangements and instrumentation and well and truly got the Beardy party started.

Friday opened with 2022’s rising star, Jenny Colquitt, then followed Daisy Chute, a two-piece Drystones, Fossilheads, Mark Radcliffe, Aiden & Patterson, John Smith, Stables, The Longest Johns, Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip and then concluded with the one and only Skerryvore . With an incredible set mixing fiddle, accordions, pipes and whistles, alongside guitar and vocals, underpinned by driving bass, drums and keys, Skerryvore really do represent the best in contemporary Scottish traditional music and need to be seen live to appreciate their music and performance in full.

Saturday included the mighty Filkin’s Ensemble, Fly Yeti Fly, Novelty Island, the aforementioned showstopping Nati Dreddd, Sound of the Sirens in an unusual 4 musician configuration, Zervas & Pepper, Track Dogs, Mally & the Hayburners, a barnstorming set from Cut Capers, a returning Gaz Brookfield and a headlining Seth Lakeman accompanied by Alex Hart, Benji Kirkpatrick, Ben Nicholls and a long overdue reunion with an ever-smiling Cormac Byrne. Seth had rushed back from performing with Van Morrison the previous evening in Oslo, but the tiredness that he must have been experiencing was not apparent at all. They performed a full set combining older favourites with tracks from the latest album; Make Your Mark – and as Kitty Jay thundered out the heavens opened and the faithful Beardy crowd got their first decent drenching of the festival.

On Sunday we were treated in the sunshine to Joe Hicks, Becky Syson, Martin Carthy, Bof!, Shellyann, Wet the Tea, Truckstop Honeymoon, The Lost Notes and then the audience got a monumental drenching as Merry Hell took to the stage. The storm that passed over Hopton Wafers made the previous night’s weather feel like minor drizzle, but the majority of the audience were either well prepared or just determined to sway through the biblical downpour. We then headed; bedraggled, back to the acoustic stage for a sublime performance from The Magpies, before heading back to main stage for the last time in 2023 for the brilliant Rusty Shackle – FATEA Magazine weren’t wrong when they said “They really have understood what contemporary folk music is about and aimed it for the big stage,” and provided a fitting and uplifting conclusion to Beardy Folk Festival 2023.

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