A first timers guide to Cropredy with Fairport Convention

We highlighted a collection of debutants who will be performing at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention (here) in our festival preview. With a stack of first timers on the bill, we asked Fairport Convention what they would do if they were advising a first timer at Cropredy.

So the band, Dave Pegg (DP), Simon Nicol (SN), Chris Leslie (CL), Ric Sanders (RS) and Dave Mattacks (DM) offer their thoughts. We also have festival organiser, Gareth Williams (GW), giving his opinion too!

If you were to recommend an eatery in the field, where would you recommend? 

DP: They are all really good but Leons vegetarian takes some beating.

DM: Leons.

GW: I have honestly never eaten in the field – not through choice but because backstage catering (which is excellent by the way!) is on my doorstep and I’m always busy. Leon’s Veggie stall is closest to me and despite the many threats of sharing a bottle of French wine of an evening, this has yet to become a reality. I can’t drink during the festival for what I hope are fairly obvious reasons…

CL: Well, there are so many fab choices, but I would go for Leon’s Vegetarian Food – and he is so enthusiastic about what he does, he will guide you through all the ingredients, many hand picked by himself and his team… lovely…

SN: Goan Fish Curry is an absolute must for me, at least once over the weekend. Leon’s, of course, and he’s to be seen elsewhere through the year, and we even drop in on him if we’re  homeward bound passing J28 on the M25 and stock up our freezer. The other Leon, who caters backstage for the site crew makes the best scrambled eggs ever, but you can’t get those without a wristband. However, you can sample his Macaroni Cheese just to the left of the stage. Nomnomnom…..

RS: I’m a lifelong vegetarian, & now vegan for many years. I don’t think abattoirs are places where people are kind to animals, & and I don’t think the people who work there are the sensitive kids from school whose ambition was to work with animals. When I was still at primary school & discovered where meat came from I was horrified. Still am, which is why I’ll be at Leon’s for some fab vegan food.

Fairport Convention onstage at Cropredy in August 2022.
Pic: Mike Ainscoe

What does Cropredy village hold for people attending during the festival?  

DM: A very different week!

DP: Fringe events and fundraising for various charities.

RS: The Fairport crowd love Cropredy & the villagers love playing host to them. It’s just a great big fun filled party!

SN: Only good things! I can only imagine how special it must be for all the children who grew up here and knew that every August all this colour, music and excitement would be coming to my doorstep…

CL: Cropredy village is always buzzing during the festival, with many stalls, The Brasenose, and Red Lion pubs, the Marina to have a look at the wonderful individuality of the narrow boats moored up, and perhaps a walk along the canal footpath….

GW: When I was a happy sound engineer and did get time off, I used to enjoy the Red Lion. This was a long time ago (pre-1996) and I’m sure the village has changed greatly.

Cropredy is the site of a famous battle; where could people find out more about the battle in the village? 

DP: It’s all on the internet!

RS: Doesn’t always work though. I typed in ‘medieval servant boy’ & it said ‘this page cannot be found’!

DM: Here is a good start! (Wikipedia).

SN: Well, most people would go to Professor Google, and it’s too late to hope to bump into one of the participants propping up the bar at the Red Lion. So why not listen to a first-hand account from the mind and pen of Ralph McTell and give ‘Red and Gold’ a spin?

GW: The sign on Cropredy Bridge basically tells you all you need to know.

CL: I think the song “Red and Gold” written by Ralph McTell is a good place to start. Such an emotional song describing the battle… beautiful song writing…

What is Jonah’s Oak and why should people pay a visit? 

DM: Jonah was a much loved member of the ‘FC Team’ for many years. There is a plaque commemorating him on that oak.

CL: A majestic Oak tree that was named in memory of Jonah Jones who was a friend and manager of Fairport over may years back in the day – before my time… a real character! Since then, the tree has become a memorial to so many individuals, including band members, audience members, crew members…all a part of the Fairport family that we love and miss…

DP: It’s a lovely tree which is now a place of  remembrance for friends who loved coming to our festival and are sadly no longer with us.

GW: Johnny ‘Jonah’ Jones was Fairport’s old Tour Manager/Agent and also the Cropredy Stage Manager. When he passed away, his good friend Ralph McTell wanted to place a plaque for him in the field. We chose that oak (possibly the unhealthiest on site – the irony would not have been lost on Jonah!) and when it came time for labelling the exits on our site plan, that particular emergency exit became JONAH’S OAK. It stuck, and now he is joined by dozens of Fairporters. Good company!

SN: Someone proposed a small plaque should go on the large oak stage left at the bottom of the arena field to commemorate Johnny Jones, old friend, stage manager, compere and style advisor to the band through the ‘80s.
That’s where the name came from and since then, many others close to the band or for whom the field/festival/event/ethos was central are also remembered in the same manner. Too many now for the tree’s own good health, so the mighty Edd Frost, another lifelong pal, morris dancer and funeral director, stewards what has become a small shrine and tends the memento mori on the oak posts he’s set in the ground around the tree. Thank you so much Edd.

RS: Johnny Jones was a great, larger than life character who provided us with many adventures when he was our agent. On the road he would keep us entertained, usually in the hotel bar after the show. I think Jonah was the first to have his ashes spread at the big oak. Following the passing of Geoff Hughes and Bobby Bragg, who co compered the festival together some for years, I wrote the tune ‘Jonah’s Oak’which is on the ‘Myths & Heroes album. I guess that the tree has become a shrine to remember who we have lost & will never forget. It’s a special place.

Are there any historical places within the village that are pertinent to Fairport Convention?

GW: Yes…over to you, Mr. Pegg!

DP: 9 Chapel Row was the site of ‘Woodworms Hilton’ the Peggs cottage where the festival was started, but we try not to disturb the residents when walking around.

DM: I’m not sure whether the village is ready just yet for blue plaques on the houses where Swarbrick and Pegg lived!

RS: But where are the blue plaques? I shall complain to The Ministry Of Plaques, & to The Ministry Of Silly Walks for good measure!

SN: I always look sideways at Peggy’s old cottage and think of the time I made the April Fool’s call to Swarb, just over the road in 1979 and remember the late-night dartboard antics and all the trips to the bottle bank….

CL: The church, where the “Festival Bell’ hangs up there in the tower…

Are there any special moments of tradition that people should look out for throughout the weekend? 

DP: Jonah’s Oak is always visited  and people put flowers there.

CL: Yes, Richard Digance’s Hanky moment is not to be missed… it has grown over the years from a select few audience members to most of the crowd… Morris dancing by the back door! Love it!

RS: I can’t think of any better traditions than the hankies & ‘Meet On The Ledge’, but I do love the fact that we open the festival with a short acoustic Fairport set. It’s a nice way to welcome everyone.

GW: My choice of daft music for opening The Field. I used to advise people not to run when we opened the gates but was ignored. So, I gave in and now you can belt it to your chosen clod in the field to the strains of Benny Hill, Black Beauty, 633 Squadron – whatever. Just a bit of fun. At Cropredy we whistle while we work. It’s in the rules.

SN: The Talkawhilers hold a toast at the bar to commemorate and remember absent friends – but I’m afraid I can’t invite you. And I’m certain there are other similar moments occurring all weekend all the time.

DM: I think you’ve covered them all there!

What or who could you expect to see at the bar in the field?  

GW: How the hell would I know?!

DM: Err… 1. A lot of drinking and 2. All sorts of people!

DP: Many of the artists who play get to the bar as there is no “backstage” bar at Cropredy.

CL: Well, anybody, and everybody… besides  families and friends , some  of the artists appearing over the festival, some artists who just come along to the festival to hang out… and some of the Fairport’s too.

SN: Just about anyone. Stars of the silver screen and the magistrate’s court – they’re all welcome! Keep your eyes peeled…..

RS: There have been many well known faces spotted at Cropredy over the years. This year I can tell you about two dear friends of mine who will be there, one a great guitarist & composer, & one a great comedian. So look out for Gordon Giltrap & Bobby Davro.

Robert Fripp, Toyah & Lol Creme (10CC) on stage with the Trevor Horn Band at Cropredy 2022.
All will be at Cropredy 2023.
Pic: Mike Ainscoe

Which bands should people make sure that they are in the field for?

CL: If you look at the poster… the lot!  But if I really picked out one… Nile Rodgers & Chic… so groovy and uplifting, and a legend to boot… love him! Oh and there’s 10CC… and The Strawbs…see what I mean!

DM: Chic is top of my list.

DP: All the bands are great but for me this year I am so looking forward to Gilbert O’Sullivan.

GW: Obviously, the famous ones like Nile Rodgers and CHIC and Toyah and Robert Fripp will be foremost in people’s minds I suppose. However, I love seeing the younger bands like Morganway or Joshua Burnell taking on a big crowd. It’s a great test for them, but the Cropredy crowd love music and always push them to succeed. It’s a great thing to see them when they come off. Personally, I shall try and catch some Beans On Toast and I’ll definitely be there for Peat & Diesel.

SN: Won’t be missing Richie Owens and the Farm Bureau, that’s for sure. And Solstice making a return after what? Thirty years?

RS: It’s such a great bill this year that I want to mention them all! As a life long King Crimson fan I’m really looking forward to Toyah & Robert Fripp, and of course Nile Rogers, the coolest looking dude on the planet! That’s going to be a Thursday to remember! Come prepared to groove!

Are there any particular songs you are looking forward to hearing?  

DM: Bus Stop

DP: All of Gilbert’s and all of 10cc

SN: Wouldn’t it off the scale if Nile Rogers reprised ‘Material Girl’? I mean – come on!!

RS: All of them!! It’s always a special moment for the band though, as the last chord of ‘Meet On The Ledge’ floats across the field & we can relax & start to think about next year!

CL: All of them!

GW: Le Freak and I’m Mandy, Fly Me would be nice.

Get yourself in the mood for Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2023 with Ye Mariners All from the bands Tipplers Tales album from 1978. We’ll see you in the fields.

If you still need to get your ticket, you can do so here.

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6 replies »

  1. All are welcome to join us for the Toast. At 7-30 on the Saturday at the corner of the bar. Make a donation and get a sot glass and “enjoy” a selection of home concocted spirits. All proceeds go to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

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