It's Sunday evening, and now safely back from the 1998 Cropredy Festival, and
what a great weekend it's been, without any major hitches and all-round
fantastic music and company. I had taken Thursday and Friday off work, leaving
plenty of time to get sorted with provisions and so on - though I could quite
easily have survived, albeit a little expensively, on the generally wholesome
fare of the myriad food and drink stalls there, but it was nice not to have to
rush things and be able to leave for Cropredy when I wanted.
Thursday evening, having pitched the tent and exchanged cordial greetings with
my neighbours for the weekend - and what wonderful neighbours they were, making
me feel utterly at home - I spent trying to find Beardy and his companions,
somewhat in vain. Actually, it turns out I did spot them arriving, but I
wasn't sure enough to go and make a fool of myself, so it wasn't until Friday
morning that we met up, after I spied the very obvious clue of their enormous
kites being flown from a field on the hill behind the main site.
Perhaps even more frustratingly, they did actually find me on the Thursday
evening, but I'd gone to bed, and like me, they weren't sure enough to try
waking me up. And worst of all, it turned out they were camped only about
twenty pitches away from mine and in the same row. But that was all water
under the bridge, and I seemed to get on well enough with everyone, so we stuck
together for most of the weekend in the end, although there were plenty of
other people to occupy my time chatting with, aside from the music...
Anyway, Friday's programme kicked off at lunchtime with the solo
singer-songwriter Anna Ryder - always tough opening a festival, and she pulled
it off just fine - but things didn't really get going until the ever-wonderful
Vikki Clayton stepped on stage. Vikki is quite probably one of the best female
vocalists around at the moment, and has never failed to excel in my experience,
helped immensely by her exceptional ability at reviving the work of the late,
great, Sandy Denny, rightly considered by many as the best ever.
However, the biggest hit of the evening had to be Edward II, a band I'd not
even heard of before, but quite rightly somewhat successful. Fusing deep
reggae beats and basslines with admittedly quite cheesy folk riffs on melodeon
and fiddle, they really got the crowd going like no-one else on Friday, and
probably came the closest to getting me to patronise the CD stand. Headlining
for the night was Roy Wood's Army, technically very accomplished, but somehow
just a little too clinical for most people's liking.
The downside of Friday was the temperamental weather, however. The odd light
shower during the day had kept people on their toes - and missing half the
Vikki Clayton set whilst fetching waterproofs, there not being much use of
mind-altering substances to make the crowd oblivious to such distractions - but
the latter half of Roy Woods' set really was miserable and cold, with only his
tacky encore - and biggest hit - "I wish it could be Christmas every day" to
keep the punters cheerful, and a damp night ensued.
Saturday morning was squelchy, but the sun barely stopped shining all day, so
things soon dried out, and a relaxed afternoon in the arena was enjoyed by all.
Hank Wangford's set offered a good opportunity to go and get changed and have
a cheap bite to eat, country and western not being our favourite infused
tipple, but then it was non-stop until gone midnight in the company of Loudon
Wainwright - who was better than I'd remembered him from his regular spot on
Jasper Carrott's show - and of course Fairport Convention.
Fairport were as utterly brilliant as ever, and indeed arguably better as they
avoided most of the more boring songs they often seem to pad their shows out
with, and kicked off with the ever-fabulous "The lark in the morning"
instrumental medley, which always bodes well. Special guests were in
abundance, with the highlights probably being Loudon Wainwright again, David
Hughes and Maartin Alcock - though it has to be said that althugh Maart is a
great musician who I respect immensely, he should avoid singing at all cost.
Sunday morning I was up in good time, wanting to make a fairly early getaway,
which I basically managed, although the tent was soaking from dew - amazingly
it was worse than it had been after Friday night's rain - but it soon dried out
hung up on my washing line back at home. The journey back home was
straightforward but slow, not helped by the signposting unhelpfully leading
through-traffic right through Buckingham town centre, and then generally
pedestrian queues of traffic between Buckingham and Milton Keynes.
Although finding Beardy and companions turned out to be fairly painless, I
never did meet up with Simon and Ruf who were supposed to have been there on
Saturday - though with 30,000 people, versus the village's usual 600, it was
going to be tough finding them - but I did bump into Guy from work, there with
friends from London, which was a complete surprise. The Franciscan contingent
there were very friendly and welcoming, and I spent a fair bit of time in their
company, breaking bread with them on Saturday morning.
So all in all, yes, a fantastic weekend away, and I was back in time - once I'd
had a bath and gone shopping - to go to the afternoon picnic down at the Kings
Centre, the perfect end to a wonderful weekend. I suspect it will be quite
depressing having to go back to work tomorrow morning, and face miserable
projects which only I had been able to forget for a couple of days, but the
memories of the weekend will stay with me for a long time, and I genuinely
suspect that it will be but the first of many Cropredies for me.