What NOT to do ...
So last week I was in Sidmouth, South West England, for the annual folk music festival, which did NOT end with a ceilidh in the ford. Yes, there was absolutely NO country dancing in the river, no following the instructions of a caller and old time tunes played live on guitars, accordions, fiddles and the rest on the river bank, and no targetted splashing by over-excitred young people at all. This event, which would obviously breach Elf and Safety were it to actually happen, mysteriously involves everyone playing along with a collective pretence that there IS a ceilidh in the river at 3 pm every last friday of the annual Sidmouth Folk Fest. which is an interesting model for how to deal with ridiculous laws..
it seems a fine example of how we can all just make like the government, and if we happen to be asked, say any legal breach never happened. was never going to happen. couldn't possible happen. honest.
I might be dripping wet in the middle of town with a big grin on my face and a diddly tune in my ear, but at least there was no breach of the law.
Earlier that day, what definitely did, um, did not, umm... anyway, happen, was the launch of Folk Against Fascism, featuring lots of my favourite English folkies like the two Johns (Spiers and Boden), Eliza Carthy and newcomer (to me at least) Dogan Mehmet with an absolutely blistering version of the Raggle Taggle Gypsies. They are all part of a new initiative to expose and confront the British National Party (BNP)'s efforts to inveigle its nasty brutish and racist ways into the folk world, claiming that somehow English culture is not for us all. the folk world is a largely non-political place in my experience, but it does have a strong and fundamental openness to new ideas, new people, new instruments and (especially) new tunes which is heartening, usually beautiful, and quite often fun. So the idea of Folk Against Fascism is to make sure that that English traditions, and the new evolutions of our shared folk culture in these lands that build upon the old, are not twisted into something nasty but instead stay open to all, from wherever in the world, and whatever parentage, shape, size or colour we may be.
Look out for the FaF concerts round St George's Day next year - this year's presence of dubmaster Adrian Sherwood mixing a gig at Cecil Sharp House (the English Folk Music and Dance and Song Society, in Camden, London) on 23rd April was a step in a good direction for sure!
Listen to audio from the FaF launch.