Moseley Folk Festival Photography by Rob Hadley with Review by Steve Crawford, Andrew Wilson, Sean Thompson + Denise Wilson

The festival god’s blessed the 13th Moseley Folk Festival with glorious sunshine for the whole three days, which is only fair and right seeing as how they damned Moseley’s sister festival, Lunar to a torrents of rain for much of that weekend. And no matter how much rain makes for the “proper” festival experience, being dry, warm to hot (possible for the last time this year), makes for a much more pleasant festival. So karma readdressed and lucky 13 for some and all, Moseley got under way on the afternoon of Friday 31st August.

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To set the scene for those not familiar with the festival. As may be garnered from the name, the festival is set in the Birmingham suburb of Moseley, a fairly well-to-do leafy location of three story houses and a high street of independent and artisan cafés, coffee shops, pubs and eateries with still a distinctly bohemian feel to the place.

The festival itself is held in the usually private Moseley Park, access to which is gained through an unprepossessing, almost secret alleyway entrance just off the busy high street; if you weren’t looking for it you wouldn’t know it was there. The alleyway opens up into the naturally slopped park, making it a shallow amphitheatre, with the two stages: the Main Stage and the smaller Lunar Stage to the left-hand side situated at the bottom. A new feature of Moseley this year was the Folk on the Slope area which saw the Kitchen Garden Stage host a variety of local artists including Steelin’ Blues; R John Robb (of Rhino and the Ranters); Esther Turner and pulling in the biggest crowd of the weekend Steve Gibbons. Again making use of the park’s natural slopes the acts are framed against the backdrop of the lake. Oasis is an over-used word to describe such settings but in this case it’s absolutely true, a beautiful hidden gem in a busy city and an ideal setting for festivals.

Moseley is the small but perfectly proportioned festival and very family friendly with plenty of workshops and activates that run over the weekend. Live art also takes place over the duration; returning local artists Kaytee DeWolfe and Title Millsy creating the familiar murals that adorn the site. There’s a strong community feel to the festival and with no overnight camping facilities much of the festival audience are drawn from the immediate Birmingham area you see the same faces turn up year after year but is isn’t cliquey or exclusive, all are welcomed.

Head-liners this year were The Levellers, Nick Mulvey and Teenage Fanclub on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The Levellers head-lined Moseley in 2016, so maybe it was too soon for them to return? Apparently not. Their second visit pulled in the biggest crowd of the weekend and good to see many audience member keeping the crusty dread-lock look alive and kicking. It was a celebratory set, playing all the big numbers with much dancing and cheers from the crowd. Even non- Levellers fans found that they recognised more songs than they previously thought; although not all people appreciated them, the didgeridoo proving too much for one festival goer.

In contrast to The Leveller’s mostly middle-aged crowd, Saturday’s head-liner, former Portico Quartet member, Nick Mulvey drew a younger twenty something crowd. A more mellow head-liner than the previous night’s; his wistful, poignant world music sound brought Saturday to a close.

There was much affection and love for Sunday head-liners Teenage Fanclub, members of which are spotted watching Seamus Fogarty on the Lunar stage before their set, duly obliging in signing autographs and have pictures taken with obviously thrilled fans. It’s also one of the last opportunities to see the band before the departure of founding member Gerard Love at the end of the year. As you’d expect glorious melodies ring out from the guitars as vocal duties are shared between the three front men of the band. Probably drawing the second largest crowd of the weekend.

What’s always great about Moseley Folk Festival are those acts that you have little or no knowledge of that become the discovery of the weekend and leave their indelible mark on you and your music collection. Some names in particular kept cropping up as acts that made an impact on this year’s festival goers.

Experimental folk artist Richard Dawson, really divided opinion, being possibly the most challenging act of the weekend? But like many things that are challenging and need persistence they often become ultimately the more rewarding for it. Playing on the main stage on the Friday the Richard Dawson experience can be summed up by a couple of festival goers thus:

“He was like something from the Wicker Man, uncomfortable to listen to at points but persevere and he’s rewarding. No structure to his songs but there’s a magic to that as you can’t second guess him; you just don’t know where his songs were going”. “Richard Dawson was the best act today. He was a challenge to watch but ultimately worthwhile, but I reckon 80% of people hated him?”

Honey Harper who played the Lunar Stage on Saturday was described as “the love child of Gram Parsons and Jim Morrison” a “pastel Goth”; blue hair, blue eye-liner, snakeskin trousers; a languid, louche country rock-star with a beautiful voice and a band that looked like they’d stepped out of a David Lynch film. There was a real surge to see him as he started his set of slow-drawl melancholic country American dream pop. “He was an absolute revelation” one audience member put it.

Steve Harley and the Cockney Rebel became the first act to play in Moseley’s newly created Sunday Legend’s Special Guest slot and, as is quoted in the programme as Britain’s best kept live secret. And ain’t that the truth. The man himself limped onto the stage after suffering a recent fall and had to play sitting down throughout the set but nevertheless delivered a stellar performance backed by the fantastic Cockney Rebel. Finishing up with Make Me Smile (Come up and See Me) which unsurprisingly got the biggest cheer and had a majority of the crowd singing along ,only to be admonished by Steve for being out of tune.

Hi-energy folkers Skinny Lister really got crowd going with their upbeat pop folk, encouraging a sing-along, whilst igniting the crowd on Saturday and bringing their Algerian Tuareg desert rock to the festival were Imarhan. Just a brilliant combination Afro beats against a droning fuzz sound.

Jim White who headlined the Lunar stage on the Saturday performed with what was described as “an honest vulnerability from the heart, with a story telling that connects with people”; great stories about each song with a raw simple sound, no doubt gaining a few new fans in the process.

A double dose of rockabilly, country-blues garage rock (n’roll) was provided by the always fantastic Swampmeat Family Band, who opened the Lunar stage on the Friday and returned again on the Sunday as last minute replacements for Stick in the Wheel who had to pull out due to illness. Speaking of the blues: Jack Blackman and his band provided a fine Americana-bluesy set earlier in the day, No Stranger to Misery being a particular highlight.

Headlining the Lunar Stage on the Sunday was Seamus Fogarty, (complete with members of Teenage Fanclub in the audience looking on) who was delightful, amiable and whimsical. It’s folk but with electronic, loops and samples all added in.

This Is The Kit aka Kate Stables and co seemed genuinely really happy to be playing the festival, giving a shout out to all the Kates and Katies in attendance. A distinctive mike style having it set higher than she is meaning when she sang she had to stand on tip-toe to reach it. Described as “slightly shambolic but honest, genuine and lovely” A probably very rare mistake? was laughed off with “you wouldn’t think we’d been on tour for a year” – it’s probably exhaustion?

King Creosote was another weekend revelation, accompanied by a fine band of musicians “he had such a plaintive, sorrowful voice racked full of emotion, you couldn’t help but be touched by his performance”.

Bringing the actual “folk” to the festival were a mixture of seasoned veterans and legends from the folk world like Martin Carthy and Brigid St John alongside the younger although no-less talented artists such as Katherine Priddy,  Keto, Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton.

So back to Teenage Fanclub who finish with a first: their very first single: ‘Everything Flows’ which is greeted with much delight from the fans and closes the Moseley Folk Festival 2018 on a high and marking the end of summer.

Esther Turner

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Keto

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David Campbell

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R John Webb

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Hannah Johnson

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Steelin’ the Blues

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Corn Potato String Band

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Show of Hands

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High Horses

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The Levellers

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Katherine Priddy

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The Katies

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Imarhan

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Honey Harper

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In contrast to The Leveller’s mostly middle-aged crowd, Saturday’s head-liner, former Portico Quartet member, Nick Mulvey drew a younger twenty something crowd. A more mellow head-liner than the previous night’s; his wistful, poignant world music sound brought Saturday to a close.

Nick Mulvey

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Steve Gibbons

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Steve Harley

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Swampmeat Family Band

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King Creosote

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Seamus Fogarty

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Teenage Fanclub

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See the complete photoset from Moseley Folk Festival 2018 here.

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