The latest in the occasional series “Arty Donny” takes in the 2015 Doncaster Folk Festival. I spoke to local musician Mick Jenkinson.
Doncaster Folk Festival has been going awhile, now. Is it 10 years?
I have been involved for four years, so I rely on others for information before then. I believe this is either the eighth, or the ninth. I need to find that out, don’t I?
Yep! When is it? It’s moved about a bit. I seem to remember it being in March for a few years.
Yes, it was much earlier in the year when it started, but I guess it was too far removed from the traditional festival season. We have settled on the weekend before the Spring Bank Holiday, so this year we are 15th – 17th May.
And where is the festival? Are you back at the Ukranian Centre? What about the ceilidh?
The main music venue is The Ukrainian Centre on Beckett Road: a lovely, intimate, and welcoming concert hall with great lights, and sound. The Saturday night ceilidh is at The Deaf Trust College on Leger Way opposite the race course.
I always enjoy the dancers: one year, there were even some children’s Morris sides. It was great, they had such fun. How many sides can we expect to see this year, and where will they be dancing?
We have been working really hard at building it up over the past couple of years, and the Day of Dance has become an important part of the weekend. This year we have the biggest Festival of Traditional Dance ever held in Doncaster, with 11 dance teams: that’s over 100 dancers.
They will be kicking off at 10:30am on Saturday 16 May at four sites across the town: The Market Place, High Street, Priory Walk and Waterdale, and then concluding with an ensemble finale in the beautiful surroundings of the new Sir Nigel Gresley Square at around 3.30pm. It will be quite a spectacle.
I’ve seen some smashing acts at past Donny Folk Fests: my favourite was Les Barker, who is a marvelously entertaining poet, and humourist. Who’s on the bill this year?
We have to start by mentioning our Saturday night headliners, The Young’uns, as they are just about the hottest thing on the folk circuit right now. They have received a host of awards this year but the one everyone is talking about was the BBC Radio Folk Band of the Year. They have been selling out across the country, so it is obviously a real coup to get them to Donny.
Headlining Friday is The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band, a terrific festival band who took the roof off when they played our showcase concert back in March.
We always aim at a balance of the old and the new, traditional and contemporary, high energy stuff with the more contemplative. It is central to what we do to present the breadth of what folk, roots and acoustic music represents. All the artist details and line-ups are on the Festival website.
I understand that the Notorious Aardvark Record Shop is taking part this year. Are you keen to add new venues?
The Notorious Aardvark is curating the Saturday afternoon stage at the Ukrainian, so they have put together that line-up for us. Alistair Pearson, Mr Junior Aardvark, will be MC and is also performing: he is a terrific songwriter.
But yes, we are keen to stage events elsewhere in the town, and also to invite venues to stage their own ‘Folk Festival Week’ events. We have a musicians’ session on Friday the 15th at the Deaf Trust, a mixed session – musicians and singers – on Saturday the 16th afternoon at The Brewery, and then later that day another more singaround-based one in the Salutation pub hosted by our ceilidh band Alterego: that one should get going around 3.00pm.
On Sunday 17th, the afternoon is given over to the traditional “survivors’ session” in the Masons Arms, which again is singers and players and always a terrific atmosphere, even for folks who only come to listen.
Talk to me about the Word … the “Spoken Word” event, that is, which I understand kicks off the festival on the Thursday (14 May) at a new venue, Doncaster Brewery Tap. Which isn’t a new venue for “Spoken Word”, but is for the festival. If you know what I mean. (Please, explain what I mean!)
Our ‘Well Spoken!’ Event at The Brewery is held on the second Thursday of each month, so as it falls on Festival week, it was natural to include it in the Festival calendar.
I have included poetry on the festival stages previously, so it is not such a radical move, and there does seem to be a natural fit between the two forms. Well Spoken! is an open-mic format poetry/prose evening which has been running for six months now, and has proved a huge success. To make the most of the tie-in with festival week we have our first ever guest performer. Steve Ely, a published poet and also an acknowledged expert on Ted Hughes, will be the featured artist for the evening. All are welcome, performers and listeners, and it’s free!
So, how do I go about getting a ticket? I’m free on the Friday, can I get a day ticket? And are there weekend tickets available, too?
There is every combination of ticket for the Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening concert sets, and the ceilidh, too. They are all available here or, alternatively, for those who live locally, call Derek on 01302 328756 or call in at the Ukrainian Centre.
What about the out of towners, who prefer to camp, rather than stay in one of Donny’s wide selection of hotels, and B & Bs? Is there camping again this year?
Camping is at The Deaf Trust as usual, and the facilities are excellent: we are constantly complimented on them. The site is 20 minutes’ walk from The Ukrainian Centre, and the same to the town centre. It is also on a main bus route. Camping tickets and hook-ups are available here.
Last but not least, tell us about the beer. Because a folk festival without beer is like a fancy handbag without a chihuahua.
Yes, if folks are joining us for the weekend, we need to keep them sustained. The Ukrainian Centre keeps an excellent pint, and will have a rotating selection from Grafters, Welbeck Abbey, Leeds, and Acorn Breweries with, of course, our own Doncaster Brewery taking centre stage. They are even producing a new brew for us titled FestivAle. And, needless to say, the pubs in the town that are host ing our sessions and singarounds have been selected for their commitment to quality beer, too!
Oh, and we can’t finish without mentioning the food on offer at the Ukrainian Centre. Our in-house catering is legendary, and will feature a selection of stews, curries, pies, and no doubt some menu items I have not been told about yet, all served with wonderful home baked bread.
Thanks for your time, Mick. See you at the festival!
All photos courtesy the artists, except for the one of Mick Jenkinson, which was taken by myself.