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Hedge Fest 2008

Sian Claire Owen donned her Aran jumper, grabbed a pipe and fiddle, and went to investigate this pioneering Nu-Folk festival

Published on August 6th 2008.


Hedge Fest 2008

Summer festivals. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. We pay through the nose for the privilege of standing in a muddy field to watch mediocre bands, drink overpriced luke-warm lager, and endure toilet facilities of unspeakable horror. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

People expecting folksy ‘Molly-wants-a -fondle-in-the-lido’ numbers were sorely disappointed. Contemporary folk has as much unrequited love, tragically avoidable deaths, incest and murder ballads as traditional folk, but, let’s face it, it's cooler.

We all know that there are plenty of alternative mini-fests cropping up in response to the ‘Festivals-R-Us’ format (ie mega-corporate, mega-expensive, and mega-predictable), and Manchester’s Hedge Fest, held this weekend at Saint Margaret’s Church in Whalley Range, was no exception.

Featuring the crème-de-la-crème of the Nu-Folk scene and ram-packed with folky-fashionistas, Hedge Fest 2008 had oodles of atmosphere, great food, wine and beer, kids' workshops, and most importantly a seriously impressive line-up. And all for £13.

'Prick your finger, fall down a well'

People expecting folksy ‘Molly-Wants-A-Fondle-in-the-Lido’ numbers were sorely disappointed. Contemporary folk has as much unrequited love, tragically avoidable deaths, incest and murder ballads as traditional folk, but, let’s face it, it's cooler. The artists often blur the lines between traditional folk and electronica, and probably cause purists to choke on their pints of Tetley Mix. Think Hoxton meets Rod, Jane and Freddy and you’re near the mark.

Throughout the day the bands were up close and personal, and the punters were totally appreciative. Manchester acts Bone-Box and Aidan Smith were among those who appeared. Most of the performances took place inside a spooky old church, which probably helped; any heckling may have resulted in a swift bolt of lightning from above.

'Johnny shot his girlfriend 'cause he mistook her for a swan'

Hedge Fest 2008 is an extension of the regular acoustic night held every third Friday at The Carlton in Whalley Range. Local folkster, Jo Thomas, is the brainchild behind these happenings.

“I’ve always wanted to do a mini-festival, being a keen festival-goer myself,” she explains. “It’s great because there’s so much talent in Manchester, it provides an opportunity for musicians to perform to a wider audience.”

But hold on, isn’t folk exclusively for bearded men who sing sea shanties? Well, there were certainly some impressive bouts of facial hair knocking about, but less bearded women than you’d expect from your average folk festival.

“Hedge Fest certainly appeals across the board,” says Thomson. “I think that stems from people coming away from the dance music and DJ scene, and craving something a bit more rootsy, certainly in Manchester anyway.”

'Young Sally went away to sea, disguised as a cabin boy'

Most of the bands that played are well known on the Nu-Folk scene but are largely obscure to the world at large. And this was arguably the best aspect, because the festival became a goldmine of musical discovery.

To embrace one's inner Spinal Tap, the people worshipped at the Alter of (Folk) Rock while the artists cranked it up to 11. And when virtuoso guitarist John Smith announced to the congregation that he “loved the bit at the end of the Bible where the writer was on acid” there was a wave of suppressed sniggering followed by an urge to find the nearest confessional booth. People felt naughty, it was a delightfully odd experience.

'The rich lord's wife has run away with the gypsies, so saddle up his finest horse'

All in all, Hedge Fest 2008 was a beautiful day out, man. Kiddies and grown-ups alike basked in the shadow of Saint Margaret’s Church, listened to exceptional music, and were all very nice and friendly to each other.

No crowds, no drunken idiots, no nose-bleed-inducing dance tents. Just lovely music, great food, and good company. And so as the sun set over Whalley Range, onlookers and artists alike made their way back home; contented and happy that their faith in the spirit of music festivals had been fully restored.

For more information on Hedge events, visit: myspace.com/hedgefolk

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AnonymousAugust 6th 2008.

I agree with all that was said in your article about Hedgefest. However, it should have been much more commumity orientated. The price of £15 on the door was outrageously expensive. It makes you wonder who was making a quick buck out of what should have been a lovely day out for local & non-local people.It was a lovely event, but should it have been so exclusive? I'm not suggesting it should have been a full on festival, but perhaps the organisers should have looked to the successful Whalley Range Festival as their guide & not been so greedy money-wise.

EditorialAugust 6th 2008.

Thanks for pointing that out. We've corrected it now.

johnAugust 6th 2008.

Aaron jumper? Doh.

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