The Kielder Folk Festival

The day we went to Kielder, there were lots of folk there
Afternoon concerts, in the open air
Competitions for musicians, and those who knew a song
And if they had a chorus, we would sing along

It was on a Saturday morning that we set off for the day
Tyneside we left behind, we were on our way
Westwards to Hexham, northwards up through wall
Past Bellingham and Fallstone and the Kielder Dam so tall                     CHORUS

We called in the Kielder Club, where I had a few
There was singing in the backroom so I joined in too
Then the wife says “It’s a lovely day I think I’ll get sun tanned
And you’d better come along with me, before you get half canned”     CHORUS

I followed her outside the club and through the countryside
Across a wooden footbridge that wasn’t very wide
Then I heard the sound of music from no so far away
As outside the village centre a band began to play                                   CHORUS

We went across to watch them and found ourselves a seat
The wife got her sun tan sitting in the heat
And I had a couple of pints as the band did play
‘Cos in the village centre the bar was on all day                                        CHORUS

Credits: Wilf Mitford, Vocals & Guitar; Pamela Mitford & Julia Mitford, Recorder; Helen Robson, Flute; Granny (Rosemary) Robson, Piano Accordion.

[From September 2017] Well I’ve just been to my first folk festival in quite some years and what fun it was.  I went with my husband and my young daughter who was excited to experience her first ‘bush dance’ or ceilidhi as I knew it growing up.  It reminded me of some of the festivals we went to as a family when I was little.  There was the Morpeth Gathering, the Alnwick International Festival, Rothbury Traditional Music Festival, and the Kielder Folk Festival.  I’m sure there were more, but these are the ones that stick out in my memory.  In later life I was lucky enough to be involved with Folkworks’ Durham Gathering & Hexham Gathering.  They must have all happened in the summer as I have glorious memories of sunshiny days with music on the breeze.  Last weekend’s visit to Folk by the Sea in Kiama, NSW, evoked many of those memories.  I must admit we were absolutely spoiled with the coastal location.

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I really enjoy camping these days with my family, and after camping at Folk by the Sea I’m left wondering how our experience would have differed if we’d camped at the Northumberland festivals all those years ago.  Anyway, I decided to sing at one of the blackboard sessions in Kiama and did a few traditional Geordie numbers which seemed to go down quite well.  I like the idea of getting to more folk festivals in Australia, though fitting it in with family / work commitments is proving trickier than I expected.

The Kielder Festival stands out in my mind and I remember, though possibly only from photographs (more of which I hope to add at a later date), playing at sessions with Joe Hutton, Willy Taylor and Will Atkinson, collectively know as The Shepherds, plus Alistair Anderson & Katheryn Tickell.

Dad, Granny Robson, Pamela, me & Helen at a session at Kielder. We’re sitting opposite Will playing spoons.
Joe Hutton, Will Taylor and Will Atkinson

Katheryn and Alistair got a mention in the original draft of the song, but for some reason Dad decided not to use them in the final version we performed and recorded;

The concertina player was the leader of the band
Alistair Anderson, known throughout the land
Northumbrian pipes and fiddle were both played very well
By that talented musician Kathryn Tickell

And when it was time to go the wife said that we should
Drive along the forest road and view the man made wood
As the car bumped along that track a few names she was called
Cos it knocked out the tracking and made the tyres bald.

The festivals like Kielder provided a wonderful opportunity for us all to have a go at getting up in front of an audience and performing.   The competitions gave us a chance to hone our performance skills and get some feedback on how we were doing.  It’s also where Dad got feedback on his songs.  Without festivals like this offering an opportunity for budding musicians young and old to jam at sessions, have a go at solo performance, and get to know other musicians there’s no doubt the experiences we had in music which followed would never have happened.  It’s why it’s great to see so many festivals still running both in the UK and here in Australia, and to see them support and showcase up & coming artists as well as experienced well loved favourites.

Pamela, Dad & I have quite the collection of trophies from the festivals.  Most of mine were for singing, Pamela for her instrumental skills and Dad for songwriting & singing.  Competitions were a big part of the festivals in Northumberland and we became very much regulars on the circuit along with some other musical families like The Bibbies, The Wilsons, and Sandra & Nancy Kerr.   Of course Dad never missed an opportunity for publicity for the band, and consequently I have numerous press clippings documenting our various successes at festivals.




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Keilder Folk Festival by Wilf Mitford is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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