How Purbeck Folk Festival is capturing the spirit of how festivals once were

Folkies young and old decorate the Wishing Tree

Folkies young and old decorate the Wishing Tree

First published in News by

The family-friendly Purbeck Folk Festival, which takes place over August bank holiday weekend on a 600-acre working sheep farm in the heart of the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, is a reminder of the way festivals used to be.

Festival director Michael Callaghan told Seven Days: “Purbeck sets out to capture the spirit of how festivals were when they were gatherings of friends rather than a lifestyle choice.

“Families are welcome, there’s lots of space for camping, loads of things for children of all ages to do. It’s a place to come and feel free in the countryside. We don’t have corporate sponsors and the food and drink are wholesome and sensibly priced.”

Having won the prestigious Fatea Music Award for Countryside Festival Of The Year, Purbeck Folk Festival has lined up its strongest musical bill to date with headliners including Turin Brakes, Eddi Reader, Idlewild Acoustic, singer songwriter Lloyd Cole, The (still beautiful) South, British folk stalwart Chris Wood and chart toppers Nizlopi.

Also on the bill for the third year in a row is rising teenage folk star Aimée MacKenzie.

Her parents brought her to the festival as a young child, then, as her own musical career started to take shape they approached the organisers for a spot on the bill.

After her first show as a 16-year-old solo performer in 2012 she so impressed headliner KT Tunstall that the Scottish star offered her studio time and has taken an interest in Aimée’s progress ever since.

She came back last year with her younger sister Freya and brother Ross in tow prompting Steve Knightley from Show of Hands to pronounce them “Just about the best young English acoustic band I’ve heard.” Praise indeed.

The musical action takes place in covered barns, but there’s much more than music on offer with a host of additional entertainment that includes an on-site cinema programme, art interventions and workshops, a fancy dress parade, a poetry slam, kids’ activity pen and a beer festival with 40 local real ales, 20 ciders and even a Dorset pils lager.

This year the children’s activities are better than ever with captivating storytelling sessions, singing workshops, balloon modelling, loads of face painting and circus skills have-a-go sessions. There are also magic shows, jugglers, puppet shows and music workshops where the young guns can make a lot of noise, before a special lullabies singing group calms things down in the evening.

“Our Festival theme this year is the letter P,” added Michael.

“And there are prizes for all the kids who join in the fancy dress parade – probably for their mums and dads as well.”

Other prizes are available in the bizarre Beard Off and facial fuzz is very much the order of the day as Purbeck Folk Festival issues a challenge to the young folks and old folkies alike – get your beard on!

With prizes awarded for most creative facial hair, the biggest and fullest fuzz and the best non-beard attempt, there’s also a special award for the best try. A crash course for the shavers is available from the Festival Fuzz beard police who will be patrolling the site on the look-out for facial hair outrages, although in the interests of fairness, the contest is open to all-comers regardless of age, gender or even the actual existence of facial hair. Entries are expected to include knitted, woven, drawn and painted beards!

Weekend tickets (Fri-Sun) include free camping are £90 (£45 12-17 years, £10 4-11 years, under-4s free). Day camping is available on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at £10 a night on arrival.

A limited number of festival day tickets are also available.

Located in the village of Langton Matravers between Corfe Castle and Swanage, the land at Wilkswood Farm is devoted to conservation and environmental protection of a wide range of habitats. There’s a handy bus to Corfe Castle/Wareham and Swanage every hour both ways, while Harmans Cross station is a 15-minute walk away where you can catch the steam train to Swanage or Corfe Castle.

  • Purbeck Folk Festival, 21-24 August, Wilkswood Farm, Langton Matravers, Swanage, BH19 3DU. Box office: 02380 711818

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