I have only recently (within the last couple of years) really been introduced to this band. I know that Sword has always been a huge fan, and I do remember him both mentioning them, and playing some of their stuff to me over the last few years. But not being a folkie myself, I never really paid much attention. But by sheer coincidence, when meeting my lovely partner, Lord Andy, just over a year ago, it turned out that Andy actually worked for the band back in the 80’s, when he created a lot of their marketing and merchandising artwork. So needless to say, Andy and Sword are now bestest buddies and Andy keeps Sword regaled with all the Fairport trivia and gossip that he can remember 🙂 (Like the fact that their song, Jewel in the Crown, is actually about the band’s favourite Indian restaurant in Banbury) You’ll find several posters and album covers up on the walls at the bistro – some of which were designed by Andy!
At this point, being as I was too young to remember anything about this era of music (unlike the old boys), I will give a brief Fairport bio (taken from dear old Wikipedia), but of course, you can always get a far more detailed and direct history of the band from their own website: http://www.fairportconvention.com/history_of_fairport.php
A Brief History
Fairport Convention are an English folk rock and electric folk band. Formed in 1967, they are widely regarded as the most important group in the English folk rock movement. Their seminal album Liege & Lief is considered to have launched the electric folk or English folk rock movement, which provided a distinctively English identity to rock music and helped awaken much wider interest in traditional music in general. The large number of personnel who have been part of the band are among the most highly regarded and influential musicians of their era and have gone on to participate in a large number of significant bands, or enjoyed important solo careers. The mainstream media has increasingly recognized Fairport Convention’s historical importance. They received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 2002 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. In the same year Free Reed Records, an independent label, released Fairport Unconventional, a four-CD boxed set of rare and unreleased recordings from the band’s 35-year career. At the 2006 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards they received an award when their seminal album Liege & Lief was voted ‘Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’ by Radio 2 listeners. At the 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Fairport Convention received an award recognising the late Sandy Denny and the band for ‘Favourite Folk Track Of All Time’ for Who Knows Where the Time Goes? By 1979 the mainstream market for folk rock had largely disappeared, the band had no record deal and Dave Swarbrick had been diagnosed with tinnitus which made loud electric gigs increasingly difficult. Fairport decided to disband. They played a farewell tour and a final outdoor concert on 4 August in Cropredy, the Oxfordshire village where Dave and Christine Pegg lived. The finality of this occasion was mitigated by the announcement that the band would meet for a reunion. No record company wanted to release the live recordings of the tour and concert, so the Peggs founded Woodworm Records, which would be the major outlet for the band in the future. Members continued to take part in occasional gigs, particularly in festivals in continental Europe, and after a year they staged a reunion concert in Cropredy which became the annual Cropredy Festival. Over the next few years, it grew rapidly and emerged as the major mechanism for sustaining the band. In August 1981, the band held their annual reunion concert at Broughton Castle, rather than the usual Cropredy location. The concert was recorded, and released on the 1982 album Moat on the Ledge. Since 1979, they have hosted the Cropredy Festival every year, which is the largest such annual event in England. Individually and collectively the members of Fairport Convention have received numerous awards recognizing their contribution to music and culture. As of 2014, they continue to record and tour.
Classic recording of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” with Sandy Denny
The band has been through several changes of members, and the current lineup consists of:
- Simon Nicol – guitar, lead vocal (1967–1971, 1976-1979, 1985–present)
- Dave Pegg (Peggy) – bass guitar, mandolin, backing vocal (1969-1979, 1985–present)
- Ric Sanders – fiddles, occasional keyboards (1985–present)
- Chris Leslie – fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki, lead vocal (1996–present)
- Gerry Conway – drums and percussion (1998–present)
What the band say about about the Cropredy festival:
Cropredy is a pretty village five miles north of Banbury in Oxfordshire. Every August, its inhabitants welcome an invasion of up to 20,000 music-lovers for Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. The event is held over the second full weekend of August, from Thursday afternoon to midnight on Saturday. Organised by Fairport Convention itself, this outdoor extravaganza has been held annually since the 1970s so the audience includes children (and even grandchildren) of festival-goers who’ve been coming back year after year. There is also a strong contingent of younger newcomers each year. This gives the event a uniquely ‘family-friendly’ atmosphere and a real sense of tradition. What’s more, first-timers – ‘Cropredy virgins’ – are given an especially warm welcome.
What they don’t mention is that over the years, this festival has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the local community. Chris even wrote a song, Festival Bell, especially to commemorate the new church bell which the festival was able to buy for the village, and rings every day in the church of St Mary’s, Cropredy.
The band also invite lots of young artists to perform at the festival and give them the opportunity to get great exposure whilst introducing them to a large, appreciative crowd. And of course, as well the youngsters, there are always the old regulars, and surprise guest appearances from celebrity friends of the band.
So if you fancy a few days lazing in the sunshine and listening to music, take a look at the Cropredy Festival. It runs on the second full weekend of August, from Thursday to Saturday, so you get 3 full days of non-stops acts. You can camp on the site, or find a local Bed & Breakfast nearby. It’s a proper hippie festival with the most relaxed, laid back atmosphere you can imagine. There is a cross-section of age groups, though the majority tend to be of a more mature generation. It’s great to see grandparents who have been going to the festival for over 30 years, there with their children, and grandchildren.
Keep an eye on the Fairport site for updates at the beginning of the year on the forthcoming acts for the year.
I’ll be adding new pages for many of the acts we’ve seen at Cropredy in the last couple of years, so do check them out as there are some great and unexpected treats there 🙂
And here, just because I love some of the artwork, is a selection of Fairport’s album covers..