Nowhere, yet everywhere
Nights Out? Are you serious?
In the tradition of Russian election results, this is part announcement and part review in that we already know what is going to happen. By now it is accepted that Covid 19 has laid waste to the entire festival season, not to mention gigs at every other live venue, and people are getting nervous about when or even whether the new normal will accommodate such things. But you can’t keep a good festival down. So the lovely people of Chester Folk Festival have pulled together a remarkably full and diverse programme for an online festival. Chester is at the smaller end of the festival spectrum, and so is even more of a genuine community than most. I shall miss tonight’s reacquaintances with those that I meet year after year in the pubs and beer tents. But lo! there is a virtual beer tent; there are singarounds; there are chances to chat to the artists; there are even dance workshops – all Zoomed into your living room, of course. As for the gigs, these have been painstakingly stitched together from lockdown-recorded footage, provided by artists who had been booked for the festival; from archive footage from previous years; and in a manner very true to the festival’s roots, from home videos by the many involved in the active local folk scene. In particular, I would point Afterworders to last year’s performance of Liege and Lief by Chester stalwarts Full House. This has been a labour of love – love of the festival, love of companionship and community, love of the tradition. From what I gather, some of the organisers have been kept more occupied than if the festival had run physically. It deserves to be a success.
It will be interesting to see how it turns out,and how many turn out. I will be there breaking down the flaps of the beer tent when it opens tonight, hoping to meet old friends. For me, the test will be the singarounds. Will the screen be just a frame for noughts and crosses, or will it be fractured into a Roman mosaic of all those wishing to join in?
Initial indications are positive. Friends are telling me that they are planning to sleep out in caravans on the drive, and apparently this is not an isolated case. People want to get in the mood and, perhaps more than ever, fancy the escapism and immersion of a festival.
It made me think..
Up to now, this is the only one of ‘my’ festivals that is going online and it’s a testament to the dedication of the organisers, and the fact that Chester is run by volunteers and not for profit. I can’t see Cropredy going online somehow.