What an unbelievably fantastic day we had at the Hothouse festival last Saturday! It was my first festival at Halsway and I didn’t really know what to expect. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised! The day started with sunshine! The weather faeries were definitely looking down on us after the ridiculous cold spells we have been having! We couldn’t have wished for better. It was glorious. At any given time during the day, you could see children,big and small, running around outside, using jumpers for goalposts, making faery houses, building dens, having picnics, and taking naps… all against a backdrop of some of the most amazing young talent I have personally ever had the pleasure of listening to.
I sadly missed The Drystones’ performance, but met them in the shed after their gig – the songs from the shed, shed… not just any old shed. www.songsfromtheshed.com took residence in our shed on the hill for the day and all the performers visited and recorded acoustic sessions in there which will be available to view very soon on YouTube and of course all over Facebook and Google Plus as well. Apparently I missed a good show from The Drystones, which I realised (sadly and belatedly) as I hung around outside the shed as they were recording their acoustic session.
One of the first sets I got to see was Ceilidh-Jo Rowe. What a voice! Ceilidh-Jo (and the other performers) was playing in the smaller of the two rooms and I have to say this was my favourite room to be in. It was small, cosy, comfortable and compact. Everyone squeezed in, and more people stood by the door and piled outside. If you were outside, the windows to the room were open and the beautiful sounds of Ceilidh-Jo floated down on to the lawn for the people who were sitting there, eating, drinking, and watching their children play. It was great to see so many people bring their children, and incredible to see how all the children found each other and made friends so easily. There was nothing specific for children to do, but that was the beauty of it! They made their own fun.
After Ceilidh-Jo, we had the fabulous hothouse performance. The week before the festival we were running a Hothouse Course for young musicians, dancers, performers to come and work with some incredibly talented teachers for a week long residential course, the culmination of which was a performance at the Hothouse Festival. I had no idea what to expect, but was incredibly impressed with the professionalism, the talent, and the sheer freshness (if that is a word) with which these young performers approached their work. By all accounts they worked incredibly hard and the end result more than proved that. The Hothouse Course participants will also be performing at other folk music festivals during the summer.
After having had a sneak preview of The Teacups in the garden during rehearsals, I was definitely looking forward to seeing them perform! Such an incredible amount of talent in this band – not only in their playing but also in their voices. Having not heard Alex Cumming sing before, I was astounded by the depth of his voice! I think I was possibly not the only local that was slightly shocked, having regularly heard him call at Ceilidhs in the past! A truly dark and mellow tone, much like 80% dark chocolate!
I found it quite difficult to find any one single performance my personal favourite. I really enjoyed watching Barruletrio, who are just so super talented, and was ever more impressed by the little tiny 3 year old (I think) Barruler boy who played guitar along to the dance workshop. The dance workshop was also great fun and I am glad I was only there as a spectator as I am not convinced that it would have been quite so promising had I been taking part!
I had been desperate to hear Kitty Macfarlane do her set and she certainly did not disappoint! Kitty has an incredible voice – such purity! I am really glad I got to hear her play and sing live as I would seriously have missed out if I hadn’t. Great, home-grown, local talent.
If I had to choose, which would be very difficult, I think it would be a tie between the Ballina Whalers and Moore Moss Rutter, or as Jamie said when he introduced them: ‘Measles, Mumps and Rubella’! Both bands were very entertaining, fabulously talented and a joy to not only watch but to be a part of their set. The Ballina Whalers taught the audience sea shanties and everyone joined in – the only thing that was missing was the rum! I wish I could remember them now, but sadly the fun was all in the moment! MMR just had the funniest tales to tell in between their songs or about their songs. It seemed that there was a recurring theme of getting up very early, not being particularly happy about it, being rather cold and writing a song in response to the injustice! They were quite awesome.
Sadly I had to leave before Hot Feet and Sam Brookes got to play, and someone else will have to fill you in on the silent disco and the Ceilidh, as I had to Cinderella my way home, way before then, but by all accounts there was much merriment and a few people dancing that normally wouldn’t… erhem… Most proud of you Alex!
What I really enjoyed the most about the day, from a newcomer to Halsway perspective, was the amount of incredibly friendly people, young, old, and in-between. I loved the impromptu jamming sessions, the incredible squeeze box (melodeon, concertina, accordion etc – I don’t know the difference just yet, but am learning) playing, I loved meeting Will Lang (at last!), Alex from Folk Radio UK who sponsored the event and Jon Earl from Songs from the Shed – oh… did I mention that all the performers went into the shed and we should soon be able to see them on Youtube – yes, I think I did… and of course Bettina from the Stogumber Festival, as well as countless people that I just had little chats with along the way, such as Amanda, Shanti, Joshua and many more who remain nameless only because we didn’t get a chance to properly introduce ourselves. I was really impressed by the delicious food and the helpful staff which I heard commented on very positively many times during the day. There was not a grump or a hump from anyone (guest or otherwise) all day long, just smiles and lovely people. I brought some friends with me as well and I am so glad that I did. Sometimes when you bring friends to places where you are not sure if the event is going to be as good as you hope, it can be a little scary being the person responsible for suggesting the event in the first place. We were not disappointed and both sets left with leaflets and flyers and thoughts about joining up and coming to weekend workshops! A very positive result.
I feel very lucky to be part of the Halsway team and to have discovered something so precious. As I was checking out Twitter and Facebook accounts today, I noticed that someone wrote on twitter after the Hothouse Festival event that they were now ‘a little bit in love with @halswaymanor‘… Personally, that pretty much sums it up for me too – I couldn’t agree more.
Some photos have already been posted on FB and Twitter and it won’t be long before I will post some more – just have to post-process them first! So watch this space!!
If you are interested in any of our future events or workshops at Halsway Manor, National Centre for the Folk Arts, then come and have a look on our website www.halswaymanor.org.uk or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ – we look forward to connecting with you.