The First Southsea Folk Festival
South Parade Pier
August 31 - 2 Sept 2001
The following review originaly appeared in Folk On Tap magazine.
During the break of their two part headline set on Saturday night, Martin Carthy,
M.B.E. was sitting stage left watching Emily Slade perform when he spotted wife
Norma Waterson threading her way through the crowd. Finding no spare chairs, he
stood, dusted his down, ushered Norma into it, then knelt down and put his arm round
her. Priceless. This simple but charming act of love and affection was one
of the outstanding moments of the weekend for me.
The festival was split into sections; 12 noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday were free
admission, and Friday to Sunday evenings were ticketed, with late night thrashes
Friday and Saturday.
The festival compere George Wilson (the Phatt B'stard himself) opened on Friday
night performing a ten minute warm up before introducing the first guest Rob Johnson,
who also played the opening set on Saturday afternoon. Both "difficult" spots, but with
Rob's highly original skilful guitar style and titles like "Bring Out The Beanies And Let
Them Play On The Central Reservation", the festival was off to a good start.
The gorgeous Emily Slade had eluded me on at least two occasions, so I was in prime
position for the first of two weekend appearances, tonight being the longer of the two.
The woman described as "one of Hertfordshire's best kept secrets" perfomed songs
from her full length debut album "Shire Boy" and the mini L.P. "Small Talk". We were
regaled with songs about hunting ("Dog, Cane & Gun"), collecting junk ("Collector's
Lot") as well as Keith Pearson's beautiful ballad "More Hills To Climb", and a
dexterously played "Carolan's Concerto". Buy the C.D's, make this girl a
As a popular figure on the folk scene for ages Bob Fox had no problem in getting the
audience involved, exuding class and professionalism. Amazing, considering the
previous night's escapades: Bob arrived for his soundcheck 24 hours early and met up
wih Griff, from Gardener. They proceeded to get totally blotto together.
The spaniel witnessed Bob proving to a very drunk young man that he was a folkie by singing a
John Denver song with said inebriate. "Take Me Home Country Roads" echoed across
the Solent. Nasty business all round, I say...
In addition to live music, a bodhran workshop was hosted by The Joyce Gang's. John
Redmond and Vicki, a fire juggler (memories of Ken Russell burning the Pier down
during "Tommy"!) and fourteen morris sides were all on display.
The brightly attired dancers attracted many a curious tourist and passer by onto the
Pier. Strange then that Southsea Town Council. refused to sponsor the festival as "it
wouldn't primarily benefit the people of Southsea as people from outside the area may
attend ". Eh?
I only caught snatches of the sets by Apicella, Wildest Wish and Gardener. Griff still
looked rough, but Gardener's Show Of Hands style of music was appreciated by many.
Worker's Playtime played a fine mix of folk, blues country rock to a now healthy sized
crowd. Bob Fox returned from the bar to finish of the afternoon as special surprise guest. The
man has a superb voice and proved it with his second excellent set.
For me, the high point of tonight's performance by Hot Tamales was the inclusion of
Peetah, (Lord Gnome of Broadstairs), on Jew's harp. Their new CD "Excusez Moi" is
rather good, but generally I just can't get into them. Obviously not many
agreed with me as the band were very well received with feet tapping vigorously all
around me. I went out to chat to Vicki. the fire juggler.
The headline appearance of Waterson Carthy was always going to be the
highlight of the festival, and so it proved with people packed in like sardines. With
guest Tim Van Eyken they showed that true quality will always triumph. When Bob Weir of
The Grateful Dead proclaimed "Norma Waterson's voice is like being dipped in warm
chocolate" he was definitely thinking Galaxy.
Of the two late night sessions, Pronghorn, the Cajun Irishhillbilly
cowpunks from Dorset easily outclassed a rather subdued Joyce Gang with a raucous loud
fast paced set that had songs like "Tastes Like White Spirit" (Nirvana retitled!)
causing the assembled punters to shake off the week's work blues and dance
Sunday proceedings started with a new duo in the shape of (very shapely in
Deb's case!) For Folk's Sake. A couple of locals, Dan & Debs played a short but
exhilarating set comprising "Waltzing's For Dreamers", "Matty Groves" and a few jigs and
reels. Guitarist Dan's high pitched vocals are amazing , but it was Debs' fiery
fiddle playing that got this old spaniel's tail wagging.
The three piece Hard Times String Band brought Americana to the Pier with some fine
Old Timey tunes courtesy of An Seisiun fiddler Andy James, Barry, Terry, and a
rubber chicken. Don't ask. Another local duo, Mist On The Bog, kept the momentum
going with upbeat lively versions of some classic Irish songs, before organiser John
Roberts' new outfit Father Jack took the stage to perform their take on "Bucks Of
Oranmore", "Irish Rover" and the crowd pleasing "Sex & Drugs & Rock &
Roll". Due to an incident outside, I missed most of the set. Some fool fell off the
The festival ended on sunday evening with Legacy, Ron Trueman-Border and
The Joyce Gang. Legacy's Mal Simms possesses a wonderful voice and he wrapped
it eloquently around "Jacobites", "I Will Go" and "Step It Out Mary". Some
great flute playing from Clare Sanders reminded me of Jethro Tull on "Songs From The
Wood". I loved them.
Ron Trueman-Border played some beautiful guitar on a clutch of tunes which
encompassing blues, folk and jazz styling, and ended up with a stageful of
before the Joyce Gang brought proceedings to an end with a very
See you next year!
Spunky The Spaniel (Andy Lauchlan)