Fairport's Cropredy Convention is a unique, family friendly three-day festival experience that features an abundance of rock, pop and acoustic music - it's a festival that's been in existence for over 25 years - and this year the band celebrates 40 fabulous years. From small and humble beginnings Fairport's Cropredy Convention has grown and evolved into a world-famous festival that is one of the most important festivals of its genre on the festival circuit - not bad for a little festival that grew out of the little Cropredy village fete. It's known as one of the friendliest and safest trouble free festivals around..
The renowned folk/rock band Fairport Convention started playing at fundraiser's for the village during the heady 1970s in the gardens of Prescott Manor which at the time was the home of former Labour government minister Dick Crossman.
The event became very popular very quickly - so in 1977 Fairport Convention began putting on its own show on farm land in the village of Cropredy - by 1979, Fairport Convention decided that it was time to cease touring as a band but being dedicated musicians they decided a year later to stage a one-day re-union concert in Cropredy village - and this was so successful that it provided the catalyst for the festival to develop into an annual event - the beginnings of what was to become the well loved Fairport Cropredy Festival.
The early festivals in Cropredy initially attracted hundreds of fans - then it began attracting thousands. By the 1990s, the audience attracted to this event was in five figures and by 1999 such was its continued popularity that Cropredy expanded from two days to three days - they haven't looked back since.
Over the years, the festival at Cropredy has used the festival opportunity to contribute to toward the village and examples range from supporting the local Boy Scout troop to helping fund a brand new swanky cricket pavilion.
Real ale is a very popular feature of the festival - Wadworth Brewery of Devizes provides the huge festival bar. Indeed it has been said that:
"Fairport did for real ale what the Grateful Dead did for LSD..."
The village's two pubs also do a roaring trade and both put on 'Cropredy Fringe' events featuring live music from local bands.
Fairport's Cropredy Convention attracts a notably wide mix and range of people from all over the world including Australia, America, and continental Europe - the eclectic nature of the festival attracts those who range in age from toddlers to OAP's.
Most people attending the festival camp so they pitch tents or park camper-vans on the well-regulated campsites surrounding the arena - and some enterprising festival folk even arrive at the festival by narrowboat from the nearby Oxford canal.
The festival itself presents up to twenty different bands and occupies a site that spans nine fields. The variety of acts on offer throughout the years has been quite remarkable - ranging from Indian dancers to veteran skiffler Lonnie Donegan, from Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant to The Incredible String Band, from Billy Connolly to The Dubliners.
Expect the unexpected with Fairport Convention's Cropredy - the band have been around for a long time and they know a thing or two - and they know a few people - so you just never know who might show up - the relaxed and laid back atmosphere means that performers enjoy the festival just as much as the punters - you never know who you might find yourself sharing a pint of that real ale with!Fairport Convention - the band
Fairport Convention played its first concert in a church hall way back in May 1967. As youngsters the group gathered for rehearsals at a house named Fairport, the family home of rhythm guitarist Simon Nicol - thus was born the name of a band that has endured for nearly four decades. As well as Hutchings and Nicol, there was lead guitarist Richard Thompson and Shaun Frater on drums.
However, that initial line-up only ever played the one gig - a young drummer, Martin Lamble, was in the church hall audience and he convinced the band that he could do a better job than the in house drummer! This became the first of the bewildering flurry of line-up changes that characterised the complexity of Fairport's first fifteen years as hugely successful musicians.
Fairport soon augmented its line-up with a female singer, Judy Dyble, this move set it apart from the dozens of other bands springing up from the fast-moving youth culture of that summer and Fairport found no shortage of work - soon becoming a regular act at major underground venues such as The Electric Garden, Middle Earth and UFO.
At this early stage, Fairport looked to America for material and inspiration. "The two lead vocalist approach appealed to us," Matthews recalls. "and because of our name and onstage presence, lots of people thought we were American, and we were not about to attempt to dispel that presumption." This led to the band being dubbed 'the British Jefferson Airplane'.
After just a year with the band Judy Dyble was replaced by Sandy Denny, a talented folk singer and song writer who had previously recorded as a soloist with the Strawbs - somewhere around this time all the band members and their families moved in to The Angel, a former pub in Hertfordshire.
The late Radio DJ John Peel (who let's face it, knew a thing or two about quality music) was a staunch champion of Fairport's music and played the band's albums on his influential BBC shows. Peel also recorded a number of BBC sessions which were later released as the album Heyday.
By now the band really was on the cusp of inventing folkrock, a hybrid of imaginative revivals of traditional material with modern instrumentation and rhythms. Richard Thompson had developed into an exceptionally talented and inventive guitarist, and the band was increasingly penning its own unique and original material.
Things were looking good for the band who were achieving some well earned success when disaster struck, Fairport's van crashed on the M1 motorway on the way home from a gig in Birmingham. Martin Lamble - just 19 years old - and Jeannie Franklyn, Richard Thompson's girlfriend, were killed and the rest of the band suffered injuries of varying severity.
At this point Fairport Convention were nearly lost to the music scene because the young musicians very nearly decided to call it a day. However, they didn't and, once recovered from the injuries yet still coming to terms with the tragedy, they went right back to where they belonged - the studio.
The resulting LP, Liege And Lief, was a classic this was arguably Fairport Convention's finest album and established British folk rock as a distinct and influential genre.
Many of the songs were premiered on John Peel's BBC radio show Top Gear. Peel commented that these were the songs that would "sail them into uncharted waters", and as was so often the case, Peel was correct.
The following few years were dubbed 'Fairport Confusion' as a bewildering sequence of band members came and went and of the albums released during this turbulent period, Fairport Nine and Rosie were probably the most successful.
"Fairport Convention works more like a football team or a Northern Brass Band; the elements may change completely but the concept and the spirit remain. In this respect there is nothing else like them in popular music."
Despite the triumph of Liege & Lief, founding member Ashley Hutchings, who was to become the reigning intellectual of the folk-rock movement, quit to form Steeleye Span and Sandy Denny also left the band. Dave Pegg took over on bass guitar and has been in the band ever since, an unbroken stint of 34 years.
Sandy Denny rejoined Fairport Convention for a couple of years. She is featured on the album Rising For The Moon but she left again in 1976. Sandy Denny was an exceptional performer and essentially irreplaceable, so when she finally left for good the band decided to continue without a female singer. Tragically, in 1978 aged just 31, Sandy Denny died of a cerebral haemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs, but her influence on the band and on folk music culture is ever present, her effortless and smooth vocal delivery still sets the standard.
Despite their critical acclaim, in 1979 the band had no record deal and Dave Swarbrick's hearing was deteriorating rapidly so Fairport decided to call it a day. The band did a farewell tour and played a final outdoor concert in Cropredy, the Oxfordshire village where Dave and Christine Pegg lived. No record company wanted to release the live recordings of the tour and concert so the Pegg's themselves started Woodworm Records and released it. A year later Fairport Convention staged a re-union concert in Cropredy and this famous festival was born.
1995 saw the beginnings of a period of great stability for the band - Dave Swarbrick declined to join the new band so violin virtuoso Ric Sanders, formerly of Soft Machine, was invited to participate. Multi-instrumentalist Martin Allcock was also recruited and the five-piece recorded Fairport's only all-instrumental album Expletive Delighted - with its mix of old stagers and new blood, this period proved to be Fairport Convention's longest-lasting line-up – eleven years.
Fairport Convention won the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2002 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The seminal album Liege And Lief was voted 'Best Folk Album Ever' by Radio 2 listeners. In Summer 2006, Liege And Lief was awarded a Gold Disc for its continuing sales.
"...consciously revivalist at a time when folk was drearily parochial, Liege & Lief revolutionised the genre. Swarbrick supplied the cachet, the band redefined the meaning of 'Trad Arr' and Sandy Denny sang like an angel. Folk-rock's defining moment."
Fairport Convention is still one of the busiest bands around. The current line-up of Simon Nicol (lead vocal, rhythm and electric guitars), Dave Pegg (backing vocals, bass guitar, mandolin), Ric Sanders (violin), Chris Leslie (lead vocal, fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin) and Gerry Conway (percussion and drums) still packs venues on its frequent tours.
Each year starts with Fairport covering the length and breadth of Britain on its Winter Tour. In August, the band stages Fairport's Cropredy Convention music festival in Oxfordshire. Most years, there is a tour in the USA and Canada and UK tours by the Fairport Acoustic line-up and by spin-off band The Dylan Project.
|The Current Fairport Convention Line Up - click on each member to go to their full biography.|
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