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Fairport Convention 2011
In The Beginning
In the middle 1960s there were many pop groups forming in London. Some are still running more than 40 years later. Amongst this proud number is Fairport Convention, the one hit wonder that still runs. Fairport has a dedicated fan following and an annual sellout pop festival run by Fairport itself which will this summer (2012) be the 45th Anniversary Festival. The Fairport Festival has been running since 1980.
The group met and practised in the home of the parents who had the largest house. The house was owned by Simon Nicol's parents and was called "Fairport". The group called itself "Fairport Convention". Its first gig was in a church hall in 1967
Some Fairport CDs
As young people do, musicians moved in and out of the band following their personal stars. There was also a sad car crash in which Sandy Denny was killed . The genius of Fairport was in maintaining friendship with the leavers to the point where on Festival finale night the stage has maybe 15 people who have all been in the five person Fairport Convention. The cumulative friendship group has an unrivalled information service, and knows which young musicians are "up and coming", which established musicians might be available, and who should be asked to play at the Fairport Festival. Recent guests have been Steel Eye Span, Status Quo, and Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens).
Rising groups like Tiny Tin Lady have toured with Fairport on the annual Spring tour.
The music has evolved over the years. Liege and Lief is recognised as the seminal Folk Rock album of the 20th century.
Private Pop Festival
Not many pop groups have their own personal pop festival. It happened that a number of band members werre living near Cropredy in Oxfordshire. They were approached by a villager who said that the Cropredy Church Hall roof needed repair, and the village was hoping Fairport Convention could help to raise money. And so the pop festival was born.
The three day pop festival now attracts over 20,000 attendees, many of whom have been coming since that first festival in 1980. Now often the grandchildren are coming, and there are literally hundreds of children who meet up every year and who look forward to next year. Fields are rented from local farmers. The football club provides showers, the Womens Institute provides breakfasts, the pubs are open all day and often have live music, and every village organisation has found a way to use the Festival as its main fundraising opportunity of the year.
The Festival is a showcase for new and young groups to perform before an intelligent and knowledgeable friendly audience. And they can sell hundreds of CDs if they do well.
Wadsworth 6X is a tremendous local beer. Wadsworth Brewery provides tanker loads of beer, with a replacement tanker in position waiting to move forward when the one in front is emptied. Normally three tankers are emptied over the Festival.
People camp, but in recognition of us all getting older caravans are now allowed. There is a camp site reserved for families with children and another campsite where children are discouraged because the singing often continues until four in the morning.
The food and merchandising stalls do well, and many return year after year. You can rent a motorised invalid buggy.
The Festival is a thoroughly happy event.
Simon Nicol points out that there are brass bands and choirs which are more than a century old. He hopes Fairport Convention can continue the same way. Simon is the only original member still playing, and even his service has not been continuous.Fairport looks after its fans, and I wish Fairport Convention and the Fairport Festival long and happy lives.
The Church Hall roof? Repaired of course. And now in the Cropredy Church is a new church bell inscribed "Fairport Convention" paid for by the village out of the monies raised by Fairport.