Will Smith’s ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It’ was hardly the sort of music that was available at the Cambridge Folk Festival and so is a slightly misleading title for this. But, during my visit to part of the festival last weekend, there were a lot of jigs and I did do a lot of foot-tapping and unobtrusive swaying to the sounds on offer. They were primarily various forms of folk music but also blues, soul and Americana. The sun shone, the atmosphere was relaxed, the festival facilities were first rate, and the music – while not entirely my favourite genre – was very easy on the ear and some was excellent.
I went with an old friend of mine – my Best Man (BM) at my wedding just over 33 years ago. I was able to stay with at his house, a 30 minute taxi ride away from the festival, for the weekend. We chatted, caught up on our respective lives and plans, ate and drank well, and enjoyed both the folk festival and the surrounding countryside (which, in a refreshing contrast to the deeply incised valleys around our Gloucestershire home, is open and undulating). It was, as hoped for, a wonderful change from my routine.
Once again, my retirement meant that, for me at least, the weekend was more relaxed than would have been the case a few years, or even a few months, ago. I was able to drive to and from Cambridgeshire in a measured way outside of peak traffic hours, there was no rush to do anything and we got the gentle pace of our activities about right.
On the Saturday of the folk festival we arrived when it opened but realised that an 11 hour stint of listening to the array of bands across several stages would exhaust us physically and mentally, especially given the hot and sunny weather. We saw about 15 bands/performers over about 8 hours that day. The best of these, for me, were The East Pointers (Americana) and Eric Bibb (blues) but the majority were traditional and rather basic folk bands. We left early for a curry dinner, thereby missing a couple of headline acts, but, frankly, we were sated.
On the Sunday we decided to only attend the festival towards the end of the day. That enabled us to fit in a visit to Ely. The town was gorgeous in the sunlight and history oozed from every turn. Ely’s cathedral is terrific; it dominates the town and also the flat, fenland countryside for many miles around it. It lost much of its ornamentation during the 16th century Reformation and then during Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan reign (he lived in Ely after all!). But the grandeur and sheer engineering feat of its towers, nave and Lady Chapel remain.
After tucking into a craft beer and lunch we walked around the town and down the Ouse River before popping into Anglesea Abbey on the way to Cambridge; another weather-enhanced treat.
We then returned to the folk festival and timed our arrival to see Kate Rusby (lovely voice) and, my BMs favourite, Birds of Chicago (excellent, radiant harmonies with a vibrant and emotional – almost tearful – female lead). We also saw a clearly famous and popular John Prine but we looked at each other during his set and it was clear we had both had enough folk music for one weekend.
We left the music, sandals, tattoos and occasional whiffs of pot at the festival for a snack and a final bottle of wine back at my BM’s comfortable house and listened to some of his vast collection of CDs. We congratulated ourselves on getting the pace of the weekend right. As we looked back on a very good time, my BM prepared for a new working week and I considered the prospect of the leisure of another episode of relaxed retirement.
And so it is…..