The weekend started with John Budworth, a very powerful and charismatic performer, who unfortunately was struggling with a throat infection, but we were still very impressed. His guitar playing coupled with many of his own songs set the scene for so many good acts that were to follow throughout the weekend. Merry Hell then provided their unique experience of creative and performing excellence - they are just SO good. Mind you, there was a last minute crisis as Virginia was stuck in a traffic snarl up and nearly didn't make it - the whole group were on their GPS phones trying to direct her through the back lanes to Coppull.
Saturday saw our old friends the Straw Dogs performing in the afternoon with their usual feel good factor, and then we were entertained by several performers from the Crown Club. Their Crown Extravaganza act was very varied from folk to blues and soul music, and this wealth of talent produced some fantastic sets.
The evening started with another set of old friends, Turnpike, performing as a three piece, and excellent as always. However, half way through their set, the heavens opened, like Monsoon strength, and Turnpike had to carry on performing at the back of a deluge of water which cleared the front three rows of listeners, and flooded the rear stage area. The thunder of the rain on the tent would have phased most people, but Turnpike soldiered on and finished their set in fine style, like the pro's they are. When Greg Russel & Ciaran Algar came on next, they were looking distinctly apprehensive (Greg was wearing wellies to insulate himself from electrical emergencies ), but the rain eased off, and they gave us a magical concert. The power and maturity of Greg's voice and guitar work is so beautifully counterpointed by Ciaran's virtuosity and musicality on the fiddle - that effect is just magical, and their ages put together hardly make 40! Where are they going from here? (They are already so good that its difficult to see how they could improve with age. )
Sunday gave us better weather most of the day, and the ever popular open mic session in the afternoon was oversubscribed, and featured some really good acts. Pauline Blackburn started the evening session, and gave us some hauntingly beautiful songs. Pauline just gets better and better, and her new guitar really complemented her singing. She is a very creative and original talent, and deserves wider recognition - maybe she should promote herself a little harder. Finally, One Hand Clapping came on to finish the evening in their own inimitable style, and were as good as ever, even though they had already done a long gig that day. Tim and Chris really blend well together, and it’s great to see Tim back at the Alison where he used to perform all those years ago when he was just starting.
To conclude, our thanks to Bill and Lesley from Westminister Stage Engineering for the great sound and the unstinting time they put in, to Mavis and Ron of the Alison for providing the welcoming venue, plus one of the tents and the stage, to Ken for the loan of the stage, to Maria for all the IT work, poster creation and printing and raffle organisation, to Ken, Mervyn and Kevin for their crucial roles in the fund raisers that made it all possible, and to everyone who helped put up and take down the big tent, and helped in so many other ways. Lets hope we have the health and energy to do it again next year.