Cambridge Folk Festival 2015

Cambridge Folk Festival 2015

Mike Ainscoe looks forward to a return trip to the Cambridge Folk Festival having broken his duck at last year’s 50th anniversary festival.

Having reached its half century in 2014, in cricketing terms, you’d celebrate and then concentrate on the next fifty. It’s back to business as usual this year for the highly revered Cambridge Folk Festival with the usual eclectic mix of traditional folk mixed with some more mainstream and crossover bands and artists who make up one of the best smaller but perfectly formed and friendly festivals.

Smaller it may be in size as far as festivals go, but big in reputation. This year’s headliners haven’t quite matched the controversy of this year’s Glastonbury – you’re not going to find Saturday headliner and folk stalwart Joan Baez heading off into an improvised folk version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for example. With the other two headlining slots being taken by the slightly less folky yet roots-y Frank Turner and the distinctly less folky Passenger (perhaps the equivalent in some ways of Sinead O’Connor last year), certainly the significant slots pay homage to a wider brief, yet the festival is very much geared towards the traditional folk branch of the music tree where its real roots lie.

Testimony to that comes in the form of performance areas such as on the smaller outlying stages of The Den and the Front Room which stand on the outskirts of the main arena and in the stunning grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall where you can always find a spot of peace and tranquillity from the crowds around the big tent which houses the main stage.

Cambridge Folk Festival

Add to that the various sessions and impromptu happenings taking place all over the grounds and the campsite – multi million selling Newton Faulkner turning up for a jam on one of the campsites last year, plus a glut of artists constantly chatting and performing in the grounds for the official cameras and you have the usual festival job of flitting between the stages to try and catch something of everyone, or the task of deciding who to miss in order to grab a good spot for someone who takes your fancy. Talking of which, here are a few names from the bill who might just be worth watching out for:

Who to look forward to.

Skinny Lister – who made their Cambridge debut on opening night last year and the only band to require a barrier in the Club Tent – probably more for the safety of the audience rather than themselves)

Treacherous Orchestra – for anyone who enjoys jumping around in a field to a big band whose Scots pipes and whistles provide an infectious and inspiring sound

Ange Hardy – FATEA album of the year award winner and sublime acoustic meanderings with a new album ready to release based around Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Frank Turner – always worth watching and also with a new album due, promises to be possibly the pick of the headliners or one who will give the traditional and the contemporary peers a run for their money


Who not to miss

Kim Churchill – lively young Aussie whose stage presence and performance is a whirling dervish of guitar, percussion and loops all buried beneath a shock of incredibly cool blonde hair

Simpson, Cutting & Kerr – a veritable supergroup including the folk singer of the year, and worth catching  just to hear them do ‘The Plains Of Waterloo’

Katzenjammer – the all girl Scandanavians and their big instrument

Wilko Johnson – another unusual addition to the festival but a chance for the folk audience to pay tribute to a guy who’s overcome serious illness

Ben Walker & Josienne Clarke – folk award best duo winners and purveyors of intense and sometimes morose song yet fascinatingly compelling

In The Den you’ll find: 

Banjo virtuoso and member of the Urban Folk Quartet Dan Walsh, Stu Larsen (who’s toured with Passenger), Kings Of The South Seas (Ben Nicholl’s song project who bagged some useful exposure on tour with  Bellowhead) and  Hattie Briggs (fresh from a lengthy our support slot with  Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman)



Main Stages
Joan Baez (Sat), Passenger (Sun), Frank Turner (Fri), Joan Armatrading (Sun), The Proclaimers (Fri), Punch Brothers (Sun), John Butler Trio (Sat), Nick Mulvey (Fri), Wilko Johnson (Fri), The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (Sun), The Unthanks (Sat), Show of Hands (Sat), Katzenjammer (Thurs) Altan (Fri), Treacherous Orchestra (Sat), Gretchen Peters (Sat), The Skatalites (Sat), Danú (Sun), Stornoway (Sat), Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting & Nancy Kerr(Sun), Rhiannon Giddens (Sat), Shooglenifty (Sat & Sun), Peggy Seeger (Fri), Bella Hardy (Sun), Alvin Youngblood Hart (Sat), Amsterdam Klezmer Band XL (Fri), The Lone Bellow (Sat & Sun), Chris Smither (Fri), Angaleena Presley (Fri), Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (Thur & Fri), Skinny Lister (Sat), Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (Fri), The Demon Barbers XL (Sun) Jim Moray’s Silent Ceilidh (Sat), Keston Cobblers Club (Sun), The Stray Birds (Sat & Sun),Rura (Fri & Sat), Olivia Chaney (Sat), Goitse (Sat & Sun), De Temps Antan (Fri, Sat, Sun), Lynched (Thurs), Ben Miller Band (Sun), Blackbeard’s Tea Party (Fri), Brian McNeill (Fri & Sat), The Willows (Sun), CoCo & The Butterfields (Sun), Fara (Thur & Sun), Mawkin (Thurs), Talisk (Sat & Sun), The Elephant Sessions (Thurs), Hannah Sanders (Thurs), 3Sticks (Fri), Jaywalkers (Thur), David Gibb (Fri)

Club Tent Showcases – those on whom there are pinned thigh hopes, ones to watch out for in the future
Sam Kelly Trio (Fri), Kim Churchill (Sat), Stick In The Wheel (Sat), Ange Hardy (Sun), Mishaped Pearls (Sun)

The Den – the showcase for emerging talent
Ajimal, Anna Pancaldi, Bouche, Boundless Brothers, Call Me Ceilidh, Callaghan, Ciaran Lavery, Crewsdon & Cevanne, Dan Walsh, EdwardAlice, Fabian Holland, Flo Morrissey, Hattie Briggs, IDER, Inti Rowland, Jake Isaac , Jaron Freeman-Fox, Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith, Kings of the South Seas, Laish, Lewis & Leigh, Lorelai, Òkina, Port Isla, Rozi Plain, Seafret, Sorren Maclean, Stu Larsen, Teyr, The Emerald Armada, The Half Earth, Three Minute Heist, Threepenny Bit, Twelfth Day, Ward Thomas


There’s lots more  info on the official website:

You can also find the festival on Facebook  and on Twitter at @CamFolkFest


All words  by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive and his website is

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Mike has been contributing to Louder Than War since 2012, rising through the ranks from contributor to Sub Editor and now Reviews Editor. He brings his eclectic taste to the table with views on live shows (including photography) and album reviews, features and interviews from rock to metal to acoustic and folk.


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