L2F 2021 in review by Ben Macnair

Saturday 23rd October 2021: After an action-packed day of processions, dancing in the streets, dance workshops, storytelling, and music workshops, Lichfield Arts Tenth L2F Festival presented two leading lights from the folk firmament, Sherburn Bartley Sanders and Megson.

An enthusiastic audience and the grandeur of Lichfield Guildhall added to the event, and two of the finalists from the L2F Songwriting competition also performed. Starting the evening were the duo of Fragile Hearts, with their two songs, featuring the guitar and vocals of Steve Nesbitt and the cello of Helena Rosewell, their strongly written, and expertly played pieces Freefall, and You Made it Through set a very high musical standard for the evening.

The trio of Sherburn, Bartley and Sanders brought their musical expertise, with concertina player Chris Sherburn, guitarist and singer Denny Bartley, and violinist and singer Emily Sanders, the ensemble performed music from the folk repertoire, as well as a very well received Rainy Night in Soho, adding pathos and musical colour to one of Shane McGowan’s more beautiful songs. Their easy onstage talk and almost musical telepathy added to the experience. Other pieces played included William Taylor, Bright Blue Rose, The Auld Triangle, The Rocks of Newfoundland, and the closing New Railroad, with its violin refrain echoing the whistles of a train as it passes down the tracks.

The second finalists of the song-writing competition were Jackson Williams, the duo performing their bluesy composition, When Trouble Calls Your Name, the ballad Left Alone and Willie Nelson’s Last Thing I Needed, First Thing in the Morning. The addition of the songwriting finalists added a lot to the evening, allowing the audience to hear new music, and the performers the opportunity to perform in front of a new audience.

Closing the night where the acclaimed husband and wife duo, Megson. Now nine albums into their career, the duo of Stu and Debbie Hanna played their own music, incorporating strong harmony vocals and narrative interest in their songs, as well as Stu’s talents on guitar, banjo, and mandola, and Debbie’s Accordion playing. Their music incorporated many timely themes, from the opener Generation Rent, or Are You Sitting Comfortably? Which looked at the housing ladder, or the positions that are taken on political grounds. Lindisfarne’s Marshall Riley’s Army was well played, and the upbeat song, The Smoke of Home was an uplifting song about returning home. The touching ballad Take A Longshot blended the metaphor of sport and life to great effect, and Baby and The Band, was a deft display in tenor banjo and accordion, allowing for audience participation and handclaps to drive the rhythm of the song along.

This was a good evening of live music, and entertainment, and it is great that after months of isolation, and covid restrictions, organisations, whatever their size still have the capacity and desire to present evenings such as this one.

The L2F Folk Train

On Wednesday 29th September the L2F Folk Train made its way from Lichfield Trent Valley to The Three Tuns pub in Sutton Coldfield 
 where the performers and audience enjoy a great evening of live music and entertainment.
With a broad range of entertainment, with everything from Acappella Sea Shanties, some songs by the likes of Ralph McTell, John Martyn, Leonard Cohen and John Lennon, as well as some original pieces performed at the Three Tuns pub, this was a memorable night for everyone. A highly unusual combination of instruments featured, with even a Musical saw adding its dulcet tones to proceedings, summoning a spooky atmosphere, suitable for one of Sutton Coldfield’s most haunted pubs. If you missed this event, L2F has plenty more to offer music fans, and we hope to see you at one of the events.

We were privilaged to be joined by members of the Urban Birmingham Sketchers, who have kindly shared their work with us below.

The Folk Train at the Three Tuns Pub in, depicted by Chris Hammond – Birmingham Urban Sketchers.

The Folk Train performers captured by Tim Griffiths – Birmingham Urban Sketchers.

The Folk Train performances in detail, drawn by Chris Hammond – Birmingham Urban Sketchers.

Sunday 24th October 2021: Lichfield Arts closed the L2F 2021 festival with another night of fine music, featuring the singer-songwriter Gerry Colvin, and the band Ranagri.

Starting proceedings was Claire Bond, a finalist in L2F’s 2021 songwriting competition. Having travelled a long way to play at the festival, her two songs When the Sun Rises and Let The Music Carry You were very well played, and received warmly by the enthusiastic audience.

Gerry Colvin gave an energetic and entertaining performance, with musical support coming from accordion player Trish Power, Lyndon Webb on guitar, and double bassist Jerome Davies. His set was largely folk, but he blended in elements of country rock and Cajun. The set ranged from the ballads I’ll Be Your Light, and Tunnel to The Moon, which was about Germany in the 1940s. One More Week and the Man With The Watch were more upbeat exercises in songcraft. Johnny Cash’s Shirt was a forensic look at the practice of buying rock star memorabilia and set closer Watching the Feather’s Fall was a slow ballad, which allowed for the full extent of the band’s talents, and their harmonic vocal blend to be heard.

Neil Williams was the last of the four finalists in the song writing competition, and his performance of Star of the Screen and Find My Sunlight blended the songcraft of Nebraska era Bruce Springsteen with a vocal style redolent of the Gallagher Brothers to good effect.

Closing the night were Ranagri, who had a sound that blended many genres. With a line up of Woodwind, Harp, Percussion and guitar, and the singing of songwriter Donal Rogers, the set came from throughout their four-album career, and crossed many musical styles, blending harp virtuosity with exciting drums and guitar, and the woodwind playing of Eliza Marshall added to the joyfulness of the band’s sound. They started with The Medicine Show, an upbeat tale about modern politics. The instrumental The Hare allowed for a different mood to be shown. Tremors and High Germany were also well played, while The Strangler had a much bluesier arrangement than its recorded counterpart. The energy levels lifted as the set went on. Never Look Back, Rhythm Takes You Back and You Can Do Better were all delivered with a strong sense of conviction, and their rhythmically and melodically contours were all well explored before the inevitable encore of Sad Song extolled the virtues of singing and togetherness. A fine sentiment with which to end the evening, and the whole festival.

L2F Art Competition

This year’s L2F Lichfield Festival of Folk Art Competition attracted over fifty entries, of a very high standard, from all across the country.

The theme was ‘Early One Morning’. A shortlist of 16 was chosen by the judges, and the overall winner was Diane Griffiths, with second place going to Nikolas Wereszczynski. There were also three highly commended entries submitted by Tamsyn Williamson-Gillie, Yvonne Gemmell and Joanne Polmear.

Our thanks to Dame Oliver’s for their sponsorship of the 2021 competition, and to the Mayor of Lichfield, supported by the Sheriff, for presenting the prizes and certificates at a ceremony at the Samuel Johnson Museum.

Right: Overall winner Diane Griffiths’ painting on left and second winner Nikolas Wereszczynski’s painting on the right.

Above: Overall winner Diane Griffith, right: Second winner Nikolas Wereszczynski