Leigh Folk Festival back for 30th anniversary

The Leigh Folk Festival returns for its 30th anniversary in style with a line-up of free entertainment and a series of ticketed evening events.

Taking place within the walls of Leigh Library Gardens, under the ship-hull shaped domes of 600-year old St Clement’s Church and in a host of nearby venues from June 23-26, Leigh Folk Festival will immerse the town in sound, dance, comedy, spoken word, workshops and entertainment for all ages.

More than 125 free performances across ten stages and venues are at the festival’s heart, plus a special series of intimate evening concerts with tickets now available.

Mercury Prize nominated Eliza Carthy is among those set to play on the Rockamilly Main Stage in the gardens with Saul Rose and David Delarr.

A completely new Acoustic Stage featuring a wealth of local talent will also be introduced within the walls of Library Gardens. Alongside will be traditional
and alternative dance sides, creative workshops & activities for all, a dedicated childrens’ and families area awash with colour, complimented by an independent makers and street food market including a mix of cuisine, ice cream and traditional ale and craft beers and cocktails.

Elliott Waters, Festival Director, said: “Leigh Folk Arts is overjoyed to celebrate this landmark anniversary with Leigh Folk Festival this year. After a two-year hiatus, in which the charity organised the highly successful Front Room Folk Festival and The Garden Gatherings, we couldn’t be happier to be back with our eclectic line-up music, comedy, poetry, dance, storytelling, workshops, children’s
activities, singarounds and open-mic events.”

St Clement’s Church will offer free atmospheric open-mic poetry by candlelight on Thursday June 23 for any wordsmith wanting to share, and storytelling events on Friday 24 with Kate Corkey, and Saturday June 25 in the morning with Shane Ibbs for families.

An open-to-all Open Mic Competition takes place in the afternoon on Saturday, Entries must be pre-booked using www.leighfolkfestival.com

On Sunday, the church will be filled with sounds of the London Bulgarian Choir, supported by the Mudlarks vs the Feel-Good Choir, taking you on a
journey of the country’s voice and creative traditions underneath its stained glass backdrop.

Back in the Gardens, three stages throughout the weekend will include performances from No Good Woman & the Kingsnakes, Green Diesel, The Famous Potatoes, who will lead a family ceilidh, The Plan, The Thameside Mummers, Umbrella Factory, Emerald Hill, Levent-Taylor World Band, The Long Run, In Earnest, Ray Miso Trio, Pick Yer Feet Up, Sam Fraser, Caitlin King.

Elsewhere, a wealth of free day time music, dance, workshops and entertainment choices fill the weekend.

Photo: Gaz de Vere

On Saturday, Southend’s independent record label So Slam Records will take over Leigh Community Centre with a live podcast recording with Sheila Lord, and BBC Introducing in Essex taking over by showcasing the best unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar Essex talent on Sunday.

In addition, Leigh Community Centre will host a series of free workshops to learn the art of model making from world-leading film company Aardman Animations, the team behind Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run.

The free fun session is suitable for all ages and abilities and takes place on Saturday June 25 (pre-booking required, opening early June).

The ever-popular ’Buskers Square’ returns to The Broadway Pub on Saturday, with The Pink Flamingo curating the venue on Sunday June 26 and Café Hogart Del Mar hosts a singalong session.

Meanwhile the sedate Fishermen’s Chapel will be filled with music on Saturday and Sunday with guest curators Culture is a Dare and M.G Boulter. Performances include Blind River Scare, Elaine Palmer, Harriet Bradshaw, Lean with the Breeze, Rev Simpkins & the Phantom Notes, Haress, Simon Finn and more.

After the success of Leigh Folk Arts Garden Gatherings in September 2021, open-air comedy is also back, curated by Little Smash Comedy. Ahead of Edinburgh Fringe, a ticketed intimate night of comedy in the park takes place on Friday June 24 welcoming a line-up of side-splitting talent including Nathan Caton, Chortle Student Comic of the Year award winner; Robert White,
Britain’s Got Talent runner-up; Laura Symth, Funny Women of the Year winner; Dinesh Nathan, dubbed as ‘one to watch’ by the Fringe Review; and hosted by Ross McGrane, official tour support for Russell Kane, with plenty more to be announced. Tickets from £15.

A special line-up of intimate evening ticketed concerts are now on sale taking place at St Clement’s Church and Leigh Community Centre.

These events help the arts charity generate funds to programme the free events and stages across the Leigh Folk Festival site, while bringing more internationally celebrated performers than ever before.
Thursday June 23,Leigh Community Centre, tickets £15.

An intimate candlelight set by Ivor Novello Award-winning singer/songwriter Scott Matthews headlines the opening night. Fresh off the back of touring with Robert Plant, he’ll be joined by The Magic Lantern – the musical moniker of singer-songwriter and composer Jamie Doe and supported by BBC Performing Arts Fellowship graduate Maz O’Connor.
Friday June 24, Leigh Community Centre, tickets £16.50

Americana fans get ready for Friday as Danny George Wilson headlines with his 5-piece band, joined by Pennsylvania folk rock duo Native Harrow and Yorkshire’s Serious Sam Barrett.

Saturday June 25, St Clement’s Church, tickets £18

All-girl contemporary alt-folk trio Wildwood Kin headline. Support comes from Ellie Gowers.
Leigh Community Centre, tickets £16.50

Australian award-winning singer-songwriter Emily Barker (best known as writer and performer of BBC’s Wallander theme tune) takes to the stage, in collaboration with producer, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Lukas Drinkwater. Special guests Trials of Cato recently performed live on Mark Radcliffe’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Show.

Sunday June 26, St Clement’s Church, tickets £18.50

RTE’s 2021 Folk Awards Best Singer and Best Emerging Artist, John Francis Flynn, will be headlining over at St Clements Sunday closing evening. Founding member of celebrated traditional group Skipper’s Alley, he’s been described as leading Ireland’s folk music renaissance.

Leigh Community Centre , tickets £16

Glastonbury’s 2011 Emerging Talent Competition winners Treetop Flyers bring their mix of classic British rock ‘n’ roll, Celtic soul and country Blues to Leigh Folk Festival for one of two closing nights. The six-piece London band will be joined by the unique one-man electro blues band Funke & The Two Tone Baby.

Additional support comes from Welsh multi-instrumentalist, Gwenifer Raymond.

Full information and tickets are available from www.leighfolkfestival.com

Photo: Jacques Feeney

Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]