Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2013

Last weekend I was at Cropredy festival. It was the third time I’ve been to it, and I absolutely love it. Here are some awesome facts about it.

  • “Cropredy” is pronounced “crop-ruh-dee”, although you’ll hear a lot of n00bz calling it “crop ready” or “crop reedy”.
  • The full name of the festival is “Fairport’s Cropredy Convention” because it’s basically a vanity festival organised by 60s folk rock pioneers Fairport Convention.
  • It started when Fairport performed a farewell/breakup gig in 1979. A year later they decided to do a reunion gig. The next year they did another. And another the year after that. It’s been going ever since.
  • It always starts with Fairport playing an acoustic set. It always finishes with Fairport playing a three hour long headline set.
  • They used to finish with a four hour set, but they had to shorten it as they’re getting on a bit.
  • All the other acts are basically just bands and performers that Fairport like. It’s mostly folk, but they also like a bit of dad rock, prog and – weirdly – reggae (although only if at least one of the band members is white).
  • The festival site is one field and one stage, so there’s no rushing around between different places to catch different acts. If you don’t like an act, you just have to sit around drinking Old Rosie cider until another one comes on.

Cropredy festival field, by John Blower

  • There’s no VIP area and only one bar. So if any of the acts want to stick around to watch the others, they have to queue up and drink with everybody else. Fairport like it that way, because they basically know all of their fans personally anyway.
  • Cropredy is a tiny village near Banbury in Oxfordshire. It normally has a population of about 700, but is swamped once a year by aging folkies who temporarily swell the numbers to over 20,000.
  • For the three days of the festival, Cropredy probably has the highest concentration of beards in the world. There are also unusually high numbers of tie-dye t-shirts, sandals and leather jerkins.
  • Other unusual outfits spotted in recent years include:
    • a suit made of beer towels
    • a novely Guinness hat, a pair of NBC trousers, and nothing else
    • a skin-tight spandex Power Rangers costume (containing an obese middle-aged man)
  • The whole village enthusiastically takes part in the running of the festival, and the commercial opportunities provided by it.
  • Every resident of the village gets a free ticket.
  • Security and clean up is provided by the village scout troop. They also walk around with charity buckets on the final day, which in a few hours must put them close to, if not at the top of, the UK scout troop charity collection rankings.
  • The two village pubs put on a “Cropredy fringe” festival, with bands playing in their beer gardens. These are often better than the actual acts playing in the official festival.
  • The village primary school provides a breakfast service every morning. The revenues from this have allowed them to build a swimming pool.
  • The village sports club also provides food and drink throughout the weekend. They’ve built a brand new cricket pavilion with the profits.
  • Little stalls and tables pop up all over the place with enterprising youngsters selling cakes and water.
  • The canal boat dwellers along the towpath satisfy the economic demand for trinkets and knick-knacks.
  • It’s basically a really friendly, laidback festival, where you can sit around all day wearing a wizard’s hat and ignoring wafty folk music, while keeping yourself pleasantly addled with Old Rosie or various real ales sold in 4 pint plastic bottles.
  • It’s also the only festival where I can look around at the other people there and feel really young.

Here are some of the particular highlights from this year:

  • The opening night headliner: Alice. Freaking. Cooper. Not Cropredy’s usual type of music, and there was a mass exodus of folkies as soon as he started his first song, but it was great fun, very theatrical in quite a silly way and highly enjoyable.
  • The Levellers. Probably not as great as their legendary Glastonbury performance two decades previously (and I think there were a few casualties of that gig bouncing around in the audience too), but one more band checked off my personal “must see live” list.
  • Seeing a bassoon played on stage, in a non-classical group, for the first time in my life, thanks to¬†Moulettes.
  • Glorious weather for most of the weekend.
  • Seeing old friends and making new ones.
  • The traditional linked-together, swaying singalong to Meet on the Ledge, Fairport’s closing number.
  • A really delicious lemon drizzle cake I bought from some kids’ stall.

As I said, this was only my third Cropredy. However, a friend of mine who has attended every year since 1979 authoritatively reviewed it as “bloody brilliant” and Fairport themselves as “the best I’ve seen them”, so it must have been good. I’m already looking forward to Cropredy 2014!

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