It seems hard to believe that this is only the second Sark Folk Festival, it feels just so established and fine tuned. The unique and eccentric Island of Sark makes it the most amazing location of any festival we have ever been to, the feeling of being outside normal life and time that the best festivals instill in its visitors here extends beyond the festival boundaries to the whole island.
Click on the tabs for each days review, pictures and video interviews...
No cars, no street lights, bright blue dreamy days and the clearest star filled night skies made Sark an achingly beautiful place for the 2011 festival. Add to that a truly excellent mix of acts, workshops and sessions and the result is possibly the best festival of its size of 2011.
It was also the little things that made it special, no generic festival food here, you could get your burger and hot dog if you wanted but you could also go for scallops, mackerel or lobster that was fresh that day. The beer was excellent, with a special festival bitter and cider on tap. A different tax regime in the Channel Islands meant that it was only £2.50 a pint, with many festival beer prices creeping towards the £4 a pint mark this was a great surprise.
The two main stages were back to back so that music could run alternately throughout the day, so no clashes which you have to decide between, and no sound spill between them.
A short walk from the main arena revealed the Tintageu stage atop the cliffs. The artists had to compete with the breathtaking view all around...
If you ventured down the path towards the sea you came across the Nook by the Brook stage, set in what was once a small quarry, it needed no amplification as the acoustics were great. That is James Dumbelton serenading the crowd.
This sums up the pace of Sark life beautifully, it is only a small island so everywhere is in walking distance. Outside the main festival arena there were sessions in several places around the island. The only vehicles allowed on the island are tractors, hence the rather unique ambulance below...
Put simply this is one of the very best festivals in so many ways; the stunning location, music, atmosphere, food and drink (beer is only £2.50 a pint!), the relaxed and friendly punters... Just remember a torch as there is no street lighting whatsoever!
Tickets for the 2012 festival go on sale in November 2011 and it is sure to sell out again.
Frankly that was a knackering experience but somehow that didn't matter as Sark is such a magical place, it casts a spell over you before you step foot on it. At only a mile and a half wide we soon arrived at the festival site in time to present Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow with their Spiral Award for best debut for their album Silent June just after their well received set.
Here is our interview with the duo
Straight after them Guernseys' Barley Dogs whipped the crowd up with their mix of everything from folk to rockabilly. After them it was the turn of our boat buddies Crowns. These guys turned out to be a Cornish folk/punk delight, their prowess as musicians shone out as well as their connection with the audience - they will be big...
And here is an interview with Crowns
Our other boat buddies Dalla proved to be another Cornish marvel, taking the traditional music of Cornwall and running with it...
Jersey musician Lloyd Yates gave a storming performance with his full band. He is someone to see live as they have all the ingredients that make a great live show, presence, charisma and really good original songs.
We were hugely impressed by the quality of all of the acts on the first night, none more than Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson. Not knowing what to expect the immediate comparison of the White Stripes was made as there was a guy on guitar and woman sitting astride a drum kit. Once they launched into their set it is safe to say the whole crowd was blown away. Even the most stubborn were compelled to stand up as more and more people piled into the tent drawn by the gorgeous blend of smooth and raw blues, Celtic folk and swing that this duo dished up in spades.
For us they were the best act at the festival, and the best blues act we have ever seen. They pack more energy, emotion and sheer musical exuberance into one song than most manage in a whole career. While Fitz impressed with his finger work and the warm rumble of his voice, Cara was astounding as she turned her hand to drums, flute, whistles and washboard on top of singing. We have a video interview and acoustic performance from them to come in the next few days...
BBC Young Folk Award winner James Findlay spent the weekend at the festival, we found him doing an impromptu session by a hedge before his main gig in the evening. Hope he slapped his factor 30 on...
The Space Pirates of Rocquaine gave an upbeat set of folk/pop/rock, although I was disappointed that they were not dressed either as spacemen or pirates...
Nick Wyke and Becky Driscoll were as captivating as ever, the good news is that they intend to record an album late this year, and now we have said that it has put even more pressure on them, sorry guys...
Watch our interview with Nick aand Becky below
Crowns had another set on the Tintageu stage, although they sat down for this one it had no less energy than their storming gig on the Friday night.
Today was a blur of top class acts, Braebach, 6 Day Riot and Future Trad Collective rounded off the day on the main stages to rammed tents. Rosy faced punters drifted off to bed across the starlit island, those who had torches got home whilst those without fell in bushes and crashed off bicycles, but they were still smiling whilst they did it, Sark has that effect on you...
In the morning we interviewed Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson to find out more about their unique blend of musical styles, they then finished off the music on the main stages with a performance with even more energy than the one they did on the friday night. Unsurprisingly they sold out of CDs.
James Dumbelton moved to Guernsey some years ago after working with Jackie Oates and Jim Moray amongst others. The change in scenery seems to have done him the world of good as he had boundless energy all weekend doing his duties as a member of the organising committee and performing every day.
Here is our interview with James and Simon Harvey from the organising committee about the festival
In a review like this it is impossible to mention every artist and workshop, generally with a festival it's a great few days and then you are glad to get back to a bath and your own bed, this one was different, it was with a genuine sadness that we left Sark wanting more of the music and the island.
Tickets for the 2012 fest are on sale in November 2011.
6 Day Riot
Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson
Future Trad Collective
Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll
O'Hooley & Tidow
Wandering Minstrels (Mordekkers)
The Barley Dogs
Space Pirates of Rocquaine
The John Wesley Stone
The Coalbox Generals
Belles & Broomsticks (Morris Side)
Helier Men (Morris Side)
Visiting Morris Side - TBA
Little Rock Gypsies
Folk on 2
Liv & Toya