Our guide to Cambridge Folk Festival 2022 - and what we’re most looking forward to
After two Covid-affected years away, the Cambridge Folk Festival is returning to Cherry Hinton Hall from today (Thursday, July 28) until Sunday (July 31).
As ever, there will be a wide variety of acts on show across the four days, ranging from the irresistible pop-flamenco groove of the mighty Gipsy Kings to the fiery blues of that one-man force of nature that is Seasick Steve, from the timeless folk-inspired hits of Suzanne Vega to the gorgeous traditional stylings of Irish legends Clannad.
And you can enjoy Billy Bragg’s protest songs, or ‘party band’ Chico Trujillo, whose sound though rooted in classic cumbia, mixes influences such as reggae, bolero and rumba.
One of the longest-running folk festivals in the world, it dates back to 1965 and attracts around 14,000 people, many of whom return year after year. Enjoy live coverage of the festival on Cambridge 105 radio from today. The station will be backstage throughout the event with artist interviews and live performances. Here are our ones to watch:
Clannad - Sunday, July 31, Stage 1, 5.15-6.15pm. The iconic Irish band have been taking their In a Lifetime Farewell Tour, which started just before the pandemic, around the world. In their 50-plus years of making music, the family collective - singer Moya Brennan, her brothers Ciarán and Pól Brennan and her uncle Noel Duggan (her other uncle and bandmate Pádraig Duggan passed away in 2016) - count Bono among their biggest fans and have sold more than 15 million records worldwide. They also provided the theme tune to popular 80s TV series, Robin of Sherwood. Read our interview with Moya here.
Suzanne Vega - Friday, July 29, Stage 1, 8.40-9.40pm. Widely regarded as one of the finest songwriters of her generation, Suzanne Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk music revival of the early 1980s when she sang what has been called contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the release of her self-titled, critically-acclaimed 1985 debut album, Suzanne has performed sold-out concerts in many of the world’s top venues. Her best-known songs include Luka, Tom’s Diner and In Liverpool. Read our interview with Suzanne here.
Nick Hart - Sunday, July 31, Club Tent, 4.35-5.15pm. The singer and skilled multi-instrumentalist, whose work with English folk song is gaining him a reputation as one of the most acclaimed performers of his generation, has a deep respect for the nuances of traditional song and his captivating live performances are a testament to the importance he places on story-telling. In 2021, Nick scooped the Cambridge Folk Festival’s Christian Raphael Prize, awarded to nurture artist development, and will play this year’s event as part of the prize. Read our interview with Nick here.
Spell Songs - Saturday, July 30, Stage 1, 6.05-7.05pm. Something of a folk ‘supergroup’, Spell Songs - which boasts an impressive lineup of some of the top names in the genre - is a musical companion piece to The Lost Words and The Lost Spells, books by acclaimed author Robert Macfarlane and award-winning illustrator Jackie Morris. The collective, who will be joined on stage by Jackie, create a rewarding listening experience that intersects music, literature, language and art, as a call to reawaken our love of the wild. Read our interview with Jackie Morris here.
Katherine Priddy - Sunday, July 31, Stage 1, 12.05-12.50pm. Since emerging with her debut EP Wolf in 2018, the Birmingham-based singer-songwriter has become one of the most exciting names on the British scene. Declared “The Best Thing I’ve Heard All Year” by Richard Thompson, who later invited her to join him on his Irish tour in 2019 and UK tour in 2021, Katherine’s haunting vocals and distinctive finger-picking guitar style have seen her sell out a headline tour and support artists including The Chieftains, John Smith, and Vashti Bunyan. Read our interview with Katherine here.
Beans on Toast - Thursday, July 28, Club Tent, 6.40-7.30pm. The Essex-born folk songwriter is a unique performer, twisting an age-old genre with a DIY approach and becoming something of a cult figure in the process. A festival favourite (he’s played Glastonbury every year since 2007) and a prolific writer and performer, the quick-witted musician has written and recorded 14 albums and he’s played every bar, club, venue, pub, festival, party and honky-tonk you can think of. Read our 2021 interview with Beans on Toast here.
Elles Bailey - Saturday, July 30, Stage 2, 5.45-6.35pm. One of the hardest-working woman in blues, rock and roots music, the Bristol-based singer, songwriter and bandleader has powered her way to the forefront of the British blues and roots scene. Her third album Shining in the Half Light was released earlier this year and is crammed with solid originals brought to life with Elles’ A-list band. It’s another significant step forward in a successful career already laden with awards and acclaim. Read our 2021 interview with Elles here.
Flook - Saturday, July 30, Stage 2, 8.05-8.55pm. After a recording hiatus of 14 years, the highly popular band released their latest album, Ancora, in April 2019. With the flutes and whistles of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, the guitar of Ed Boyd and the bodhran of John Joe Kelly, the group expertly weaves traditionally-rooted tunes into an enthralling sound. Flook were shortlisted for Best Folk Group in Ireland’s RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards in 2019 and Ancora was nominated as Best Album in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, also in 2019. Read our interview with Flook from earlier this year here.
Billie Marten - Sunday, July 31, Stage 1, 1.10-1.55pm. Born Isabella Sophie Tweddle, this talented singer-songwriter got her early start in music thanks to her parents who surrounded her with music by the likes of Nick Drake, John Martyn, Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, Kate Bush, and Loudon Wainwright III. The family lived in the pastoral rolling hills of Ripon, North Yorkshire, where Billie grew up in and around the Dales. Read our 2021 interview with Billie here.
Other recommended acts: Gipsy Kings (Sunday, Stage 1, 8.05-9.20pm), Spiers & Boden (Thursday, Stage 2, 8.45-10pm, Friday, Stage 1, 5.50-6.45pm), Seasick Steve (Friday, Stage 1, 10.10-11.25pm), Chico Trujillo (Saturday, Stage 1, 10.25-11.25pm), Billy Bragg (Sunday, Stage 1, 6.40-7.40pm), and St Paul and the Broken Bones (Sunday, Stage 1, 9.50-10.50pm).
Aside from the main stages, The Den provides a platform for artists under 30 to progress their careers, while The Hub is another special area for young musicians to take part in workshops, sessions and play. The Club Tent sees local clubs from around the county, including Cambridge Folk Club, performing throughout the weekend.
The festival has won several awards over the last 50 years, including the BBC Radio 2 Good Tradition Award in 2014 and the A Greener Festival Award in 2016, due to its ongoing commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.
Don’t miss our full coverage and reviews from the Folk Festival online and in next week’s Cambridge Independent. For more information on the festival, and to book tickets, visit cambridgelive.org.uk.folk-festival.