Established in 1992, the Leigh Folk Festival takes place annually at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, and I popped along on Sunday to catch the last day of the four day event – and had a fantastic time.
Claimed to be “the largest free folk festival in the county,” the event puts on hundreds of performers across multiple venues in Leigh Old Town, watched by thousands of spectators.
The range of entertainment across the stages was impressive, covering traditional and contemporary folk music, through to blues; plus Celtic, English and Scottish dance groups, country dancing, Morris dancers, international folk dance, indie, jive and line-dancing and more.
Getting to the festival is dead easy too: Leigh on Sea station (with direction connections to London) is just a five minute walk away from the heart of the festival.
As I arrived, Morris dancers from the Hertfordshire Holly were busying themselves, rather incongruously, under a concrete flyover.
A little further along the waterfront could be seen Morris dancers clattering metal poles together.
I loved the statement on the festival website:
Rather than drifting towards becoming another commercially driven, ticketed event, the team of volunteer organisers has doggedly held fast to the original grass roots, access-for-all ethos, and so the festival has retained its unique, eclectic and idiosyncratic atmosphere.
Music has the power to make us all feel part of something bigger than ourselves, while nurturing a true sense of community and local pride. The pastoral, village fete atmosphere of the Library Gardens and the bustling, waterfront location of Old Leigh are both fundamental to the spirit of the weekend, and offer a natural, unpretentious welcome to visitors in their thousands.
I saw too many bands to remember all their names (sorry!), but here’s a selection of sights from the day:
Many fishing-related businesses still work from Leigh on Sea.
The main drag is charming, with loads of attractive old buildings.
Along the waterfront.
A sandy beach.
A few brave souls take to the water. Behind, a train hurtles past.
Prosecco from a horse box.
Punch & Judy show.
These guys spent ages trying to hit the triangular ‘hat’ on the breakwater. The chap on the far right proved to be the winner.
Curved footbridge over the railway line. In the distance is Westcliff-on-Sea.
Heading back to Leigh On Sea.
On the beach.
On the other side of the tracks can be seen the popular Ship pub on New Road, which unexpectedly shut its doors in March this year.
Looking down from the footbridge.
The Strand Tea Rooms.
One of the reasons I’d come out to Essex was to see my old friends, the Bridport Dagger playing on the Peterboat stage.
The band were regulars at our Offline Club in Brixton, producing a darkly compelling sound described as “1950’s rock & roll as re-imagined by David Lynch.”
I love ’em!
Grabbing a shot.
The DJ scored an unexpected crowd uniting smash when he played ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in full.
I felt rather sorry for the Diamond Family Archive who had to follow the rabble rousing singalong with their mellow experimental sounds.
The organisers’ website contains this witty comment: “we have even more mud on show than Glastonbury… but only when the tide is out!”
The sea was nowhere to be seen!
Last view before I caught the train home.
I loved the festival and it’s non-profit ethos. I’ll be back next year!
More info: Leigh Folk Festival website.