The 30th Tenterden Folk Festival took place from Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th Ocotber 2023
Four days of hot sunshine with no rain and temperatures reaching 24c. You would think I was describing the weather in August during Sidmouth, Broadstairs or Whitby Folk Festivals but no, it was the 30th Tenterden Folk Festival in October.
The first of the small and hardworking workforce, lead by Richard Cartwright, started to arrive on Tuesday to settle into the picturesque temporary campsite. On Wednesday they were busy supervising the set up of the marquees on the Recreation Ground and the arrival of portable toilets, skips, etc. and setting up all the other festival equipment and signage around the town and all the venues. The rest of the volunteer workforce and stewards arrived and checked in on Thursday. Volunteer came from as far away as New Zealand and Jerusalem as well as close by in Tenterden and Ashford as well as other parts of the UK.
The festival kicked off on Thursday evening with a small concert in the Tenterden Club featuring the ever-popular Pete Coe and the four-piece harmony group Sound Tradition, who proved to be one of the hits of the weekend. Friday saw an influx of visitors and participants including guest artists, Morris sides, stallholders and festival goers. The lovely weather encouraged more people to stay on the campsite in a farmer’s field just beyond the steam railway and we ended up with well over 120 caravans, campervans and tents by the end of the weekend. All Friday’s events were successful with concerts, workshops, meet the guests and a barn dance encouraging festival goers and locals indoors out of the sunshine. The gap between events a couple of events in a couple of venues was quite short as a result of the re-programming when the Town Hall suddenly became un-available just a few weeks before the festival due to a structural issue with the fire escape, but it all worked out fine.
Saturday is always the busy day for outdoor events in and around the town centre. Morris sides were out dancing in the early sunshine before 10:00 a.m. and the 50 odd stalls in and around the craft fair marquee on the Recreation Ground were attracting customers throughout Saturday and Sunday. Our stalls organiser Margaret White does an amazing job. The adjacent free music stage and dance stage also proved popular in the sunshine. It was nice to see a mix of festival guests and local performers on the stage ranging in age from the folk band from Highworth Girls School to the U3A folk group. Very inclusive. Thanks to Spud Jones hard work we had over 25 Morris sides and dance display teams performing on Saturday and the procession was again a highlight for the town with the High Street (A28) closed while all the dancers processed through the town. The public thronged the pavements and road to see the spectacle. There are some great photo and videos already on YouTube. Just search for Tenterden Folk Festival 2023.
Sunday was a bit quieter but there were still plenty of Morris sides around as well as Slovakian and Bulgarian dancers and plenty of concerts, workshops and special events to attend. The music sessions and sing-a-rounds were well attended throughout the weekend and there was standing room only in the Saddlery for several of these. There were just too many successful events and great guest to mention every one!
Despite the very difficult economic times, and the difficulties with getting grants and sponsorship for music and arts events, we were determined to make the 30th Tenterden Folk Festival special and we think we did. With overall ticket sales and street collections exceeding our expectations the projected deficit looks like being less than we originally expected so we will be able to start planning for 2024 with a degree of confidence.
Finally, a huge thankyou to ALL the committee, volunteers, performers, dancers, stallholders, guests, participants and visitors who made it all possible. Special thanks go to the people of Tenterden, three local councils, the supporters, funders and sponsors without whom we could not run the festival. If you would like to support us or get involved next year it is never to early to get in touch.
Tenterden Folk Festival 2024 will take place from Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th October.
Trustee and Festival Director
16th October 2023
Tenterden Folk Festival: promoting folk song, music, dance, crafts and traditions: Registered charity No 1038663
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