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All singing all dancing

Tenterden may have one of the widest high streets in the country but in the coming days won’t even have room to shake a leg when the annual folk festival hits town

Tenterden Folk Festival has been going for 20 years and has grown from a small gathering of morris dancers and enthusiastic singers in a pub to a full-blown three day event which now takes place all over the town.

Indeed, if you count Thursday’s “pre-festival” evening concert on the Thursday, October 4, with the Acoustic Strawbs at the Assembly Rooms in the Town Hall, there are four days of frantic folk activity in the normally sleepy town of antique shops and dainty coffee houses.

The guest list also reflects the growth of the festival, with the likes of Jackie Oates, Jim Causley, Chris Sarjeant and the Climax Ceilidh Band alongside an American invasion which includes Jody Kruskal, Sara Grey and Jeff Warner in an impressive line up.

Tenterden has always been a festival which promotes traditional folk music and some of the best exponents of the revival will be on hand to deliver powerful vocal renditions – Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham, Tom and Barbara Brown, and Jim Magean are some of the best you can see these days.

A morris dancer at the Tenterden Folk Festival

There are also some new younger bands on the scene who make it into the line up and the most significant of these are Coco and the Butterfields who recently won best unsigned band in a national competition. Luke Jackson from Canterbury, too, is a young man who is making big waves and looks set to become a new Steve Knightley.

But the festival is not just about folk music. There is a huge range of events aimed at a wider audience.

The beauty of the festival is the celebration of folk traditions and there are plenty of morris dance sides, street entertainers and craft activities to occupy the visitor.

Although there is funding from some sources, the festival is largely self-funding and relies on ticket sales and collections.

There'll be so much going on...

Saturday is the day the festival takes to the streets of Tenterden, with nearly 60 morris sides and dance display teams vying for attention in the town centre and then joining in the procession. The town’s pubs will be bursting with songs and tunes as the various playalong sessions take place well into the early hours.

The free music showcase stage, crafts marquee, music fair, street stalls and the new dance stage, all open at around 10am. More concerts, workshops, folk clubs, music and song sessions and other events get under way from 10.30am and continue to midnight. There are also several special events as well as the popular Cinque Ports shanty and sea songs session.

Sunday continues in much the same way as Saturday, with both indoor and outdoor events throughout the day, including the showcase stage and stalls. There are also several special events including the Short Sharp Shanties Show and a major concert in the afternoon before it all comes to an exhausted end with yet one more late sing-a-round for those who are not in a hurry to go home ready for work on Monday.

A platform for morris dancers

Among the popular fringe events are the morris dancers, singers and musicians at the Kent and East Sussex Railway. They can be found on the steam trains on both Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7 and at stations along the line from Tenterden to Bodiam. Dancers will take time out to visit West View Hospital to entertain patients who cannot get in to the town centre. There is also still time to visit the exhibition at Tenterden Museum to celebrate 20 years of the festival.

Tenterden Folk Festival runs from Thursday, October 4, to Sunday, October 7. The concerts and barn dances are ticketed events. Weekend tickets are £43 (under 16s £22) and give entry to all events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but not Thursday. Camping costs £20 for caravans and campervans and £18 for tents. Full details of this year’s festival can now be found at www.tenterdenfolkfestival.org.uk and the wegottickets website. You can also call the organisers on 01843 835694 and 01233 626805.

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