Fairport celebrate 50 years in style at their annual Cropredy Convention

Folk stalwarts Fairport Convention celebrated their 50th anniversary with a mammoth three-hour headline set on Saturday night at their annual Cropredy Convention.
Picture: David JacksonPicture: David Jackson
Picture: David Jackson

With a career spanning set bringing the festival to a close, Fairport were joined by former members and guests who all played in front of thousands of adoring fans.

In traditional style, the band played a short acoustic set on Thursday afternoon to officially get the festival under way before Feast of Fiddles and Show of Hands followed.

The Trevor Horn Band were among the highlights of the opening day with a set packed with some of the biggest hits of the 1980s.

Picture: David JacksonPicture: David Jackson
Picture: David Jackson

The former member of Buggles and notorious songwriter and producer, delighted audiences with a set including Two Tribes, Video Killed the Radio Star, t.A.T.u’s All The Things She Said and Owner of a Lonely Heart.

The band was joined by Russ Ballard for a version of God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You and ended with Relax by Fankie Goes To Hollywood.

Thursday headliners The Divine Comedy brought a Napoleonic feeling to Cropredy, with frontman Neil Hannon dressed as the former French emperor.

While most of their set comprised of tracks form their latest album Foreverland and 1996’s Casanova, the likes of Generation Sex and National Express were a great reminder of the band’s ability to craft indie pop gems.

Picture: David JacksonPicture: David Jackson
Picture: David Jackson

The Friday was opened by BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners Josie Duncan and Pablo Lafuente before the Gerry Colvin Band, Quill and the GIgspanner Big Band followed.

Among the highlights of the second day was Bedfordshire’s CC Smugglers who upped the energy levels with a set packed full of fast paced folk and roots music.

Melbourne duo the Pierce Brothers followed, returning to the Cropredy stage for the second year running.

They kept the tempo going with an irresistible energy and frantic live show which saw the pair switching between drums, guitars and the occasional didgeridoo.

Picture: David JacksonPicture: David Jackson
Picture: David Jackson

World renowned singer Petula Clarke followed. With a career spanning seven decades and sales of more than 68 million, Clarke opened with her 1967 hit Don’t Sleep In The Subway.

Regularly pausing to chat to the Crorpedy Crowd, Clarke’s set included the likes of Never Enough of Your, Crazy and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love.

Her set featured covers including Blackbird by The Beatles, Fever by Peggy Lee and While You See A Chance by Steve Winwood and she finished with Downtown and Rainbow.

Closing Cropredy’s second night was former Fairport member Richard Thompson.

Picture: David JacksonPicture: David Jackson
Picture: David Jackson

Initially taking to the stage to play a series of tracks solo including They Tore The Hippodrome Down and Valerie, he was later joined by Christine Collister before they were joined by Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Dave Matacks for the remainder of his set which he closed with Tear Stained Letter.

The final day of Crorpedy was opened by Morris On who were followed by Judy Dyble’s Band of Perfect Strangers.

The day had a rockier feel with and Cats In Space and Marillion both providing a heavier soundtrack to a sunny Saturday.

Fronted by Steve Hogarth, returning rockers Marillion treated fans to a sizable chunk of their latest album F.E.A.R before closing with King.

Scottish singer songwriter Dougie MacLean followed with a solo set of songs and storytelling, but by then the sizeable crowed were ready to celebrate Fairport’s half a century celebration.

While Fairport Convention’s headline sets at Cropredy are renowned for featuring guests and friends of the band, this year they deliberately went out of their way to ensure as many former members had the opportunity to take part in and enjoy the anniversary as possible.

Picture: David JacksonPicture: David Jackson
Picture: David Jackson

With a set of more than 30 songs, the band played tracks from across their career, a handful of covers and a selection from their 1969 album Liege & Lief.

For their finale of Meet On The Ledge, guests and past members returned to the stage for one final sing along.

Cropredy will return next year, but looking back at Saturday night, it’s hard to see how Fairport Convention will top this year’s headline set.

Festival director Gareth Williams said: “The music was terrific and our crowd loved the variety of the line-up.

“During the run-up we were a bit worried about the weather but luckily the rain held off for the festival and the ground had dried out by the time we opened.

“Everybody was in great spirits, everything ran smoothly and there were no incidents to report.

“We heard a lot of great comments from people telling us how much they were enjoying themselves.”

Next year, Fairport's Cropredy Convention takes place on Thursday, August 9 to Saturday, August 11.

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