Folk East 2021

Folk East 2021 – from the empty bar, casks all green for go, to the all sold legend. Bar smaller, we missed space for musicians and loitering drinkers, the dance tent, and the intimacy of the woodland space, but there was time to linger and converse and listen. Thanks to Graham and Nicky brilliantly organised. Knight and Spiers (thanks Gina for correction) and the Young Uns my choice. And I found my wig!

The year after the gap – mind the gap – a reduced bar, no seats inside, no session musicians, no soap box magic, no broadstairs stage. But the oaks are there, and I’ve camped under the great limes again (next year I will camp in the midst I say to myself).

The beers are familiar. My first pint of orange wheat. The Reydon chair man is here as are the potters, where I am determined to hang out.

Last nights theatre in Thorington, unwittingly a brilliant precursor to Folk East, is a suffolk story, the Unquite Grave, of folk music, well told between a mother and daughter, and silent father.

Friday night Gigspanner big band with Knight and a woman who sang in deep resonate voice. A man near by kept regular time. Virginia near by dancing. Serena near by dancing. At the end, when we all stopped jigging and looked around us with glee at the effect the music had, the man, a stranger to me, came up to me: ‘You;ve got amazing eyes’, he said then added ‘You must know it.’ I stood absorbing the unexpected gift.


I read William Dalrymple’s Afghanistan under the great Limes. Ganoderma forming between the tendrils of trunk, Neil Mahler taught me this name, and I wonder how he is.

A brief pottery lesson with Clare, on a mechanical potters wheel, ‘How does it feel? she asks, inviting me to stop and wonder at the feel of clay on my hands. A sketching workshop with Malcolm taught me a body is 6-7 heads in height. We tend to make legs and arms longer than they are (wishful thinking, I think). I drew the Reydon chair man, legs nicely long.

Michael came and after coffee and food of course, we settled into the most sublime music of Knight and Squires, talking to each other violin and accordion in conversation. Dave and Charlotte arrived, Dave slow at moving now, but more obviously anxious about the tipping point of Charolottes young lad, happily playing on the upturned boat. Charlotte, with a year yet to live, the cancer occupying her body, although on the surface unseen, she dressed in smart jeans, dark glasses.

On my bar shift an emergency St John Ambulance man summons me, M has collapsed, having lost his way to his car and walked up to the campervan parking. But he recovers well and finds his way home. Ambitious as always, he had shopped too long and lost his bearings.

The Younguns sharp and funny. ‘They look poor’ a young lad says to their zoom class, the microphone unwittingly still on. One of their team drank at the bar later and reminded me of the song of theirs I liked, ‘Dark Waters’, written at the height of refugees fleeing across waters to another safe land. Their album, Strangers, is a collection of stories they gathered on their journeys. Tom Pains bones.

T shirt -Almost Vegan.

Virginia – ‘It’s such a gentle festival’

Pauline, not on her dynamic form, I wonder why, then she tells me. ‘It’s the size of a football’, she said, dismissed by her doctors for a year, finally acknowledged and the op to remove it is in a few weeks time. She is being held by her good friends.

I sleep fitfully, side door of Mazda open, drifting in an out of Afghanistan, wondering how it would be to be a woman there now?

There is a continual measurement from previous times. The first time with glasses, and a mask. The first time I declined yoga until the last morning (remember Bharat from Nepal doing yoga here for the first time in his life?). First time watching joggers pass me by in the morning knowing I was not one of them.

‘More of a fair than a festival this year, observed John Ward.

The climbing man came in on the last evening, topping up on Trawler Boys. I recognised him and said I’d watched him nurture a young girl half way up the wall, and petrified. His arm around her, talking to her. ‘That’s what I do it for,’ he said. ‘Those moments that may pivot a life, moving out of a comfort zone into a courage to go further.’

Quince Vodka our team was given, along with cakes each session – what a great team. Zoe and Lee, the Gallaghers. Our bar finally closed, we settled by the fire, while Simon played a tune I know but now cannot remember (!) died and gone to heaven, watching the full moon, jupiter, great limes, amongst friends and strangers, near a warm fire.

Malcolm left us with our 4 paper sheets and a pencil (with no rubber) so the following morning I sketched the naked oak which had become my friend. I saw, once again, how in doing so, I came to see it more. See how the branches grew out of a bracelet of wood from the trunk, how vertical cracks formed in the trunk, how growths like warts formed. If only I could draw one day. Dare I hatch this plan and not fail – as I had done with my handwriting, still awkward irregular and untidy (!) – dare I vow to master a gift I had dallied with most of my life. A woman in our drawing group bought out her sketch pad. ‘I carry a sketch pad around with me everywhere, have done for years. See – it is empty. I have never had the confidence to start.’ And another woman declared ‘Yes, I am the same. So frightened of starting any book, I begin writing at the end’.

I walk the grounds of Glenham, observing great oaks, one split and hollow inside, one dieing back, one magnificent and healthy. In a conversation with Tess on the final morning I declare, I will draw a tree a day, dare I do it?

As I write this 4 days later, I have failed completely. 137 emails to answer, grass to cut and strim, Michael to attend to, Forest School and Green Party to organise their AGMs. Madness, I fill my time far too much, as if avoiding what I want to do. I must take stock, do less, look at trees.

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