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And the Band Plays on...

Giugno 2006
A metà tra sagra di paese e adunata rock: il festival di Cropredy, organizzato dai Fairport Convention, è un evento da non perdere per chi ama i concerti estivi. Ce lo raccontano due membri della storica band.

di Mark Worden

File audio:

Fairport Convention
Fairport Convention

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)


For music fans planning to visit England this summer, a trip to the Cropredy Festival in Oxfordshire is well worth considering. This event, which runs from Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th August, is the annual re-union of past and present members of the cult English folk rock group, Fairport Convention, who have been playing together in assorted line-ups for nearly 40 years. Yet plenty of other bands will perform over the three days of the festival: this year’s bill, for example, includes Steeleye Span, John Martyn and even 10 c.c. Fans come from many countries, even though the festival has a decidedly English atmosphere, as Fairport guitarist and vocalist Simon Nicol explains:

Simon Nicol (Standard British accent):

Cropredy is a unique event. It’s the only festival I know which is actually run by musicians, for a start, and we always put ourselves top of the bill because we can! In the mid-1970s two members of Fairport Convention actually lived in this village – Dave Pegg and Dave Swarbrick – and we used to borrow the village hall for rehearsals and so forth. And every village in England, one Saturday in the summer, will have what’s called a village fete, which is just a public get-together and a little bit of money is raised and games are played and people have tea. And one year it was suggested that, after the village fete, perhaps an evening performance might be done by the band. They would sell tickets amongst the village and raise a little bit more money, and it would be a good thing to pay the village back for lending us the hall. So this happened and we played in the garden of one of the larger houses here and it was a great success, and the villagers had a nice time, the band had a nice time and they made a little bit more money. So they suggested next year they should do the same thing. That year some people from outside the village found out about it and came along, fans of the band. So it began to grow. The third year it was too big for the garden, so it went into a field and we started running it. And here we are now, 30 years later, with 15,000 people descending on a village of 600 inhabitants. And they don’t mind. They actually quite enjoy having the festival here and I can think of no other way that such an event could have happened without that good will from the village.  So it’s just grown naturally.


Fairport Convention itself was formed in London in the 1960s. Its unusual name comes from the fact that its members used to meet and rehearse in a house called Fairport on Muswell Hill. The band’s early line-up included the great Richard Thompson. Today he is based in Los Angeles, but he comes back to Cropredy most years, not only to play in the band’s closing show on Saturday night, but also to take part in the annual Cropredy v. Fairport Convention cricket match on Sunday afternoon. Village cricket is another quintessential feature of the English summer. If Richard Thompson – along with his former wife Linda – enjoys legendary status among folk music fans, then so does the late Sandy Denny, who died in 1978. She joined Fairport Convention as lead vocalist in 1968, replacing Judy Dyble. Judy Dyble is another Cropredy regular and clearly enjoys the chance to get together with a band that has always had a family feel to it:

Judy Dyble (Standard British accent):

Always, even when I was in it, we loved the fans – well, we didn’t realise they were fans, they were mostly friends: so, you know, the friends became the fans and their friends became the fans. And so it always seemed to be that you were part of a family! I love this band because, of course, they’re really nice and they talk to you! And they’re surprised that they’ve got as far as they have!


Nor is the festival Cropredy’s only claim to fame. Situated in the rolling hills of north Oxfordshire, a few miles from Banbury and not that far from Oxford, it was the site of an important battle on June 29th, 1644. The Battle of Cropredy Bridge took place during the English Civil War, in which Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads eventually defeated King Charles I’s Cavaliers. The battle inspired folk singer Ralph McTell to write the song “Red and Gold.” Fairport Convention often perform this at the festival, not many yards from where the real battle took place. 360 years later thoughts of war seem far away as thousands of fans gather around a huge stage with the words “Peace and Love” written over it. Cropredy is also a great festival for children, says Fairport Convention bass guitarist, Dave Pegg:

Dave Pegg (Standard British/Birmingham accent):

It’s one of the nicest festivals I’ve ever been to. I’m not just saying that ‘cause we organise it ourselves, it’s just… it has a very friendly atmosphere and a great vibe and it’s very much a family kind of affair. You see, you know, there’s like 2,000 kids out there today, you know, there’s like at least 2,000 under-12-year-olds and it’s a great place; the campsites are all really well organised and it’s a safe and secure place to bring your children, you know, touch wood!


Fairport Convention was founded in 1967. It originally played Californian-style “west coast” rock, but evolved towards its own brand of “English folk rock.” It was discovered by a London-based American producer, Joe Boyd, who also played a key role in launching another group that was part of the English capital’s vibrant psychedelic scene: Pink Floyd. Fairport Convention has undergone many changes in personnel over the years and at least 24 musicians have been members of the group. The band has released 34 albums: the most famous is Liege & Lief (1969). Fairport Convention began playing at Cropredy in 1974. For information about this year’s edition, visit: www.fairportconvention.com
Banbury has a railway station with trains from London’s Marylebone and Birmingham’s Snow Hill stations. During the festival there is a frequent bus service between Banbury and Cropredy. By car, leave the M40 at exit 11. Cropredy is on the Oxford Canal and some fans come to the festival by narrowboat!

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line-ups - formazioni.

bill - cartellone.

for a start - tanto per cominciare.

we always put ourselves top of the bill - ci mettiamo sempre primi sui manifesti.

village hall - sala municipale.

rehearsals - prove.

good will - buona volontà.

former - ex.

the late - la defunta.

regular - frequentatrice. abituale.

rolling hills - colline ondulate.

defeated - sconfissero.

gather around a huge stage - si radunano intorno a un palco gigantesco.

campsites - campeggi.

touch wood - tocchiamo ferro (lett, legno).

has undergone many changes in personnel - ha cambiato molte volte staff.

narrowboat - chiatta per navigare i canali.