Cambridge Folk Festival

Cambridge Folk Festival
The Cambridge Folk Festival is an annual music festival held in the village of Cherry Hinton. It falls within the boundary of Cambridge, England but is geographically separated from the city by the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall. The festival is renowned for its wide definition of what might be considered folk and an eclectic mix of music.

The history of the Cambridge Folk Festival began in 1964, when the Cambridge City Council decided that the city needed a music festival. Local firefighter and socialist political activist Ken Woollard was asked to help organize the event. While developing the festival concept, Woollard found inspiration in the 1960 concert film Jazz on a Summer’s Day set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, United States.

The first Cambridge Folk Festival was held in summer 1965 and attracted about 1,400 attendees. The line-up included American musician and singer-songwriter Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel who had just released his debut solo single I Am a Rock.

The popularity and attendance of the Cambridge Folk Festival have been growing ever since. Woollard continued to serve as the main organizer and artistic director up until his death in 1993. He was succeeded by his assistant Eddie Barcan. Until 2015, the festival was run by Cambridge City Council. Today, the event is managed by Cambridge Live, a registered charity.

The Cambridge Folk Festival is known and loved for its unique atmosphere, eclectic line-up and non-conventional approach to defining what might be considered folk music. Here traditional folk performers from the United Kingdom and Ireland share a stage with American guests who play country and bluegrass music. The festival embraces different styles of folk music and related genres, including klezmer music, gospel, cajun music, zydeco, and many more. Renowned artists who’ve performed at the Cambridge Folk Festival include Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Chumbawamba, Joan Baez, Mumford & Sons, Emmylou Harris, Old Crow Medicine Show, and more.

The line-up includes both renowned performers and up-and-coming musicians. Most participants perform several times over the festival weekend on different stages. Stage 1 is the largest one, it is located inside a marquee in the very heart of the festival grounds. Other stages include Stage 2 in a smaller marquee, the Club Tent hosted by local folk clubs, the Floor Singers stage, and The Hub. The Hub is a small tent where young musicians can jam together or participate in workshop sessions.

In 2020, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cambridge Folk Festival

Photo: Daniel Ackerley




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