FORTY-one years ago, in a pub in Fleetwood, the Fylde Folk Festival strummed into life.
The man behind it, Alan Bell, had no idea that four and a bit decades later, it would be in the top 10 of the country’s best folk festivals and attract some of the best musical talent from around the world.
It goes without saying that Bell is delighted with the festival’s continued success, even if it does mean organising it gets tougher every year.
“You always have to try and keep improving it and the challenge is getting the best artists every time, but we seem to do it,” he said.
That much is certainly true, with the line-up for this year’s event – which takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend (August 29-September 1) – has just been announced and includes some of the biggest names in folk music.
The performers range from veterans to winners of the BBC Young Folk Awards and include Mabon (a highly rated band from Wales), Nancy Kerr and James Fagan and the great Dougie Maclean, winner of the 2013 BBC Lifetime Achievement award.
“Dougie is a fantastic artist and we’re delighted to have him,” said Alan. “He is a huge name in folk music. Last time he was here, after the weekend ended I took him to Manchester Airport on the Monday morning. He caught a flight to San Fransciso and filled the Hollywood Bowl the next two nights.”
This year’s festival is huge, with 137 events in four days – 300 hours of entertainment provided by more than 200 artists at 10 different venues. It’s all a far cry from the festival’s humble beginnings.
“I was playing with the Blackpool Taverners and we were performing at a lot of festivals,” recalled Alan. “I suddenly realised there was no festival at all in the North West and I decided to try and put one on.
“The first was at the North Euston Hotel. We just dipped our toe in the water to see how it would go. We did it again the following year and it went so well we moved it to the Marine Hall. We’ve been there since.”
The main acts, the big names, are at the Marine Hall but there is music and entertainment throughout the whole of Fleetwood during the four days, from music in various pubs (such as the North Euston and Strawberry Gardens) to morris dancing in the streets.
“Last year was the 40th anniversary and it was hugely successful but I think we’ve built on that this year,” added Alan.
“The mix of artists is fantastic – from people who’ve been in the folk scene for half a century to up and coming 20-year-old’s just making a name for themselves.
“We’ve a shanty group from Australia, a duo from Canada and a fantastic Edith Piaf style singer from France.
“Add to that all the workshops and special events and I think it is going to be a really good year.”
Tickets are now on sale and the good news is there’s no increase on price from 12 months ago.
Those who are quick and book before Sunday (March 31) can get a full weekend ticket for the knockdown price of £65. From April 1, weekend tickets are £70.
Buy online at www.marinehall.co.uk or from the box office on 01253 887693.