It’s that time of year, Cropredy. Well actually it’s after that time of year as Cropredy ended last weekend. I only really get homesick in August it seems and really only during the second weekend in August. There is the usual concerns and missing my parents throughout the year but missing the land of my birth only happens during that weekend when Fairport’s Cropredy Convention is happening, or as it used to be called the Annual Fairport Convention Reunion.
I started going to Cropredy in 1982, it was a time before the internet and the easy passing of information, you had to discover this type of event because you new someone who went, read the back of an album cover, was at a gig or you had to look out for posters in the right record store. So I’m not sure if it was a conversation in the the Swan on Wood Street in Liverpool, a poster in Probe records or the back of some obscure album or being told at a gig by Peggy and Swarb, but in 1982 I bought a ticket for the annual reunion in Cropredy. It looked like a village fete ticket or raffle ticket. I immediately felt a part of something new and different.
I never went to Cropredy to attend a festival, there were so many other options for that, I went as a Fairport fan. I never even paid attention to who might be playing, as long as Fairport were on on Saturday night I didn’t care. Of course for the ten years I consistently went I saw a lot of great music and Fairport changed my musical taste by me absorbing all that folk and other things. Fairport were an outlier in my musical tastes at the time, the folkiest I got was Neil Young, I detested Dylan and would run from a fiddle unless Swarb was wielding it. For a strange reason, to some, I never considered them a folk band and never have. Even now I think of them more as a rock band than a folk band and it was always Cropredy were they rocked the best if not the hardest. The band members constantly say Cropredy is not a folk festival but this falls on deaf ears.
Since leaving the country in 1995 I have managed to attend three Cropredy’s all for the same reason to see Fairport Convention. Two were major reunion years in ’97 and 2007 and then 2010. We were hoping to come this year but finances got in the way. I will be there next year, it has become a coming of age thing with my boy’s, they get to 18 and we take them to Cropredy, to see Fairport Convention, I know, but it’s a fan thing. Hopefully my twelve year old will get this experience in 6 years.
Dipping in and out of the festival the way I do there are a few things I don’t get any more. The whole fringe idea, great for the local businesses etc. but it all seems a bit unnecessary to me, hanging at the bar all day is confusing too. It’s nice to meet people but I go to see the music and what is happening on the stage, it’s fun to see friends and acquaintances but it is the bi-product of the festival not the reason.
Then there is the idea that a festival needs to be an event beyond the music, I guess when I started going there were so many free festivals around to meet that need and now that experience has to be to rolled into a musical event. It’s astonishing the number of adults using a festival as an excuse to act badly. I remember feeling excited that Cropredy was about one band and the music and creating a community around that rather than the other festival communities at the time, that were created around behavior or an ideology that was not fully understood by those engaged in it. It’s not a spiritual experience for me but a musical one although spirituality community and music are all connected so maybe I’m full of it.
Fairport never touring my part of the world anymore makes it much more about the opportunity to see the band than a festival experience. Although I did get a very nice mention from the stage in Crosby a couple of years ago but was too embarrassed to acknowledge it. I also find myself paralyzed by nerves at the idea of meeting all those people I only know from the internet. So hide away with my little group of friends and family.
I have always expected Cropredy to die when the band stopped. There does not seem any need to keep it going beyond the existence of the band. I guess if they stopped touring and took it back to it’s roots it would be fun but how viable would that be financially at the end of the day. Of course considering the number of children of band members that appeared at this years festival maybe there is a future.
I’m not bothered by Cropredy ending or fading away, all things do that in the end. I miss lots of things about my youthful Cropredy going experience but don’t think I could do it that way again. Three people in a two man tent may be pushing it and the lack of a change of clothes might be too much for those around me.
So as I got all nostalgic again this year for that field in Oxfordshire by the banks of the Cherwell my family had to put up with long wistful silences and me mumbling the words to Meet On The Ledge at what would be approximately midnight on Saturday. Next year we will be at Cropredy again and I’m sure it will be as memorable as all the others and a wonderful coming of age for Chris.