Guest post by Helen Meissner
Curator and organiser of Folkstock Festival.
Folkstock is an acoustic festival whose proceeds go to the charites Cancer Research UK and the Folkstock Arts Foundation (helping support and develop acoustic artists). Great music, helping charity work and supporting musicians in their careers – what’s not to like! Welcome to Fresh On The Net, Helen – and best of luck with this year’s festival.
It all started just over two years ago when my daughter and her friends, who were then 15, wrote their first original song and performed it accompanied by guitars, fiddle and ukulele on April 30th 2011 and this sparked my enthusiasm for spreading the word about their music.
Having just recovered from a bout of breast cancer I was after a new challenge and something to get stuck into which was not about my health, and Fresh on the Net rapidly became both a valuable resource and a benchmark for us to measure our progress, songwriting and commercial appeal. We were thrilled when the first track we released digitally as a single, When It Rains, got into the system. This was in April 2012 and not only did the song get onto the Fresh Faves, but was chosen as one of Tom’s personal top five choices for that week and soon appeared at an ungodly hour on the mixtape. A while later, the second single did not fare so well, but so confident were we in the process, and having read between the lines of the previous feedback, we decided to remix the track and make it more edgy. This did the trick and ‘Stay’ not only got into the selection and onto the Mixtape, but was also played on the Saturday night show which Tom presents on Radio 6 Music.
Consequently, all the bands I am working with are encouraged to post their music into the dropbox of this great critical mechanism and I can’t recommend it enough. I would also add that the BBC Introducing and Amazing Radio Uploaders are an essential filtering system which really work and between them, they are the three core routes to assess your potential and get your foot on the ladder of good exposure and radio play. The FOTN resources which Tom and his team in particular, have compiled for bands to access, and the wealth and breadth of knowledge across the music community which they possess is deep and compassionate and I frequently find myself sending people links to articles from the site.
Over the last two years, I made many contacts within the radio/ press/ blogging and reviewing world and decided in February of this year, having cut my teeth from a standing start and no musical background, to share this new knowledge and the contacts I had created, with as many bands as possible, and decided to niche market in the acoustic, folk and roots genres.
So I set up a community interest company called Folkstock Arts Foundation cic. The remit was to encourage musicians to feel part of something supportive and give them a framework and the tools to make the most of their talents. This ranged from marketing and getting their social media sorted, to articles in local press, independent radio plays across the country, mentoring, coaching in radio/ interview skills, biog and press release creation, agreeing on a consistent recognisable image, promo pics, demo recordings or good video of their live performance and once their audience development had begun, to create a community of musicians who could gain strength from each other, collaborate and experiment in a ‘safe’ non corporate environment without contracts of pressure from return on investment. You can see more about this here
I have now got 16 acts on the Folkstock Arts Foundation and many more who play at our gigs and events. I then approached, via Facebook, iconic folk fiddle player Dave Swarbrick from Fairport Convention and asked him if he would do us the honour of being Patron, which he accepted.
This is my attempt to give something back and help as many people as possible express themselves creatively and to boost their mental health by maintaining their confidence and self respect at this tricky time. Tricky because often the initially supportive family and friends get exasperated at yet another cancelled arrangement when they are dropped for a last minute gig. There is a limbo between starting out, getting your song style developed and your first public gigs, and that holy grail of arena gig supports. It can be years, it can be never and no one knows which one you’ll be, either. So after a while self doubt can creep in as the sacrifices are so high and having someone outside your immediate family to give you objective feedback ( such as on FOTN) is invaluable and can help your bridge that gap. So the philosophy of the festival is an extension of this.
Folkstock is on 21st September at Aldenham Country Park, Elstree, Herts, it is a small festival with a capacity of 5,000 and is the flagship event organised to enable the musicians, over 50% from the local area, to showcase their talents and have the credibility of being at the same event as award winning musicians, from whom they can gain inspiration. It was meant to be one stage, way back in February, max two, but is now across four as people wanted to be part of the event and I’ve had to draw the line at four as the costs are massive and being the first year, there is no momentum from prior attendance and no regular events of a similar nature to cross pollinate from.
Most of the bands have a five or six song slot to showcase their best songs and it’s a chance for them to shine. The marketing in the run up is as useful for a band who embraces the opportunity, as the audience on the day, so I have been supporting all 77 bands personally to market this effectively to their followers, which seems to have gone down well. Of course, that also markets the event so everyone wins. Whether you are one of the 77 artists who have managed to get on the line up ( with easily as many quality acts turned down ) or are visiting to soak up the supportive musical atmosphere, you will find there’s something for everyone at Folkstock. Here is our little jingle, kindly supplied by a friend on facebook, Heartwave Music
All the profits from the festival ticket sales from Folkstock will be split equally between the Folkstock Arts Foundation and Cancer Research UK.
So who’s playing ?
There’s a more traditional folky main stage and an Alt Folk stage as well as two acoustic stages, one with predominantly solo acts – the Folkstock Presents stage, and the other ‘Turn up the Sun’ a more lively affair run by rootsy singer songwriter Marina Florance.
So on the Main stage we have Lucy Ward, ( previous BBC 2 Folk award winner and subject of an Inside Out TV BBC documentary last year) who has just released her second album Single Flame to a raft of excited and impressed reviewers in national press as well as respected online media, double heading on the Main Stage with Kris Drever ( also a third of Lau, who won best band at this years Folk awards) who duets here with Eamonn Coyne, who have just released Story Map, also a well received and critically reviewed album.
Then there’s the de rigueur Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, hot on the heels of their debut album Fire and Fortune which delighted many reviewers and fans alike, Luke Jackson – twice nominated at the BBC Folk Awards this year, Reg Meuross, master singer / songwriter, Said the Maiden who are booked to support Dave Swarbrick on his solo tour next year, The Willows and Boho Dancer, both of whom have done live sessions with Bob Harris on his BBC Radio Two show in the last couple of months. I could go on.
Many of the artists have made it onto the Amazing Radio and BBC 6 Radio radars and many more have played on various BBC Introducing shows, including Sophie Jamieson and Roxanne de Bastion, who are well known to Ruth Barnes from BBC 6 Music and Amazing Radio, Fred’s House, Nick and the Sun Machine, Tom Moon, Flaming June, Worry Dolls, Marina Florance, Chylde Owlett, Johnno Casson, Indi Forde, The Floe, The Folk, JonPaul Palombo, Lucy Cait,Zoe Phillips, Jamie Parisio, Lazibyrd, Nick Williams, Minnie Birch. Whether you have heard of them before or not, you are assured of a great selection of talent.
The music is going to be excellent ( if you like harmonies, melodies and ‘authentic’ stripped back sound ),you can hear a selection of some of the artists both above & below
But in addition to the music, there will be a number of other activities for everyone to get involved with, such as free sign up on the day ukulele, slide guitar and song writing workshops, arts and crafts to enjoy, locally brewed beer and artisan cooking, a vintage tea tent with delicious cakes, morris dancing from local side Wicket Brood, musical sessions in the bar to join, a chocolate foundation, free massages and hair cuts from new salon Espiritu, jewellery stalls, tasty festival feast food, local award winning beer from Red Squirrel, an organised amplified busking spot ( so bring your guitar), a village green area which will have the local Under 10 yr old ceilidh group performing, glitter tattooists, a charcoal sketcher who will capture you on paper if you so desire. I could go on, each day interesting vendors are approaching me and new attractions are being added to the site map.” says Helen
If you are interested in going to the festival, there is a limited availability discounted ticket channel for musicians –which is a half price offer, in recognition of the fact that it is hard to get established and all the money really needs to go on fuel to get to the gigs and associated costs. So if you fancy it and can get to Aldenham Country Park, Elstree, on Saturday 21st Sept, in the north London/ South Herts borderlands, don’t hang about if you want to take advantage of this stunning half price offer. Alternatively, you could volunteer your services for a few hours and get in free.
Here is the special ticket channel