Elusive Van Morrison headlines 50th Cambridge Folk Festival

Thu Jul 31, 2014 9:46am EDT
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By Claire Milhench

CAMBRIDGE (Reuters) - When Cambridge City Council decided to hold a music festival in the historic English university town back in 1964, few expected it to be going strong 50 years later.

But this year the Cambridge Folk Festival is celebrating its golden anniversary in style with headliner Van Morrison - who had to be courted for years before he agreed to attend - as well as Roseanne Cash and Sinead O'Connor.

There also will be time for folksy pursuits like rapper dancing, which is a dance using a short sword, and yarnbombing - the graffiti version of knitting.

It's this eclectic approach that keeps people coming back year after year to the festival, which runs from July 31 to Aug 3. And although it has evolved and expanded since the 1960s, it is still held at the compact Cherry Hinton Hall site just outside town.

"We have withstood the pressure to expand the festival or move it to a larger site because we appreciate the intimacy of the performance is what people really like – the site and the size of the marquees have been integral to our success," said Eddie Barcan, who has run the festival since 1993.

This year Barcan is particularly pleased to have booked the 68-year-old Morrison, who has never played the festival before, despite repeated invitations. "I've tried many times in the past," Barcan said. "You just keep chipping away."

Barcan took up the baton after the death of local firefighter Ken Woollard, who would organise the early festivals from a public phone box outside Cambridge Fire Station. In his first year he booked The Watersons, Peggy Seeger and a young Paul Simon, who was a late addition to the bill.

The festival quickly developed a reputation for offering everything from traditional British, Irish and American folk music to cajun, zydeco, klezmer, roots and blues.   Continued...

Irish musician Van Morrison performs during a concert at the 41st Montreux Jazz Festival July 18, 2007.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse