Visitors pour into Chippenham for spectacular folk festival

This Is Wiltshire: Chippenham Morris Men in action at the town's folk festival Chippenham Morris Men in action at the town's folk festival

Chippenham came to life at the weekend with about 9,000 visitors on Bank Holiday Monday alone for the folk festival.

There was no gap to be found along the High Street as people gathered to see an animated procession of 17 dance groups, who filled the town centre with the vibrant colours and sounds of clashing sticks and tinkling bells.

Sally Joyce, 55, of Andrew's Close, Chippenham, has been going to the folk festival since she was 15.

She said: “Look what it does for Chippenham. It brings generations out together and puts a smile on everybody’s face; even in the rain they’re still dancing.

“I love to see the kids dancing as they’re the ones who’ll be carrying it on.”

In the Big Top on River Island Park, the youthful Hampshire Ceilidh band Threepenny Bit had a full house clapping when their mix of electric and acoustic instruments put the groove into folk.

The innovative trend continued into the night as the Demon Barbers fused folk and hip hop in what was surely the first time a scratch DJ had graced the folk festival stage.

The show brought clog dancers and street dancers on stage together in a very brave and bizarre, but brilliant festival finale.

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Festival organiser Bob Berry said: “We invited Chippenham’s own Xpression StreetDance to try our kind of street dancing, Morris dancing. At 10am in the morning [of the show] they had never tried it before, but as dancers they picked it up in just 20 minutes.”

Mr Berry said his favourite act this time had been Grace Notes, a female trio who perform a cappella and accompanied arrangements of traditional and contemporary songs in three-part harmony.

He said selling tickets online for the first time this year added about £3,000 to their revenue by increasing ticket sales to 808.

He said: “All the free stuff we put on for the community is just an eighth of what the festival has to offer.

"The ticket-buyers get access to over 200 events, including workshops ranging from how to play the hurdy gurdy to how to rapper sword dance.

“We also had a presentation from a chap from Yorkshire who
researched the huge collection of traditional folk songs of Frank Kidson, who was relatively unknown.

“We still need support from the traders of Chippenham. The festival brings £800,000 into the community in one weekend.”

He said the festival costs £160,000 to run and breaks even thanks to the support of about 550 volunteers.

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