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Cambridge Folk Festival

Related subjects Musical genres, styles, eras and events

Stage 1 during the 2005 Cambridge Folk Festival
Stage 1 during the 2005 Cambridge Folk Festival

The Cambridge Folk Festival is an annual music festival held on the site of Cherry Hinton Hall in Cherry Hinton, one of the villages subsumed by the city of Cambridge, England. The festival is renowned for its eclectic mix of music and a wide definition of what might be considered folk. It occurs over a long weekend (3½ days) in summer at Cherry Hinton Hall. The festival has become very popular and tickets sell out quickly. Its current title sponsor is BBC Radio 2 where it is broadcast live, while highlights are recorded and shown later on the digital television channel BBC Four.


In autumn 1964 Cambridge City Council, England, decided to hold a music festival the next summer and asked Ken Woollard, a local firefighter and socialist political activist, to help organise it. Woollard had been inspired by a documentary, Jazz On A Summer’s Day, about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. The first Festival sold 1400 tickets and almost broke even. Squeezed in as a late addition to the bill was a young Paul Simon who had just released I Am A Rock. The festival's popularity quickly grew. Woollard continued as Festival organiser and artistic director up until his death in 1993. It is now run by Cambridge City Council Arts & Entertainments, together with over two hundred event staff.

Current structure

Most artists perform more than once over the weekend on the different stages: Stage 1, within a large marquee in front of the main Festival arena, the Stage 2, a smaller marquee and the Club Tent, hosted on the Festival’s behalf by five local folk clubs. There, in addition to invited artists, members of the audience including some well known names get up and perform.


It is often said that the main "folk" aspect of the festival is the audience, not the performers. As well as the more obvious folk singers, recent festivals have seen performances from Chumbawumba, Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros and The Levellers. 2006's line up included Emmylou Harris, Cara Dillon and Seth Lakeman. In 2007 a double album was released "Cool As Folk: Cambridge Folk Festival", with live recordings by Altan, Kate Rusby, Beth Orton, Martin Simpson, Eliza Carthy, Joan Baez and many others.

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