One of The Guardian’s Top 10 Quirky Festivals!
One of Songlines Magazine’s World’s Best Festivals

“If last year's Bristol Folk Festival was the new and improved, 2012 was the super deluxe. Now, using every inch of the Colston Hall's golden megadome extension, punters were free to wander in and experience roots music's incredible ability to unite and captivate. Those who bought in to the full experience will be talking about this one for quite some time.” - David Kushar, Spiral Earth

“Fantastic mud-free folk for all - the bars and cafes were bustling and the three stages packed with people enjoying the opportunity to hear some of the best singers and musicians on the British folk scene-– and the rare experience of a major festival where you didn’t have to worry about rain and mud!”- Keith Clark, Bristol Evening Post

The 2nd Bristol Folk Festival pulled off a spectacular coup and flamboyant finale on Bank Holiday Monday when world music supergroup Afro Celt Sound System (above) astonished the audience with their dynamic fusion of drumming African rhythms and Celtic harmonies, in what is due to be their only UK summer festival appearance this year.  

The three day May Bank Holiday weekend festival was voted a resounding success, fielding some of the biggest names in folk, notching up 90 hours of top class music and drawing over 3,000 people to the Colston Hall venue. Provisional dates of May 4-6 have already been announced for 2013. On Saturday, Show of Hands (left) the West Country band celebrating an incredible 20 years on the road, performed their first gig since selling out the Royal Albert Hall, receiving a standing ovation.

And it wasn’t just Irish eyes that were smiling on Sunday night with a capacity crowd for multi award-winning Derry songstress Cara Dillon together with Celtic folk legends Michael McGoldrick, Donal  Lunny and Máirtín O’Connor. 

Across at the O2 Academy on Saturday night, Newton Faulkner delivered a top class set to another full house as part of the festival while another Colston highlight was popular alt-country band ahab reduced to a threesome as their frontman Callum Anderson was in hospital having his appendix out, they still pulled off a memorable set. 

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker performed a main stage set showing why they were worthy winners of the festival’s Isambard Music Award whilst Solarference (also short listed for the same award) were arguably the most unusual act of the festival. Crossing into new musical territory, Nick Janaway and Sarah Owen performed their live electronic folk music to a captivated Hall 2 crowd – a fascinating show using laptops, sampling and a wide collection of sound toys.

Another hugely popular act was Derby’s Lucy Ward winner of this year’s Horizon (Best Newcomer) award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Around 50 diverse music acts made up the bill on three levels of the venue with a multitude of “fringe” events included ceilidhs, mummers, workshops, poetry, a melee of Morris dancers and free market. The new Isambard’s Kingdom stage programmed by Mark Venus proved a popular showcase for local and emerging artists including Bristol’s Holika whilst Hall 2 was once again renamed the Fred Wedlock stage for the duration of the festival in honour of the late, much-loved Bristol folk singer and comedian.

With a four-stage undercover festival one problem the organisers didn’t have was the weather! It was flooding that put paid to the original Bristol Folk Festival in 1979 when the River Avon burst its banks at the Hanham Mills site near Bristol and caused organiser (music promoter and contract dairyman!) Reg Mann a nightmare which saw him lose £10,000. 

Capturing the essence of the festival and a definite highlight was the foyer performance of folkloric Bhangra dancing by one of Britain’s top bhangra groups RSVP, with Morris dancers and members of the crowd getting swept up in the occasion.

Named one of The Guardian’s Top 10 quirky festivals of 2012 and one of Songlines Magazine’s world’s best festivals the Bristol Folk Festival is rapidly going from strength. 

The long held dream of bringing the festival back to Bristol was realised by in 2011 by local music promoters Jan Ayers and Steve Parkhouse – a complete leap of faith at a time when several other festivals were folding or taking a year out. 

This year the festival was co-organised by Jan Ayers and the Bristol Music Trust.  Said Jan: “It’s been amazing. All of us at Bristol Folk Festival would like to thanks everyone who made our second year such a great success including our performers, traders, ticket buyers, venue staff and the many volunteers without whom this Festival would not survive.

“The event is quickly acquiring a high profile on the UK festival calendar and with thousands of visitors coming to the city just for the Folk Festival, Bristol can be proud once again to have delivered a top class event.”

The festival team is keen to hear what people made of the 2012 event and suggestions for the future - forms can be completed here