Year SIX, and Beardy Folk Festival only went and did it again… It was wonderful. Beardy is an absolutely excellent festival and rapidly becoming one of FFA’s Happy Places! Our Reviewers have followed its progress since inception and have loved every minute - 2023 was arguably the best to date, and previous year’s have been pretty exceptional too (take a looksee at the FFA Beardy Folk Festival 2022 Review for a snapshot of last year’s bash). This small perfectly formed bijou festival is just so, not too big to be impersonal, but not too small to be constrained; indeed, Beardy is positively expansive in its facilities and entertainment quotient. This year’s non-music offerings (see here) were top notch, both in range and quality, and its eclectic music policy once again took its audience on a wonderful journey across the length and breadth of the ever expanding ‘Folk’ genre.

The festival is held in the beautifully atmospheric surroundings of Hopton Court in Shropshire. It’s a stunning location centred around the Grade II Listed Georgian Country House’s splendid Walled Garden. Beardy returned the main stage to within the garden in 2023 and it really does maximise one of the festival’s unique selling points – it truly is a charming, quintessentially English scene… there is even an Orangery hosting gigs and events!  Outside the walls, Beardy offers all kinds of happenings in the Woods and Meadow, and there genuinely is something for all (mental!) ages – including well priced Hobsons beer! Quality and value pervade every aspect of Beardy Folk Festival.

The Beardy audience is rather special too. Most in the crowd discover Beardy for the first time, and then return every year. Remember, the majority have been with Beardy through the dark days of the pandemic, where the festival famously staged in 2020 & 2021, one of the very very few events to do so. That’s built a unique bond, a trust, between festival and audience and it generates one hell of an atmosphere; one mean batch of resilience, camaraderie and togetherness. You can throw anything at this crew and they will come up smiling – cos they’ve Been There. Done That.

Indeed, this Reviewers lasting memory of the 2023 festival will be The Beardy Smile; the grin was infectious, everyone was at it; rarely has FFA witnessed artists feed off the good-time vibes of the crowd… Artists who rarely speak thought themselves standup comics at Beardy! Some of the banter was well funny.

Beardy is bigger than their latest lineup, the bands are transitory - the festival and the crowd are the thing. What you can guarantee is that the programme will forever explore ‘folk’ boundaries, whilst this special audience will leave any musical prejudices at the gate and prepare to be amazed! Really, what more could you ask for?

So… to those wonderful, happy 2023 performers.  Now then, FFA saw some splendid acts; we also missed much that perhaps we should have seen. So it goes – something has to give. We’d be in the Bar talking nonsense, stuffing our faces, or more likely dozing in the summer heat. What follows isn’t a list, you can study a programme for that. This is simply FFA’s take on what worked for us. If your favourites didn’t make this Review’s final cut, then more fool us… maybe next time.


At most festivals this is set up day, with limited expectations of any bands on offer. More a time to argue during pitching camp, checking out the facilities and stalls, savouring that first drink. But, No – not at Beardy. No fillers here…They only went and served up Valtos! The band set a marker; no only in excellence, but an indication that Beardy realise Folk isn’t just about three folk singers in a pub near Wells. The organisers get that ‘Folk’ is a fluid, wide, dynamic, innovative genre, covering all bases. Valtos offered up some absolutely splendid Celtic Fusion, melting traditional Scottish rhythms, electronica, dub and much else. First time they have played across the border apparently. The Isle of Skye’s gain has been the wider UK’s loss. A cracking take on ‘Alba’ did for us. What a great night.


The Drystones offered up a remarkable performance not least because they were a fiddle player down! The two remaining guys simply improvised in a multi-instrumental mashup of flute, guitars, percussion and live loops. It was excellent stuff, with some particularly fine Flute on ‘Compass’. Roll on the full band! Beardy offers up a fine programme of non-music activities around the site and we caught Dan The Hat’s street theatre over on the Pallet stage. Not only is the guy an excellent juggler, but his banter is to die for. Genuinely funny and hugely entertaining. Great to see a true performer keeping the art of Street Theatre alive. Mark Radcliffe & Co were the latest incarnation of what Radcliffe does so well; laconic humour in a wrapper of excellent musicians – only this time with Sea Shanties! A lovely relaxed performance on a blisteringly hot day.

Back in the Meadow FFA were enthralled by Mark Fraser’s Storytelling. The kids adored it, and his tall tales offered something for everyone. We caught him later in the weekend too for Ghost Stories – Spooky!!! For a small festival, Beardy genuinely does offer up plenty of variety. Talk of variety – what about Mik Artisik’s Ego Trip? Never mind Stormzy – for street level rap that captured the very essence of 21st century Britian, the man excelled. It’s all delivered within a multi-faceted package of humour, downright craziness and oddity (ever seen anyone play a car Krook Lock?), but it’s all underpinned by some wonderful and incisive social observation. Coupled with two fine backing musicians, this larger-than-life character absolutely nailed UK social anxieties, first world problems, and ticks, in a show that was frankly bizarre… and very funny. Excellent stuff.

Skerryvore closed the main stage in splendid fashion. Touting their new album ‘Tempus’, these Beardy favourites were superb. Celtic Folk Rock was rarely finer… there is something about twin pipes in full roar that makes the air crackle. A great show. In a new venture for Beardy – late night Disco!!!! A DJ Set from The Drystone’s ‘Ford Dimensional’ (Ho Ho) over at the Acoustic Stage did the business. A roller-coaster set of pop to electronica to give those who should really have gone to bed one last chance to drink and dance the night away. Yes, FFA were there, and we loved it!


Even a hungover FFA will always make the effort for the excellent Fly Yeti Fly. The duo consistently delivers some of the most gentle, blissful soundscapes one could wish for. Throw in additional chums on Cello and Double Bass to provide a fuller richer sound and this was one hell of a set. The vocal harmonies, particularly on ‘Firewood’, made the spine tingle. Absolutely Lovely.

All change for a fine set of electro-pop from Novelty Island before Sound of the Sirens blew FFA away. The lightness and flippancy of their giggling stage banter belied songs of such intense emotional power, raw primordial feelings and an elemental understanding of the way the universe turns, that the contrast was striking and the songs impact even more profound. FFA thought them excellent.

More non-music with the superb spoken word of Rob Barratt over in the Orangery. Strong social comment is arguably best delivered through the medium of humour – lampoonery and ridicule make good bedfellows with a witty line and rhyming couplet. Barratt excels at this. His deconstruction of all the ills of the UK education system is laid bare in one particular routine; he nails the issues whilst raising belly laughs! Barratt gets the balance of comment and whimsy just right - Downright silly and thoughtful in equal measure. Go see this man!

Cut Capers kicked up a storm with their brass heavy jazz funk, hip-hop and Swing that had the main stage bouncing before mighty headliner Seth Lakeman swept all before him in a light frizzle of drizzle. Lakeman always surrounds himself with fine musicians, and the interplay with vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Alex Hart was wonderful; however, it was when Lakeman soloed with one of the best percussionists on the circuit, Cormac Byrne, that the sparks flew and the magic happened. There really is a synergy between this pair that was pure joy to witness. A superb set.

In the Late Lounge DJ session, master of the decks Sean Morrison regaled and up-for-it crowd with many a fantastic Asian Fusion beat. Some joker even appeared on a Pogo Stick – but these things happen at Beardy!


A rather frail Martin Carthy had a few technical issues in Beardy’s ‘Legend’ slot. The man has been a colossus of the English folk scene for nigh on sixty years, and the crowd’s reverence and respect for this icon was all rather moving. A rare outing for ‘High Germany’ was a bonus, although somewhat fragile in its delivery. ‘A Stitch In Time’ was the standout song, but it was Carthy’s entertaining between-song stories and reminiscences that will perhaps be remembered longest. Bof!’s splendid Breton flair had the acoustic stage all a giddy before the Americana and Country Rock of ShellyAnn lit up the arena.

The infectious enthusiasm of the woman radiated from the stage and the set of largely self-penned material bubbled along nicely. Its always a good thing to see artists fired up and having a ball, and, if to prove the point, the band were absolutely on fire for an electrifying ‘Concrete’. Good Stuff. Some splendid Southern Country Blues from Truck Stop Honeymoon, and again, some top flight laconic chat. Beardy was proving a safe haven for pan-continental muso-comedians! 

Hello Merry Hell, Bye Bye fine weather. The heavens opened to deluge proportions… know what? It really didn’t matter. The Beardy crowd are made of sterner stuff and they just sang and danced on regardless, mind you, this fine band drove the party atmosphere along. Merry Hell are a band at the top of their game, and they were outstanding. Touring their new introduction to Merry Hell double album ‘Let The Music Speak For Itself’ there is a greater maturity to the sound these days, and the input of new fiddle player Simon Swarbrick (yes, the clue is in the name) adds another dimension. The balance of the set was on the button from the life lessons of ‘There’s a Ghost in Our House’ to the poignant ‘Lean On Me, Love’, to the flippant good-times of ‘Baker’s Daughter’. Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. is the ethos that underpin this crew; though never preachy, there were times during the set when this old cynic of a Reviewer felt a tear in the eye – must have been the rain.

All that remained was an excellent, dynamic, and full-on set of indie-roots from Rusty Shackle. This multi-instrumentalist crew certainly know how to deliver a pulsating headline set, and they provided an ideal counter to the worsening weather. The guys were slick, polished, and did a nice line in mono-coloured suits! Ye Gods, these guys can play. The soggy crowd danced away to a splendid headliner, with arguably song of the festival weekend in a rousing ‘Newport Rising’. Beardy Folk Festival – to the very end, you did us proud.

Article and dodgy snaps by Barrie Dimond