Cleckheaton Folk Festival

Well, the weekend started on Friday for us. This was meant to be for some last minute practice, and to pack up all the equipment. However, as Dean placed another cold towel on the shivering - yet boiling hot - Beth, we both began to question if Beth would even make it until the end of the day.
‘Are you okay?’ Dean questioned.
‘Yeah I’m good!’ came the very optimistic reply as Beth projectile vomited all over the bathroom.

True to form, until November, Beth is still an Aveyard and therefore by 8pm was begging for MacDonalds French fries and deep fried cheese.


We packed up, left enough food for Derek (he’s our cat, not a man that lives in our cupboard… That’s Estefan) and set out on the hunt for McD’s. We inhaled our veggie burgers, chips and deep fried cheese and set off for the Premier inn, Bradford.

When we emailed David Minich earlier in the day to let him know we might be late and therefore might have to pick up our badges for the festival at about noon on Saturday, we got the usual well and wishes and ‘wait… You know you are playing at 9:30 Saturday morning, right?’. Luckily, the Aveyard metabolism means no matter what ailment an Aveyard has… They will never miss out on an evening meal. 9:30 the next morning would really not be a problem.


We managed to get to the Premier Inn for midnight. The man behind the counter signed us in, and then watched in bemusement as between us we struggled with:
1. A Cajon drum-box
2. A base and peddle for the Cajon drum-box
3. An open tuned six string guitar x2
4. A 12 string guitar
5. A standard tuned 6 string guitar
6. A mandolin
7. A small suitcase full of clothes and toiletries for the weekend
8. A bag for our wallets, cameras, sweets etc x2
9. A selection of Van Gogh paintings
10. A mint edition of the first Spiderman comic
11. A collection of William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, all written in past tense by Wouldiwas Shookspeared
12. Kitchen sink (classic)
Thank you so much for your help and support Phillip from Premier Inn, Bradford. Your kindness was invaluable.

We struggled our way down the corridor to room 18, probably waking everyone else up in the process as the heads of our guitars clattered against the walls and door frames.


We were very impressed with our room, although that might have been because we couldn’t really see it because the main lights didn’t work. Despite having slept all day, Beth collapsed into the comfiest bed ever, spoke with all the characters line-for-line in Hot Fuzz on channel 3, and then dribbled her way into some pleasant dreams.

Our usual morning coffee and conversation had to be held via megaphone. The beds in the Premier inn’s are the size of small continents, and it would have taken 3.87 days to shuffle close enough to each other to hold a normal and civilised conversation at our usual decibel. Dean had to very casually hold himself together as Beth pulled her best disappointed face at not being able to utilise the Premier Inn’s continental breakfast. It was an early start, there was no time for 20 croissants.


We set up in a church in Cleckheaton for ‘Breakfast with Kootch’. For any of you that know the origin story of our name… You know why this makes us smile so much. That and the advert for our evening performance in the Blend cafe as ‘cuppa with Kootch’.


It was early, we were still pretty tired, and the smell of sausage and bacon was making Beth dribble and Dean’s tummy wince. (Dean being a veggie, proper, unlike Beth who just pretends). We played a few tunes to masticate to, while serving staff confusedly tried to find Christine, the owner of a missing breakfast. After 5 minutes or so, a gruff, if not slightly sheepish, voice from the front finally answered ‘er, yep, that’s me, I’m Christine’. And this is what we love about folk festivals, its so rare to see a Christine with such a long beard and well pronounced Adam’s apple. Some say she was actually a he called Terry, just after free food. Don’t listen to ‘em Christine!


After this, we hurriedly threw all our instruments back into the car and headed up to the Masonic Lodge. Once there, we stood on one leg, jumped up and down, spun in a circle, did the handshake, put tin foil hats on our heads and were allowed in to set up for the sound check for the concert that afternoon and evening. Alli, the sound man, was phenomenal. Like idiots, we had forgotten our own jacks. From the exhaustive list of instruments, it was also very confusing what instruments we would be playing at the same time, what we needed plugging in, and where (and where we we meant to plumb the sink in?!). We took up most of the time for the sound check and honestly I think we were pretty close to getting the vein in the middle of Alli’s head to pop. A little later, one of our steward friends mentioned that Alli was doing his last year of sound engineering here, as he was going back to performing himself. We couldn’t help but wonder if we had inadvertently been part of his decision to quit on the whole sound guy scene. We were, and still are, very sorry, Alli!


At breakfast, we had met up with Beth’s mum (Jude) and friend, Lynne. After the sound check we headed to the town hall for our passes. We popped on our passes and Jude put her wristband on, when we spotted David and Janice. David’s eyes seemed to twinkle as he asked if we had picked up our envelope. We said yes and pointed to our passes. His reply was … Did you get your other envelope?


So, to apply some context, a few months ago David and Janice asked us for our sound requirements and our rider. The sound requirements were easy but we thought ‘what do people usually ask for in a rider?’. We came back with one of the most ridiculous things we had heard of and asked for only orange smarties for Beth, and only blue ones for Dean. Well, David handed over an envelope titled ‘Kootch’s rider’. We were nearly bent double when we poured the smarties into the envelope and out poured only blue and orange ones. Janice and David giggled like school children and said that they very much enjoyed eating all the other colours.


We had a good laugh and a natter before heading over to the ‘spoons over the road for lunch. It felt great being right in the centre of the festival. There were women dressed as vikings, pulling themselves around in a boat and singing ABBA. There were (obviously) Morris dancers. There was also a man with a beard in a pinafore, marigolds, bra, knee pads, wooden mop, and holding a yellow bucket. We thought he was collecting for charity with him having a bucket but, no, he was just enjoying the festival, like you do. One of the side roads was completely closed off for stalls that included food, drink, tombolas, knitwear, teddies, kids toys and more! The place was an absolute hive of activity and madness. Beth had three meals for a tenner all to herself before they rolled her back up to the Masonic Lodge for the first plugged-in gig of the weekend.


We read passages of ‘King Leered’ and ‘Much Adid about Nothing’ and soon the room was full. The sound was perfect and the room was singing along, which is always an absolute pleasure and delight. We decided that maybe the three meals for a tenner maybe shouldn’t have involved cheesy garlic bread… Maybe - Beth’s burps were, of course, perfectly timed percussion to the music of the afternoon.


Rock n’ roll is the name of our game, so after the gig we had a solid gap of a few hours. Naturally (being rock n’ roll) we headed back to the Premier inn for a drink of milk and to go nap-nap.

We woke and it’s Saturday night. We know from previous years we are about to go to a very welcoming but challenging venue - The Blend Cafe. This is a start up where people that aren’t part of the festival can access folk music. The cafe had a large group of regulars (about 8/9 people) sat right at the front. It was quite loud so we just swallowed our breath and began. Beth played the first bars of ‘Coal House Door’ to no one in particular. Then something magical happened. She sang the first line and we could hear a pin drop. There will always be special moments in your life. Ones that tell you that you are doing the right thing, that this is where you belong, this was one of these moments. Is it a challenging venue? Yes. Did it get progressively louder after this until Beth nearly lost her voice? Absolutely. Did some everyday normal people enjoy some folk music, even just for 4 minutes? You bet your mint copy of the first edition of Spiderman they did! This. This is what it’s all about. We appreciated the ladies at the front, middle, and back, shooting occasional glares in the direction of the rowdy table but, to be honest, they were there like they were every Saturday, to enjoy each others company; not to sit in silence and listen to some folkies. Credit where credit is due though, every now and then throughout the set they actually shut up and listened.


Last session of the night was back up to the Masonic Lodge. More tinfoil hats, dancing on one leg, and handshakes. There is a green room at the Masonic Lodge, but we kind of hope that we never get to be that kind of band. We do it cos we dig it, and we dig that you dig it too. So the instruments went in the green room and we stayed in the bar, chatting to all the people that had bothered to go out and buy a ticket and come to listen to us. We met some fantastic people this weekend, performers and listeners and supporters (and, yes, Morris dancers).


We finished the night off as you always should - with friends. So lovely to see Tom Mac again and his brother David (if only for a short time). Ian and Elaine (even if most of Ian’s time was spent trying to figure out if his chair was broken). Mel and Bill (so lovely to hear them play and sing again although we didn’t get chance for a good natter).

We also greatly appreciated the short chat with Stuart Douglas and John Bromley about Beth’s dad. Hearing his name come from the mouths of others is so comforting to us and even though we kind of know it, we will never get tired of hearing that he would be proud of us both.


We have officially SOLD OUT of Kootch: Live in the Making Room CD’s and now we start a new journey of writing enough songs to put out a completely original album… (oh o’right, maybe we’ll throw in a couple of trad songs for you hardcore folkies!).


Thank you so much to all the stewards that made the festival possible. Thank you to The Jude for the continuing support of the band and earning the TOP ROADIE badge. Thank you to David and Janice for inviting us again, hearing aids can be very discreet these days, huh?

Here’s to next year and the health of one of the best, funniest, and friendliest festival around!

Love, harmonies, cwtch.
Kootch x