A Musician Talks

SITE p89 - 90

So many other fairs and festivals these days are unfairly dominated by loud music; I wouldn't decry the fact absolutely, it's just that the constant din can be somewhat draining and not condusive to individual creativity.

In this respect, the Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs have always been pleasure to be at and take part in. Somewhere along the line a connection has been made between the idea which sprung up in the 60's about individual participation in large `events', and a traditional format of fairs, where entertainers were either travellers, or locals with talent rather than invited celebrities. Of course, the modern `star' system has thrown up some great talent, and nurtured it to the extent where it goes far beyond the reach of the amateur. Therein the problem: the distance between performer and audience.

At a fair, you might wander around and hear nothing really exceptional - passing the beer-tent and its fitter of unison folk tunes, past wistful guitar chords, a procession accompanied by fiddle and accordion, bongos and buskers, or off-site at night, where a hundred good-night parties challenge the stillness with fireside songs or music from cassette players.

On-stage in the bigger tents there is usually a fair variety, some good music, some unusual groups, some high spirited country dancing, or a late night Bop. The rock bands often have a hard time at fairs: a lot of the customary antics of the bands are somehow at odds with the spirit of the Fairs. There is a certain sort of gentleness that pervades the fairs and does not accommodate the hard-edged excess of a rock band, which is maybe another aspect of that separateness and distance which exists between the modern performer and his audience.

It must come as a bit of a shock to some of the bands who mistake the fairs for rock festivals, to which they do bear a superficial resemblance. There are, I think, unspoken laws about just what is - and is not acceptable at these fairs, and though this has probably sustained them in the long run, it's just a little too fragile an arrangement for musicians, notoriously sensitive creatures.

Over the years, the music has aptly reflected the state of the fairs, with their high points and disappointments. There have been dull fairs and yet there have been days so perfect that they live on in memory. Things which stand out have often as not been 'one-off' performances by people using the opportunity that a fair provides, to perform without pressures. Some of them are people who never usually get the chance to perform in public. Others are true professionals who relish the freedom given by the looseness of fairs, to do what comes most naturally to them. I know I have learnt a lot about music by being at the Fairs.

What about a Fair which is devoted to music and the musicians? After all, you can often enter the gate at half price for wearing costume, - so why not, for once, for bringing in a musical instrument? It's just an idea to reward and give recognition to the musicians; they deserve it and I'm sure they would appreciate it...play on...'
Simon Barley.