Cool as Folk

Some folk music - on the train to Edale!

Some folk music – on the train to Edale!

On Tuesday night, I took the folk train for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect. My friend Louise had decided to try it for her 30th birthday, bringing along me, another friend, Fraser and Louise’s mum. We had a pint in the Sheffield Tap, the brilliant real ale pub on Platform One of Sheffield railway station and then bought return tickets for the 7.36pm train to Edale, a tiny village in the Peak District, in the shadow of Kinder Scout, the highest point in Derbyshire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinder_Scout

We clambered on board the shabby train. One carriage was ram-packed, with people of all ages, ranging from twenty-something hipsters to elderly ladies. A group of people in the middle of the train started playing accordions  There was a lady who was supposed to be playing the fiddle but her strings had snapped en-route to the station, due to the extreme cold. Luckily, a lady getting off the train at Grindleford lent her fiddle for a couple of songs. The train rumbled into the Peak District and we soaked up the atmosphere, noticing that at each village station we passed, the snow still lay deep on the platform.

At Edale, everyone shuffled through the snow into the Rambler Inn, next door to the station, and we drank pints of ale while singing along with old folk songs such as ‘She moved through the fair’ and ‘The Irish Rover’. I thought the inclusion of the comedy song, ‘Why Paddy’s Not at work today’ was particularly funny, as it sounds just like some of the accidents I have to investigate as part of my current job. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iA5RGI3zn20

As a carriage-full of folkies piled onto the train back to Sheffield, we must have been a shock to the surly-looking lad with multiple piercings, who had probably been on the train since it left Manchester Piccadilly. On the seat in front of him, the group of grey-haired, Arran-jumpered folkies got out their accordions and began to sing about barrels of ale, the young man pushed his headphones further into his ears, stared intently at his phone and tried to pretend that the whole thing wasn’t happening. When we reached Hathersage, the painfully cool young man, pushed his way through the corridor to stand by the doors until he could finally escape at Grindleford. We all thought it was hilarious that the lad had got out of the train at Grindleford, which is a picturesque Peak District village. Perhaps this young man has parents who are Morris Dancers and has finally escaped from Grindleford to live a cool urban life, only to find himself terminally embarrassed by the occupants of the folk train.

On New Year’s Eve 2005, I made a New Year’s resolution to do more stuff that I liked, including folk music, even if I had to do it by myself. My twenties had been quite “full-on” and, along with my circle of friends, we’d spent a lot of time at gigs and clubs. I was interested in getting into more folk music, but I’d been worried about it being a bit uncool or that my friends wouldn’t want to go with me. In May 2006, I volunteered as a steward at Wychwood Music Festival at Cheltenham racebourse, which eclectically combined folk, indie and dance music. For various reasons, my friends didn’t want to come. I was a bit nervous, but I went alone, on the train, lugging my tent for miles until some friendly Oxfam Stewards gave me a lift. I set up camp with them, in the middle of the racecourse. I met an amazing bunch of Oxfam stewards, including Louise and Fraser who accompanied me on the folk train. It was such a good weekend that I had completely lost my voice by the time I returned to Sheffield.

I’ve been stewarding for Oxfam at music festivals ever since the summer of 2006.  I’ve signed up to work for them at Download, Glastonbury, WOMAD, Beautiful Days and Shambala this year. It might not always be the most glamorous job in the world but you get a chance to make a real difference to people’s lives – at the festival, as well as the people who benefit from the money that Oxfam receives for providing a top-class stewarding service. Try it – you won’t regret it! http://www.oxfam.org.uk/stewarding

I’ve now got an international network of friends of all ages and from all backgrounds, ranging from hip young students to elderly hippies in woolly jumpers; anarchists to people who work for the military. And that’s only happened because I decided to take a step on my own and do something I wanted to do. From taking that small step, amazing things have happened. I’m about to take a much bigger step, into a whole new career, but now I know the power of following my heart and “doing the stuff that I like”!

The Folk Train. It really is “Cool as Folk”: http://www.folktrain.org.uk/

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. ajax9994
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 18:59:45

    I worked Reading last year and I am returning this year and I cannot wait! I wish that I could do as many as you.

    Reply

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