ACCORDING to Wikipedia it was 1976 but Simon Nicol isn’t so sure. “My money is on ’75,” he says, “but none of us are clear on it.” The only original member of Fairport Convention who is still with the band is considering the birth of one of Britain’s longest running pop festivals.

This year may well mark 40 years since the performance that sowed the seeds for Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, a family friendly shindig that lures 20,000 people to a sloping swathe of countryside near Banbury for three days every August.

Then again, it may well not.

Singer/guitarist Simon recalled that it all began sometime during the mid-Seventies. “Peggy (Dave Pegg) and Swarb (Dave Swarbrick) lived in Cropredy at the time and we used to rehearse in the village hall. One year, after the village fete, when they’d taken down the tombola, we played there as a payback. It was a great success and they asked us to do the same next year.”

Word of a village fete show by the band that transformed folk music by performing traditional numbers with electric instruments had by then spread and fans around the country wanted a piece.

It soon morphed into a festival, an organised event that grew and grew. “It was all very organic,” said Simon. “No-one knew, 40 years down the line that it would become a huge international event.”

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention was once considered a folk festival. But having lured the broad ranging likes of Robert Plant, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, UB40, Status Quo, Steve Winwood and Little Feat to its stage it has now drop-kicked folk tag and this year’s line-up is a typically eclectic mix of pop, rock, folk, blues and prog.

Following a triumphant Glastonbury appearance last month nutty boys Madness – one of Britain’s most successful singles bands – headline the opening night at this year’s Cropredy which takes place from Thursday, August 11 to Saturday, August 13.

Said Simon: “Madness have been on my list for years. If they do what they did at Glastonbury it’s going to be a great night.”

To the surprise of many, a tribute band will top Friday’s bill, albeit “quite simply the world’s best tribute band.” When The Bootleg Beatles previously played Cropredy in 1993 Simon remembered being “down the front all the way through - it was fantastic.”

While he wasn’t so enamoured with tribute festivals that saw “Abba followed by Queen” he felt there was always room for a special outfit such as The Bootleg Beatles with their note-for-note renditions of pop’s greatest back catalogue.

Prog has made inroads into Cropredy in recent years with Rick Wakeman, Fish, Steve Hackett and Marillion adding a newish dimension that Simon said had helped keep the festival “fresh and exciting.”

Proggy acts had gone down really well with fans, he said - as highlighted by long queues for post show autograph sessions. This year Gryphon will bring their singular, medieval take on prog-folk to the festival alongside younger, rockier exponents of the Early Seventies rooted genre, Headspace and Lifesigns.

Two cornerstones of the Late Sixties/Early Seventies British folk movement Ralph McTell and Steeleye Span return to Cropredy while new-wave folk is represented by artists including the foot-stomping, tear jerking much lauded female duo Sound of the Sirens.

Cropredy’s broad canvas, meanwhile is reflected by Hayseed Dixie (manic hillbilly), Babylon Circus (a world music blend of ska/reggae/punk) and Willie and The Bandits (blues/rock power trio.) “I’m really excited by the line-up,” said Simon who was keen to stress that unlike many huge alfresco events across the UK this summer Cropredy remained entirely self-supporting with no big brand sponsorship. “We’re very proud of our festival,” he added.

*The full line-up, ticket prices and other information on Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2016 is available at:‎

Swarb didn't want any fuss

A GIANT figure will loom over Fairport’s Cropredy Convention next month – a giant figure playing a violin in a manner that no-one had ever played a violin before.
Dave Swarbrick, a key figure in the 49-year Fairport Convention Story, died recently after years of health issues.
Indeed, Swarb became one of the few people to have read their own obituary, the Daily Telegraph having prematurely published the article in 2004.
“Both obituaries were stunning,” said Simon Nicol, who played with Swarb in Fairport and also when the pair struck out as a duo.
During his Fairport tenure in the band’s Seventies heydays Swarb revolutionised folk music in a Hendrix-like manner by playing an electric violin: a game-changing breakthrough that became his trademark
“He was a really inspirational musician to play with. He influenced so many musicians. He was incomparable,” said Simon
No official tribute is planned at Cropredy although Swarb will be on the minds of many there. “He didn’t want any fuss,” added Simon.