IT all started as bit of a hoe-down at the village fete, then became a ‘one-off’ farewell gig for legions of fans before swiftly morphing into an annual reunion that is now – four decades later – a renowned international festival that somehow retains an almost neighbourly intimacy despite the presence of some 20,000 people.

This year Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, with a typically diverse range of artists that has long since seen the event drop-kick its “folk music” tag, was tinged with sadness following the recent death of Dave Swarbrick – the fiddler extraordinaire who became a key figure in a group that next year hits its half century.

It was Swarbrick, after all, who first moved to the charming Oxfordshire village of Cropredy in the Seventies, thus kick-starting the one-time pioneering folk-rock ensemble’s unique relationship with the community that so embraces this annual influx of music, culture and colour.

Due tribute, in a tasteful, unfussy way, was paid to ‘Swarb’ during the band’s grand two-and-a-half hour Saturday night finale, notably with a heartfelt rendition of one of his finest songs, the sublime Rosie and perhaps slightly a more poignant-than-usual Meet On The Ledge.

A couple of days earlier, on a sunny Thursday afternoon, Fairport Convention opened the festival with some acoustic picking and strumming that included John Barleycorn Must Die, a tradition ode to the power of tippling – an invitation, perhaps, for the throng in the field to make for the Wadworth Bar that is run with usual military precision.

“If loving the banjo is wrong I don’t wanna be right,” bellow Hayseed Dixie, whose punk infused bash at what can loosely be described as country music is fast, furious and frazzled. One minute they’re doing Black Sabbath’s War Pigs complete with mandolin solo before Bohemian Rhapsody flows effortlessly into Let’s Get It On.

Its riveting stuff. You wouldn’t want to follow Hayseed Dixie. But Madness can pretty much follow anyone, as they raised the imaginary roof that with that familiar, smiley, knees-up, barrow boy-take on ska and pop.

Fairport’s long time compatriots and English country cousins Steeleye Span have evolved over the decades into durable rock-folk-prog outfit propelled by Rick Kemp’s deep, melodic bass and the instantly recognisable voice of Maddy Prior.

But new blood including fiddle player Jessie May Smart have helped keep them vibrant as well as hugely entertaining.

I didn’t quite get The Bootleg Beatles.

At least, not as Friday night headliners. Can’t quite get my head around blokes in wigs and false moustaches pretending to be someone else. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sing along with just about every note-for-note number they plucked from pop’s greatest back catalogue.

If you have the presence, the voice and the songs then one man and a guitar can enthrall thousands of people in a field, as Ralph McTell proved so well on Saturday.

Ditto, if you’re a couple of Aussie buskers, a la the Pierce Brothers, with a decent line in foot stomping, harp blowing street-wise rock and folk.

Aided by some eye-catchingly energetic dancers, The Demon Barbers peerlessly merged folk with hip-hop while Babylon Circus, a nine-piece party band from Lyon, shook the arena with a captivating, powerhouse of a set that mixed punk, reggae, ska and a brassy Balkan swing.