AS the bells from St Mary the Virgin rang out at 4pm on Thursday so too, on a sloping swathe of Oxfordshire farmland half-a-mile away, did a fiddle, an acoustic guitar and a mandolin.

The sky was filled with threatening white-cum-greyish clouds and a mild drizzle descended but Fairport Convention were already in full flow.

“Bring along, the brewer said, bring the cuckoo tree, Bring your lady mother along to keep us company…..”

It has become customary for the band to open their three-day summer soiree, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, with a brief acoustic set before their mammoth, festival-stopping production a couple of days later.

And on this occasion they included one of their jauntiest, most endearing songs from a near half-a-century career, Walk Awhile, a Fairport Convention classic.

Around two hours later the ground, normally home to a herd of dairy cows, shook to a monster reggae rhythm. “It’s wicked that folk fans like you keep old school reggae boys like us busy,” declared MC Spee of Dreadzone.

They have an unfailing knack for luring beer-can clutching festivalgoers out of their collapsible camping chairs for a leg-shake and a shimmy.

Katzenjammer’s (correct) impressive arsenal of instruments - banjo, keyboards, accordion, glockenspiel, kazoo, trumpet, drums, mandolin, harmonica, zither, ukulele etc – included the biggest guitar I’ve ever seen, an hilarious balalaika-bass called Akero.

Multi-instrumentalists one-and-all, the four Norwegian girls all got the chance play the thing while whipping up a Balkan-flavoured whirl of stomping, grinning, baroque folk.

Emmylou Harris sounded – and looked – as fabulous as she did in 1973 when she announced herself to the world at large on Gram Parsons’ album GP.

The heavens opened with a vengeance for the Chanteuse of Americana and we were splattered from a great height. It was impossible to escape the rain or the unwavering purity of Emmylou’s voice.

Gentle folksy warbling was hardly the order of Friday when Skinny Lister offered a Levellers-like repertoire of rampant, fiddle driven folk-rock whose raucous anthems featured fine sentiments along the lines of “rolling down to the pub we’ll go.”

And there was hardly a silent voice in the house for the climax of a rollicking set from The Proclaimers, twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) was irresistible in a 90 minute show crammed with spiky, soulful, poignant songs – none more so than the Letter From America. Has there ever been a more moving song about emigration?

The bass heavy, Eighties, jazz-funk of Level 42 was not up my particular alley. And neither, did I think feel, would be a revival of Toyah’s hits from the same era.

But the sassy blonde pixie-warrior-princess delivered a breathless show which even included some pogoing. “Here I am, 57 years-old and I’m still singing the punk stuff,” she gasped between numbers. And singing it pretty well, too.