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The Big Session Festival 2009

Posted by xxrosannaxx on Fri, 03 Jul 2009.

Otis Gibbs

19th-21st June 2009

(De Montfort Hall and Gardens, Leicester)

3 days of laid back, sunny, folk-fuelled bliss...

This year’s Big Session saw a whole cast of folk and acoustic musicians descend on Leicester’s De Montfort Hall to wow crowds of chilled out festival goers in what over the last five years has become one of the highlights of the folk music calendar. From folk legends Oysterband to Leicester’s hottest new star Jersey Budd, there was music to please everybody.

Having received the Greener Festival Award Kite mark each year, Big Session is a truly green festival, with all recyclables collected by voluntary litter pickers for Complete Wasters (www.completewasters.co.uk), and all festival-goers being encouraged to travel to the festival by eco-friendly means. An eco-yurt selling green and ethical gifts, and an educational tent run by the Woodcraft Folk, complete with eco-smoothie-maker-bicycle, were present, and people could learn about climate change as well as doing their bit to reduce it.

Sunniva of Baskery

Unfortunately I wasn’t there on the Friday to witness the likes of the Peatbog Faeries and the legendary Levellers, but the musical delights of Saturday and Sunday more than made up for this.


Otis Gibbs brought his honest, humorous stories and songs to the Big Top on Saturday afternoon, captivating audiences with tales of his travels across America. In no time at all hundreds of cross-legged listeners were singing along to the laid-back anthems of a man who has planted over 7,000 trees, been stripped searched in Detroit and trekked through the Carpathian mountains of Romania.

I caught up with Otis after his set for a short interview: http://www.thejitty.com/articles/otisgibbs

Eliza Carthy

As the evening drew in, Swedish three-piece Baskery drew audiences to the inside stage with, as they call it, their “high voltage, banjo-punk”. The three sisters, Greta, Stella and Sunniva, entertained audiences with their alternative brand of country music. Sunniva’s rockier vocals combined with Greta’s Ade Edmundson-style “thrash banjo” and Stella’s slap-style double bass provided an interesting twist on the genre. Safe to say, the younger generation are taking this style of music to a new level, which can only be positive in helping to keep it alive and exciting.

Over in the Big Top later, was what, for me, had to be the highlight of the weekend. The Oyster Ceilidh Band returned to Big Session for the fifth time with the amazing Gordon Potts as dance caller, to get everybody on their feet having a good time, regardless of coordination skills. Let’s just say, I wasn’t the only person who was getting her lefts mixed up with her rights, as hundreds made fools of themselves during the traditional dance. But much fun was had, by both the dancers and the performers.

Billy Bragg

Later that night I grabbed Gordon Potts for a quick chat: http://www.thejitty.com/articles/interview-with-gordon-potts-of-the-oyster-ceilidh-band

Back over at the indoor stage, Big Session welcomed back for her third year the Mercury Prize nominated legend, singer and fiddle-player Eliza Carthy. Largely inspired by her travels to the far flung reaches of the globe, Eliza’s powerful rhythms and dazzling vocals made for an exciting and passionate performance that had the audience in raptures. Her love of Balkan and Eastern European music came across in the wall of sound created by her accompanying band and the performance was altogether both impressive and modest in its simple yet intricate design.

Ella Edmundson

I went backstage to interview Eliza after her set: http://www.thejitty.com/articles/elizacarthy

The night was drawn to a close on the indoor stage by none other than Billy Bragg, undoubtedly the weekend’s greatest star. The fans were out in force and as Billy belted out political anthems made all the more relevant by the recent expenses scandal and BNP election success, thousands joined him in his sing-a-long choruses. A rousing encore of A New England led to a mass crowd eruption and made for an exhilarating end to an amazing set peppered with banter, cups of tea, and a duet with Otis Gibbs.

Ade Edmundson


The sun was out for the closing day of the festival, which meant lazing around of the grass eating stone-baked pizza and crêpes, listening to tunes drifting out from the Big Top.

Fitting with the date (Father’s Day) Ella Edmundson, daughter of Ade Edmundson, played a beautiful set over at the indoor stage, ahead of her dad’s gig at the Big Top. Ella’s trendy brand of folk-infused acoustic melodies about love and heartbreak captivated the lunchtime audience. Folk really has entered the modern age, with young singer-songwriters like Miss Edmundson appealing to the younger festival-goer, with songs that they can really relate to.

Jersey Budd

Adrian Edmundson and the Bad Shepherds played to a packed out audience at the Big Top later in the afternoon, playing folk covers of punk classics by the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Ade’s humorous take on life and his band’s unmistakable energy made them truly endearing and thoroughly entertaining.

Counteshorpe’s Jersey Budd played the Big Top that evening, which was tough considering his competition over at the indoor stage. Nevertheless, he delivered a dazzling set of rock ‘n’ roll style melodies, with an acoustic set in the middle. Tipped to be Leicester’s answer to The Boss, Budd is set for big things and his likeable nature, combined with his energetic guitar playing and vocals certainly stand him in good stead to follow in the footsteps of his good friends Kasabian. Watch this space.


I got a backstage interview with Jersey: http://www.thejitty.com/articles/jerseybudd2

But of course, what with Big Session being Oysterband’s festival, it was bound to be Oysterband that made the weekend finish with a bang. Over at the indoor stage they wowed hardcore fans and newcomers alike, with the classic political folk.

And so the weekend drew to a close, with chilled out music-lovers leaving the grounds after three days of sunshine and good tunes. The organisers certainly out-did themselves this year, with an amazing bill of new and old acts alike. The weekend showed the exciting and diverse nature of roots music and brought together people of all ages. Bring on next year.

Outside at Big Session

Thanks very much to the press team (including Gail Cooke and Gabrielle Miller) at DMH.


By Rosanna Pound-Woods

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