Feast of Fiddles mark 30th anniversary with dates in Emsworth and Bexhill

Feast of Fiddles. Photo by Neil KingFeast of Fiddles. Photo by Neil King
Feast of Fiddles. Photo by Neil King
It was a “daft idea” – but a “daft idea” which stuck. And now Feast of Fiddles are heading out on their 30th-anniversary spring tour.

Dates include new venues for the band, St James Church, Emsworth on Friday, April 19 and the Izzard Theatre, Bexhill on Monday, April 22.

“I never thought it would go beyond the first gig,” says Hugh Crabtree, whose “daft idea” it was. “But I had this idea to put together this band as a one-off. At the time I was running a barn dance band called Whittaker's Patent Remedy which I had for a number of years and it had been reasonably successful. It was a five-piece folk rock ensemble. My interest in folk music started when I was still at school at the back end of the 60s and into 71. I had been reasonably influenced by bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span and I had the bright idea that I wondered if I could persuade six well-known British fiddle players to stand up in front of my ceilidh band.”

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The original line-up in 1994 was Phil Beer, Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders, Ian Cutler, Tom Leary and Simon Swarbrick who were backed by Dave Mattacks, Dave Harding, Martin Vincent, John Underwood and Hugh Crabtree. They didn't take too much persuading. Hugh knew a couple already, Ian and Phil, and they all convened in Nettlebed on Valentine’s Day 1994: “We met up in the village car park and we sort of set up on stage. We had a ‘What shall we do?’ type discussion on the day in the afternoon and we cobbled together a set list and then the second time we performed it was that evening in front of the audience. It was interesting walking onto the thin ice but to be fair most of them had been involved in ceilidh bands or barn dance bands before, and it worked.

"The audience were interested in seeing a cobbled-together band that had literally never played together before but which was made up of people that they were interested in and they were interested in seeing what could possibly go wrong! It was a bit rough around the edges but we received rapturous applause at the end. The folk club was meeting weekly at the time and a couple of weeks later the organiser said he had been getting great feedback from the gig and we would have to set up another one, and so we carried on.

"The second year came and the third year came and the fourth year came and somebody from Kent said would we like to play there and then someone in Worcester had heard of us and asked if we'd like to do a gig in Worcester.

"And organically over that first handful of years a kind of tour emerged which we have done every year.”

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In all, Feast of Fiddles have done 28 spring tours, 26 festivals and have got seven CDs to their name. And now they're celebrating 30 years: “We organised to get all the alumni back into the band for our 20th anniversary.

"I didn't think we would ever get any further than that but we did a big concert with all bar two of the people that have ever played in the band. We had 14 fiddle players.”

Tickets are available from the venues.

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