top of page

August 10th. 11th and 12th 2023

Japan National Flag.GIF


1st Day  

Fairport Acoustic

Merry Hell

Wilson & Wakeman

Toyah & Robert Fripp

Nile Rogers & Chic

The A361 is a well-maintained English two-lane single carriageway that runs off Junction 11 of the M40. Go north for a couple of miles and there is a side road on the left which leads to Williamscot village, home to Thomas & George Martin, one of the world’s leading repairers and restorers of the double bass. A little further on, before Cropredy village, a seasoned gentleman in a hi-vis jacket with a big smile on his face stops my car and asks where I’m going. ‘Press Car Park’ I say. ‘First gate on the left. They’ll tell you what to do.’ Another five hundred yards and I’m there. I drive into a field and two more hi-vis stewards direct me where to, park and check-in. I present my credentials and am given instructions. ‘Drive straight down ‘ere, turn left at the gate – they won’t let you through there anyway and drive to the bottom of the field. Go through into the next field and park anywhere you want and then tell one of us down there that you need to check-in with Stevie.’


That’s a familiar name, the name on all my correspondence and she’s been very helpful on emails so far, guiding me through their process. I follow the instructions, find a good parking spot in the shade under a tree and walk to the gate which leads straight into the viewing area or left into the backstage area. I ask a steward where I can find Stevie and show him my pass, a wristband as festivals have these days. ‘She’ll be over there in the press office’ said the steward, pointing in the general direction of some portacabins. A delightful middle-aged lady with loose curly purple and pink hair smiles as I approach one cabin. I introduce myself and ask if Stevie is around. ‘I’m Stevie’ she says and asks who I am. ‘Ah!’ she says after which she promptly gets me my list of interviewees for the weekend. ‘Just one today’. I notice it’s due to start in ten minutes and suggest waiting here. ‘Of course, and please meet here for all the other interviews fifteen minutes before they are due to start’ and with that same smile as before she disappeared back into her office to answer the phone. Looks like I turned up just in time.


Merry Hell

Formed from the ashes of The Tansads, a band from Wigan, Lancashire which split in 2001, both bands are centred on the three brothers, John, Andrew and Bob Kettle, Merry Hell having the additional family member of Virginia, John’s wife. They have released six studio albums to date and my interviewees are Virginia and Andrew.


Q: So, the name, is it from the expression, ‘playing merry hell’?


AK: No. We’ve been doing this for many years and my eldest brother John – who is the extreme driving force of us all – he wrote a song years and years ago which sort of took a little bit of Shakespeare:


    Get ye gone then
    To the nunnery of dreams

    And lay your head down

    In merry hell


Then, much, much later on, after hiatus after hiatus, we came to being this band and needed a name and someone mentioned it from there.


Q: It’s pretty rare to find a band of eight musicians, three of which are brothers, that get along so well. What’s your secret?


VK: I think it’s the age in which we got together this time. We all came to Merry hell at time when we had all played together before or been musicians for some time up to that point and I think we had all done the thing of trying to get famous - I certainly had and failed miserably (laughs) – so the enjoyment, fellowship and the message in the songs, it came out very strongly that that is what we wanted to be the new band about. When that is your foundation, it’s difficult to stretch that too far because the other member will pull you back to the reason why we are doing it. We have gone up hill and down dale with that ethos together and laughter has been very much at the forefront.


AK: Yes and also, we made all the mistakes when we were younger and when we got this band together, we said ‘Right, we are older’ and there is a sort of inbuilt humility, a strong sense of family and we try to propriate that with our audiences as well, in that we are all in it together.


Q: Let The Music Speak For Itself; how did you select the tracks for your recent compilation?


VK: We let our fans our audience decide. One of the reasons we wanted to put it together was because it’s been such a great journey but another is that people stand at our stalls and dither, they don’t know which album to buy. They want this one but then they also want songs from that one and they can’t afford both so we decided to put out what was most popular. We added a few that had not been heard from for a long time that we wanted to revisit because there are only so many you can play live but it was mostly our audience that chose them.


Q: Were there any tracks requested by your fans that surprised you?


AK: Not really. Most of our songs were suggested and we just went on numbers of votes. There was obscure stuff. Now, believe me, there are songs I can’t remember. Somebody will say to you in a field somewhere that they really love a certain song and I’m thinking ‘Is that us?’ (laughs)


VK: I know what you mean!


AK: But then there’s the opposite thing where you get someone saying their favourite song was such and such and it was a cover. (laughs)


Q: Is there a new album in the works?


VK: Yeah there is. We went away to Shropshire, hired an Airbnb and all rocked up with the songs we have been working on. I think we chose thirteen and I have to say, I think some of Bob’s writing is absolutely sublime. I can’t wait to work on those in September.


Q: Japan has no Folk music festivals– or at least none akin to British Folk ones – whereas the UK has more Folk festivals than any other genre. Is that down to tradition, the British character…


AK: Yeah! I think it’s because the original Folk scene that happened in the 60s and 70s was so strong so there is a lot of people who still love it. You will notice that a lot of the audience are of a mature age and back then, there was a lot of young people who decided to put events on and they have moved into these enormous events. They are still fighting the fight, still doing it and there is a real community support system within Folk music so people keep turning up. We’ve been to a few recently that went bust during covid and have emerged as a new thing and they are a much smaller event but they are still selling out tickets. It’s just a pure support thing and of course, there has been some amazing music that stands the test of time and we feel privileged to be riding on the coattails of that right now and hoping to find our own place in that list of people.


Q: I would argue you already have.


AK: Well maybe we have but I don’t think it’s for the person to say though. (laughs)


VK: Also, the rebellion that was there when people were younger, that, in a gentle way, is still there. I don’t mean that as a ‘Let’s get together and protest!’ thing but you know, a lot of our land is no longer public and I think people genuinely enjoy getting together on a piece of land where they can dance and be a bit free. Now they are a little bit older but they were dyed-in-the-wool as that when they were younger. It’s not gone from inside the, they still rage like thunder.


At this point, there is a knock on the door and I am informed that we have to cut the interview short. Virginia tells me to make sure that gets into the interview. I request one more question and my request is granted.


Q: I suppose you know at the moment that in Hollywood, there is the big AI commotion going on.


VK: Yes.


Q: My question then – and I am going to ask every interviewee this over the weekend – is could AI write a Merry Hell song?


VK: That’s a really fantastic question because I was driving home with my son who is quite into computers and we gave a challenge of a Dr Seuss poem. My son gave us a ridiculous title and I came up with one quite quickly in my head and the AI did and I was very impressed with what the AI did but for me, the answer is no because the true joy of live music is the chance that you are going to make a mistake. It’s what you are, a simple human being of flesh and blood and bone and the fact that you could mess up. That’s what gives you that thing in your chest and that’s what AI can’t do. It’s too perfect.


AK: I think the answer to your question is yes, it could write one, but it couldn’t deliver one.


We exchange thanks and chat very briefly about Japan before they have to move on and I venture out into what makes Cropredy, Cropredy: the audience. 


You know those dreams you have when you are somewhere odd and suddenly find yourself naked? Well, I felt a bit like that when I realised, I was the only person there without a camping chair. I make a mental note to see if any shops in Banbury have one for sale tomorrow morning. It’s almost 4pm now and therefore almost time to get the festivities underway so I buy myself a pint of Hooky ale and walk up the hill to the rear of the field. It’s only a couple of minutes’ walk and thankfully, the rain has held off for a few days so the grass is dry. I find a nice spot to sit down and start taking the atmosphere in. The view down to the stage and beyond, up over the English countryside is magnificent. The people are friendly, it’s a family gathering and of course families include dogs so there are dogs – lots of dogs. There are lots of witty T-shirts as well and to pass the time I decide to scribble down a few of the best. ‘IPA lot when I drink’ and ‘Too old to die young’ make me smile but ‘It’s weird being the same age as old people’ is my favourite. Around me, some folks have set up a table with a bottle of wine, glasses, a cheeseboard with a selection of English cheeses, pork pie and pickled onions. Others are playing games with their kids. It’s clear I underestimated this event, it’s more like the biggest picnic in England than a music festival. I also underestimated the sun and have to buy a hat.


Fairport Acoustic take the stage right on time and open proceedings with The Festival Bell. It’s just a four-song, twenty minutes set and then a ten minutes changeover before Merry Hell are on. The Octet kick-off with a jolly number called Summer Is A-Comin’ which is about as apt as you can get on this glorious English summer afternoon and they soon have the audience swaying to Bury Me Naked, just one of their anthems. They are as a perfect a festival band as you can get; funny as well. Next up is Wilson & Wakeman and more laughter as poor Adam tried to reign in Damian who decided to go for a walk through the audience. The man is uncontrollable but this is a large part of what makes the duo so entertaining. Their music is pure and honest, they have fun together but they are also talented and can deliver a song so beautifully, it leaves you in wonderment. Toyah & Robert Fripp exceeded everyone’s expectations with a few of Toyah’s hits but the majority of the set made up of Rock Classics as per their Sunday Lunch videos. With a full band behind them, they collected the audience En masse during Sweet Child ‘O Mine, blew us all away with their version of Neil Young’s Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World and united the throng with Bowie’s Heroes. To see Robert play his parts live that he played on the original recording was a sweet moment. The sun had gone down by the time Nile Rogers & Chic came out and reboot the audience into dance mode, opening with Le Freak. What followed was an hour and a half of hits by Diana Ross, Bowie, Beyonce, Sheila B. Devotion, Madonna and others: Niles’ catalogue is vast to say the least. A few songs into the set, I make my way back to the bar. Time for one more pint before I need leave. The night is cool, both with the music coming off the stage and in temperature. People are chattering away, many saying cheery hellos to those that they haven’t met since the year before. Nile introduces the next one as being by Sister Sledge and launches into We Are Family. That sums it up.


On the way back to my accommodation in Banbury, I reflect on the day’s findings. From what I had seen already, I am very impressed with the organisation. This comes from an event growing naturally from 750 people at the first one in 1976 to 20,000+ this year, rather than some big corporation just plonking something somewhere and trying to figure out how many toilets and burgers are going to be needed. I shall explore more tomorrow but for now, the king size bed at the Ashlea Guest House is very appealing. Once in my room, I dump everything and flop onto the bed. I am asleep before my head touches the pillow.


The stage as viewed from the bar.


At the bar with Virginia and John from Merry Hell.

クロプレディ・フェスティバル 2023  第一日









Q: このバンド名は「陽気に地獄を演じる」という表現からきているのかな?


AK: 違うよ。僕たちは何年もこうしてきたし、長兄のジョンは、僕たちの中では一番の原動力なんだけど、彼は何年も前にシェイクスピアを少し引用したような曲を書いたんだ。





Q: 8人のミュージシャンで構成されるバンドで、そのうち3人が兄弟なのに、これほど仲がいいのはかなり珍しいよね。その秘訣は何なのかな?


VK: 今回 、一致団結できたのは年齢のせいだと思うわ。このバンド結成に集まったのは、それまでみんな一緒に演奏したことがあったり、ミュージシャンとして活動していた時期だったの。そして、有名になれるようなことはみんなやっていたと思う。大失敗したけど(笑)。だから、楽しさ、親睦、そして曲に込められたメッセージ、それこそが私たちが新しいバンドでしたいことなんだということが強く伝わってきたの。それが土台になっている場合、それだけを伸ばし過ぎるのは難しいわね。別のメンバーが、なぜこれをやっているのかという現実に引き戻してくれるから。私たちはその理念のもと、共に山あり谷ありの人生を歩んできた。楽しみが前面に出ているわ。


AK: そうだね。それに、僕たちは若い頃に失敗ばかりしていて、このバンドを結成した時に『そうだ、僕たちは年を取ったんだ』って言ったんだ。そして、そこにはある種の謙虚さ、強い家族意識が備わっていて、僕たちは観客にもそれを伝えようとしているんだ。


Q: 『Let The Music Speak For Itself』という最近のコンピレーション盤に収録する曲はどのように選んだのですか?


VK: 私たちはファンと観客に決断を委ねたの。私たちがこのアルバムを作ろうと思った理由の一つは、このアルバムが素晴らしい旅であったからだけど、もう一つは、私たちのコーナーに立ち寄った人たちが、どのアルバムを買えばいいのか迷ってしまうからなの。この曲も欲しいけど、あの曲も欲しいということで、両方は買えないから、一番人気のある曲を出すことにしたのよ。ライブで演奏できる曲は限られているので、長い間聴くことができなかった曲で、もう一度聴いてみたいと思っていたものをいくつか加えたわ。でも、それを選んだのはほとんど観客だったわ。


Q: ファンからのリクエストで驚いた曲はありましたか?


AK: そんなことはないよ。僕たちの曲のほとんどは提案されたもので、僕たちはただ投票数で決めただけさ。曖昧なものもあった。今は、思い出せない曲もある。誰かがどこかの場面で、ある曲がとても好きだと言ってくるんだけど、「それって僕たちの曲?」と思ったよ(笑)。


VK: 言いたいことは分かるわ!


AK: でもその逆もあって、好きな曲はこれって言われ、それはカバー曲だったという場合もある(笑)。


Q: 新しいアルバムは制作中ですか?


VK: うん。シュロップシャーに出かけて、Airbnb(簡易ホテル)を借りて、これまで取り組んできた曲を絞り込んだの。私たちは13曲を選んだんだけど、ボブの書いた曲のいくつかは本当に崇高だと思うわ。9月にその仕上げ作業をするのが待ちきれないわ。


Q: 日本にはフォーク音楽祭がない-少なくともイギリスのフォーク音楽祭に似たものはない-のに対して、イギリスには他のどのジャンルよりも多くのフォーク音楽祭があるよね。それは伝統によるものなのか、英国人の性格によるものなのか......。


AK: そうだね!60年代から70年代にかけて起こったオリジナルのフォーク・シーンがとても強かったから、今でも好きな人がたくさんいるんだと思う。観客の多くが成熟した年齢層であることに気づいているだろう?当時は、イベントを開催しようと決めた若者がたくさんいたけど、今ではこうした巨大なイベントに移行しているんだ。彼らはまだ闘い続け、やり続けているし、フォーク・ミュージックには本物のコミュニティ・サポート・システムがある。だから、みんなどんどん集まってくる。僕たちは最近、コロナのパンデミック期間中に倒産してしまったいくつかのイベントに行ったけど、それがまた新しいイベントとして登場し、規模はかなり小さいがチケットは完売しているんだ。純粋にサポートするだけだよ。もちろん、時の試練に耐えるような素晴らしい音楽もあるし、僕たちは今、その尻馬に乗れていることを光栄に思っているし、そのような人々のリストの中に自分たちの居場所を見つけたいと思っている。


Q: もう見つけてると思うけどね。


AK: まあ、そうかもしれないけど......でも、それは本人が言うことではないと思うしね(笑)。


VK: また、人々が若かった頃にあった反抗心も、穏やかな意味ではまだ残っているわ。それは「一緒になって抗議しよう!」という意味ではないの。でもね、私たちの土地の多くはもはや公共の場所ではないし、人々は純粋に、踊ったり少し自由になれる土地に集まることを楽しんでいると思う。みんな今は少し年は取ったけど、若い頃はそうだった。彼らはまだ雷のように怒り狂っているわ。




Q: 今、ハリウッドでAI騒動が起きているのはご存じだと思う。


VK: ええ。


Q: 私の質問は、週末にインタビューに答えてくれた人全員に訊くつもりなのだが、AIはメリー・ヘルの曲を書けるのだろうか?ということなんだけど。


VK: 本当に素晴らしい質問ね。というのも、コンピューターに凝っている息子と一緒に車で家に帰る途中、ドクター・スースの詩に挑戦したの。息子はとんでもないタイトルをつけてきたけど、私は頭の中ですぐに思いついたし、AIもそうしてくれた。AIがやってくれたことにはとても感動したけど、私にとっての答えはノーね。なぜなら、生の音楽の醍醐味は、ミスをする可能性があることだから。生身の人間であり、血と骨を持つ単純な人間であり、失敗する可能性があるという事実よ。それが胸の奥にあるものを感じさせてくれるの。AIにはできないことよ。AIは完璧過ぎるの。


AK: 君の質問に対する僕の答えはイエスだな。でも書くことはできても、届けることはできないね。





気の利いたTシャツを着ている人も多いので、暇つぶしにいくつか書き留めておくことにした。 「酒を飲むにはIPA(ビールの銘柄)が一番」、「若くして死ぬには年を取りすぎている」には思わず笑ってしまうが、 「年寄りと同い年というのは奇妙なものだ」が気に入ってしまった。私の周りには、ワインボトル、グラス、英国産チーズの入ったチーズボード、ポークパイ、タマネギのピクルスが並べられたテーブルが用意されている。また、子供たちとゲームをしている人もいる。このイベントを過小評価していたのは明らかで、音楽祭というよりイギリス最大のピクニックみたいなものだ。また、日差しを甘く見ていたので、帽子を買わなければならない。


 フェアポート・アコースティックは定刻通りにステージに上がり、「The Festival Bell」で幕を開ける。4曲、20分のセットで、メリー・ヘルの出番の前に10分交代時間があるだけだ。オクテットは「Summer Is A-Comin’」という陽気なナンバーで幕を開ける。この素晴らしいイギリスの夏の午後にふさわしいタイトルだ。彼らはすぐに、彼らのアンセムの一つである「Bury Me Naked」で観客を揺らした。彼らは、フェスティバルのバンドとしては完璧だ;面白くもある。次に登場するのはウィルソン&ウェイクマンだが、客席を歩き回ろうとするダミアンを制止しようとするアダムがかわいそうで、さらに笑いが起こった。この男は制御不能だが、それがこのコンビを面白くしている大きな要因だ。彼らの音楽は純粋で正直で、一緒にいて楽しいが、才能もあり、歌をとても美しく聴かせることができる。驚きの連続だ。トーヤ&ロバート・フリップは、トーヤのヒット曲をいくつか披露して皆の期待を上回ったが、セットの大半はサンデー・ランチのビデオ通りロック・クラシックで構成されていた。フルバンドを従え、「Sweet Child 'O Mine」では観客の注目を一斉に集め、ニール・ヤングの「Keep On Rockin' In The Free World」では私たちを圧倒し、ボウイの「Heroes」では観客を一つにした。ロバートがオリジナル・レコーディングで演奏したパートをライブで演奏するのを見るのは、甘美な瞬間だった。ナイル・ロジャース&シックが登場し、「Le Freak」でオープニングを飾り、観客をダンス・モードに再起動させた頃には、陽は落ちていた。ダイアナ・ロス、ボウイ、ビヨンセ、シーラ・B・デヴォーション、マドンナなどのヒット曲が1時間半にわたって続いた: ナイルズのカタログは控えめに言っても膨大だ。セットが始まって数曲したところで、私はバーに戻った。帰る前にもう一杯。ステージから流れてくる音楽も、気温も、夜はクールになる。人々はおしゃべりに花を咲かせ、多くは一昨年以来会っていない人々に元気よく挨拶をしている。ナイルは次の曲をシスター・スレッジの曲だと紹介し、「We Are Family」に入る。それがこのイベントを物語っている。



Anchor 1
bottom of page