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Bands across the water: Iconic folk festivals join forces

Two of the world’s most famous folk music festivals, Cambridge Folk Festival in the UK and Newport Folk Festival in the US, have announced plans to ‘twin’, forming a “transatlantic partnership” that will allow the events to explore “unique and extraordinary artistic opportunities” together.

While twinning is a practice more often associated with cities (and, occasionally, dreary English towns and Disney theme parks), Cambridge Folk Festival director Steve Bagnall says the partnership will allow for coordinated programming “that will excite audiences on both sides of the Atlantic”.

Newport Folk Festival, founded in 1959, hosted the first major appearances of folk greats Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Arlo Guthrie, and is immortalised as the site of Bob Dylan’s (in)famous ‘going electric’ moment in 1965.

Cambridge Folk Festival, meanwhile, was established in 1965 by Ken Woollard after seeing Jazz on a Summer’s Day, a concert film set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Artists who have played the event include Paul Simon, Shirley Collins and Van Morrison, with Jake Bugg headlining this year.

Full details of what the twinning will involve will be released after this year’s festivals.

“We are excited to be working with and learning from a festival that has the artistic heritage and ambition of Newport”

“We are excited that from next year Newport Folk Festival will be twinning with Cambridge Folk Festival,” comments Jay Sweet, Newport’s executive producer. “This move will allow us to share ideas, experiences and some artists from two festivals that have grown up together and in their own way played a role in shaping the folk music landscape on both sides of the Atlantic. This partnership will allow us to bring a little bit of Newport to Cambridge, and vice versa.”

Steve Bagnall, managing director of Cambridge Folk Festival, adds: “Cambridge Folk Festival has always tested the boundaries of folk with its programme, and we are excited to be working with and learning from a festival that has the artistic heritage and ambition of Newport.

“Twinning with Newport will allow both festivals to explore unique and extraordinary artistic opportunities that will excite audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.”


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