Dartmoor Folk Festival: Everyone’s favourite family festival

ENJOY the very best music, song and dance from Dartmoor and beyond at the forthcoming three-day Dartmoor Folk Festival.

A beautiful little festival in the heart of Dartmoor, it will take place from Friday, August 11 to Sunday, August 13.

The villages of South Zeal and South Tawton play host to top local and national folk artists at the 46th annual event.

The festival includes a packed programme of events and activities, some free-of-charge and others at reasonable prices.

There will be hotly-contested competitions, one involving dancing with a broom and the other with a 15-inch square board! 

Small and family friendly but with a big line-up, many of the artists appearing this year will be well-known.

The fabulous Dartmoor Pixie Band, with caller Sarah Bazeley, the host band, kick off the first night with a ceilidh.

Doors open at South Tawton Primary School at 7.30pm with dancing from 8pm to 11pm. There will be a full licensed bar.


There will also be a concert with Sykes Martin and Jim Causley.

Jim hails from the village of Whimple in East Devon, he was born in Exeter and is a relative of the Cornish poet Charles Causley.

Described by Mojo Magazine as “the finest singer of his generation”, Jim grew up in an area rich in traditional music; his home village in the heart of Cider Country with its thriving wassailing tradition and its close proximity to Sidmouth Folk Festival and the Dartmoor Folk Festival.

Jim studied Folk and Traditional Music at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and has since gained a reputation as one of the best traditional singers on the wider UK folk scene.

Sykes Martin is the new collaboration from two of the UK’s finest folk singers, Miranda Sykes and Hannah Martin.

Both are renowned folk musicians and it should be a fantastic concert.

The Saturday morning sees a full programme of events, including music sessions and song and dance workshops.

The Grand Dart-i-moor Fayre will run from about 2pm on the Saturday at South Zeal Playing Field.

It will include dance displays, live music, craft stalls, a bar and food van, ice creams, busk stop and children’s activities.

Entry is by donation, making it affordable for all.


Highlights of the afternoon will be the hotly-contested competitions, the Dartmoor Broom Dance Championships and Dartmoor Stepdance Championships.

Dartmoor Broom Dancing involves dancing with a broom, or rather over a broom, and is for primary school-aged children.

The Dartmoor Step dance sees dancers step on a 15-inch square board showing the different steps to try and out step the previous dancer, until a final champion is decided upon. Adult and junior champions will be selected.

Classes to teach both broom dancing and step dancing are held during the festival and anyone is eligible to take part.

Saturday artists include Rura, Magpie Lane, Jack Rutter, Keith Donnelly and Sara Grey and Riley Baugus.

Yorkshire folk singer Jack Rutter has established himself as one of the standout voices of the folk, roots and acoustic music scene in recent years.

A hugely engaging stage presence, his soaring vocal, powerhouse guitar and bouzouki playing and masterful arrangements of traditional songs and contemporary covers have enthralled audiences from the largest festival main stages to the most intimate folk clubs.


Rura are are multi-award winning act and one of Scotland’s most sought-after folk bands.

With three heralded albums, Rura affirm their position as one of Scotland’s leading instrumental groups.

Expect to hear a refined blend of fiddle, Highland pipes, flute, bodhran and guitar.

Magpie Lane perform traditional English music and song, combining powerful vocals with vigorous dance tunes.

It is a welcome return for Keith Donnelly, a very, very funny, globe-trotting Geordie tall-tale-telling-singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Sarah Grey and Riley Baugus are well-known for playing and singing music from the Appalachian Mountains, quintessential American old-time music.
Saturday evening’s ceilidh features Oxford Nags with Jane Thomas.

Oxford Nags is a four-piece ceilidh band based around Oxfordshire and a bit of Hampshire. They play stinking English tunes, which is sure to be a hit.


The Sunday morning includes workshops and like all, offer admission by donation.

The Sunday afternoon includes a packed programme of outdoor entertainment on the Playing Field from 2pm.

It will be hosted by the Dartmoor-based Mariners Away, singers of Sea Shanties and other Songs of the Sea.

There will be many stalls, ferret racing, a duck race and so much more.

Entry is by donation and those attending can expect great music, song and dance.

Sunday guests include Harbottle and Jonas, partners in life and music, a dynamic Devon-based folk duo which is one of the most exciting acts on the UK folk circuit today.

The “Titan of Twang” Rob Murch, and the “Concertina Crooner” Geoff Lakeman will also perform on the Sunday.

Geoff is patriarch of a folk dynasty as dad of Seth, Sean and Sam and father-in-law of Cara Dillon and Kathryn Roberts. He teases English and Irish folk, Americana and jazz songs out of his vintage duet concertina.

Rob Murch brings the wow factor to the banjo, with his unique, punchy fingerstyle playing. Rob’s percussive finger-ballet up and down the fret board of his 100 year-old instrument is mesmerising.

He’s revered throughout the UK for his long-time work with the Dartmoor Pixie Band and The Watch trio.

Expect self-written and West Country songs, rattling folk tunes and foot-stomping ragtime and cakewalk riffs.

The Festival ends in a traditional way with a concert.

Alan Quick, press officer for the Dartmoor Folk Festival Association, explained: “It was 46 years ago that the festival was founded by the late Bob Cann, who lived in the parish of South Zeal. He had the dream of a folk event on his doorstep that would help to revive and preserve the traditions of Dartmoor.

“Mr Cann was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to folk music, which included founding the festival.

“It was the traditional music, dance, song and crafts of the area that formed the basis for the first festival and they still remain for the association which runs the festival today.

“Since it was founded it has grown and we are able to invite some of the best folk artists around, whilst maintaining the festival’s reputation for being a relaxed, friendly and traditional festival.

“An action-packed programme has been arranged and we are looking forward to a great festival. There will be three days of music, song, dance and crafts.

“Entertainment is arranged for the whole family to enjoy, whether to take part or simply sit and watch. Most events are very modestly priced and some are totally free, so there is something for everyone.

“The festival is deeply rooted in the heart of the Dartmoor community and is keeping customs and traditions alive.”

A campsite operates and many people attend from across the UK.

For further details, or to buy tickets, visit the website: www.dartmoorfolkfestival.org.uk .

Enquiries can be made by email: enquiries.dartmoorfolk@gmail.com .

Follow on Instagram @dartmoorfolkfestival.media or on Facebook and Twitter @dartmoorfolk .

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