ONE of Oxfordshire’s biggest music festivals has received £200,000 in emergency aid to help it survive.

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention – which was set up by the folk-rock band Fairport Convention – received the cash from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help it face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure it has a sustainable future.

The event, known locally as Cropredy Festival or, simply ‘Fairport’, has been taking place in the village of the same name, near Banbury, since 1979 and attracts 20,000 people each year. This year’s was due to have taken place in August but was forced to cancel along with every other festival.

It is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support – part of an initial tranche of £257m of investment.

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One of the highlights of the summer, over the years Cropredy has grown from a few hundred folk-rock fans to one of the county’s biggest and longest-running events of its kind.

Banbury Cake:

Beginning life as a farewell concert by Fairport Convention – who recently celebrated 50 years as a band – it is still organised by Fairporters Simon Nichol and Dave ‘Peggy’ Pegg and director Gareth Williams.

It is a proudly traditional event with few concessions to progress, sticking to its tried and tested formula of one stage at the end of one big sloping field, with one long bar, and the same food stalls, handicrafts, clothing and musical instrument shops lining the sides of the hill.

Highlights over the years have included sets by Alice Cooper, Emmylou Harris, The Proclaimers, Gogol Bordello, Squeeze, Madness, Status Quo, The Waterboys, Seth Lakeman, Bellowhead and several shows by Richard Thompson – one of the world’s greatest guitarists.

The event is important to local businesses and charities. Its cancellation this year was a major blow.

Gareth Williams, Cropredy’s Festival Organiser, said:

“We have all seen how hard this Covid pandemic has hit the festival industry; 2020 has basically been a write-off.

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“This most welcome grant from the CRF secures the future of our festival for 2021 and will help us cover any additional costs of providing extra safety measures we will need to put in place next summer.

“We can now plan ahead for 2021 with fresh confidence.”

Tickets purchased for this year’s event remain valid for the rescheduled festival, though organisers offered refunds to those affected by the postponement.

Banbury Cake:

Announcing the postponement earlier this year, Mr Williams said: “The postponement is a financial blow to Fairport Convention, so we urge everyone to keep their tickets and join us for a great weekend of music in 2021.”

The rescheduled event will take place at the same site from August 12-14 next year.The line-up of this year’s acts will be carried forward. Highlights include the Trevor Horn Band, Clannad, Steve Hackett of Genesis, Matthews Southern Comfort and host band Fairport Convention who still headline the event on the Saturday night. The set will include founder member Thompson who will also perform a solo set of his own.

He will then join the band for the 50th anniversary celebration of their album Full House, the band’s acclaimed 1970 LP.

Thompson will join the original Full House line-up of Simon Nicol, Dave Mattacks and Dave Pegg – with fiddler Chris Leslie standing in for the late Dave Swarbrick to play the whole album.

“We’re really pleased with the line-up,” said Fairport bassist Dave Pegg.

“It consolidates Cropredy’s core appeal, celebrates Fairport’s rich heritage and also introduces a wide and diverse range of music. It’ll be a particular pleasure to have Richard Thompson playing with us again during our three-hour headline set on the Saturday evening.”

  • Support Fairport’s Cropredy Convention by buying a ticket for next year’s event, from August 12-14. Tickets from fairportconvention.com