Who knows where the time goes...

Fairport Convention, inventors of folk-rock, are still having fun in a field, 30 years on

There must be something in the water in Oxfordshire, where the ageing folk-rock legends Fairport Convention live, that gives them the longevity for which so many groups yearn. It is either that or the Hook Norton beer that has seen them through 30 years in the music business almost unscathed. Their marathon career is even more amazing when you hear them confess to being one of the least marketable bands around.

Fairport were a bunch of teenage friends who played for fun in the Sixties. Together they invented folk-rock and lived in a commune. After a flourish of success and some obligatory rock-star doses of personal tragedy (the deaths of singer Sandy Denny and drummer Martin Lamble), the band seemed washed up in the late Seventies, when a lot of us were thumbing through punk LPs, working out what to buy with our first record tokens. But they re-formed soon after and are still on stage 30 years later.

Next weekend, in a field in Cropredy, a village north of Banbury, they will once again host their annual summer festival - a date in every folky's diary since as long ago as 1979. This year 18,000 people are expected, and Fairport will be playing on both nights (not just headlining the second) in order to get through as much as possible of the mass of material they have churned out during the past three decades.

Over a breezy lunch in the garden of the Mason's Arms in the Cotswolds, outside Chipping Norton, the band's kingpin and laconic bass player Dave Pegg attempts to sum up the band's history. "I was trying to work out the other day what our combined age is now. It's about 225. That's a bit scary, isn't it?" he says, devouring a king prawn. "Thirty years," he muses. "So many things happen to you." He lights a B&H, scratches his stubble and tries to remember some. How about the commune where the band lived at the end of 1969 with their various girlfriends and an ever increasing number of road crew?

"It was an old pub, The Angel in Little Hadham in Hertfordshire, where the band could rehearse and live. There were about 18 of us in there in the end, with one kitchen and one toilet. The kitchen was occupied 24 hours a day, as was the toilet."

One afternoon the band were relaxing in the back garden with various mind-expanding substances, when they had a visit from five of Little Hadham's boys-in-blue who had been watching the commune for several weeks. "We all thought, `Oh, Christ, it's a bust'," Pegg recalls. "But they'd come to ask if we'd play at the Police Dance in a field opposite the Nag's Head. It was our first outdoor gig, it cost six shillings to get in and they gave us a washing machine as payment."

This has always been the point of Fairport - it's a bit of fun. It is not uncommon to see the band incoherent with laughter on stage at some witty aside. Since their first gig at St Michael's Church, in London's Golders Green, on 27 May 1967, the Fairport concept has always focused on having a good time rather than spinning huge amounts of money. The band's vocalist and guitarist Simon Nicol says the marketing men did grapple with them, but "they fairly soon gave up on us". They live comfortable rural lifestyles and drive powerful cars but there are no mansions in the Caribbean or private jets. There was never any desire for stadium extravaganzas or hotel wrecking. It was only ever meant as an elaborate jam session that began among teenage friends and went on rather longer than planned.

Fairport are unique. Of all the bands that have been going for 30 years, while the others have had a major amount of mainstream success, they have relied on treading the boards, often in small venues like the Stratford- Upon-Avon Civic Centre, to pay the bills. "If we had had the success of, say, the Stones, I think we would have gone our separate ways by now," says Pegg. "As it was, we had to carry on working and for us it became our own kind of little art form."

And there is no sign that they are slowing down. Cropredy takes almost a year to plan, courtesy of Pegg's wife, Christine. Each winter there is a UK tour, often at least one foreign tour, and many one-off gigs around Europe. In 1996, Nicol logged 140 hotel rooms and 43 plane tickets. The only time he starts to feel old is at the Cropredy bash when fans queue at the guest tent for autographs, weighed down with scores of Fairport album covers, and he realises just how long the band has been around.

"The age thing really isn't a problem," he says. "I hope I'm doing my job better now at 46 than I was at 18. I don't see why music should be solely the preserve of young, inexperienced kids. It's good to have them around but when it comes to craftsmanship you need experience."

Fairport have been through many personnel changes over the years (Pegg is the only one never to have left), but the sound has remained constant and is as strong as ever on their new album, out this week. Its title? Appropriately enough: Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Cropredy is on 8, 9 Aug; tickets available at the gate

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape