Fairport’s Cropredy Convention kicks off today as the event celebrates its 40th year with a fantastic line up for what is billed as Britain’s friendliest festival, with The Waterboys headlining tonight.

The music starts at 4pm today when host band Fairport Convention will open the festival with a short acoustic performance then take the stage again on Saturday to play a two-hour closing set.

Fairport Convention on stage at The Stables, Milton Keynes, UK on 13 February 2019. Photo by David Jackson.

Other acts to look out for include multi-instrumentalist Lil Jim who combines guitar, harmonica and accordion with foot percussion and vocals, and Devon indie-folk band Tors, fronted by songwriting brothers Matt and Theo Weedon, grandsons of late guitar maestro Bert Weedon.

Friday’s line up includes Newry brothers Declan and Brendan Murphy -The 4 of Us- are known for poetic songs, harmony vocals and highly accomplished guitar playing.

Will Pound and Eddy Jay are, respectively, among the UK’s finest harmonica and accordion players and will be joined by Wildwood Kin,  the award-winning female trio playing contemporary indie-folk characterised by spellbinding family harmonies also join Friday’s line up along with Wilson and Wakeman. Adam Wakeman is best known as the keyboard player with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath and Damian Wilson is a songwriter and vocalist who has appeared on over seventy albums.

Fresh from a world tour with Robert Plant, Seth Lakeman returns to Cropredy after a ten year absence and guitar legend and acclaimed songwriter Richard Thompson will appear with erstwhile Fairport bandmates Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg and Simon Nicol.

One of the finest live acts out there, Frank Turner will be making his Cropredy debut backed by his regular band Sleeping Souls.

On Saturday BAFTA nominee Richard Digance returns to his traditional Saturday slot to get the day off to a flying start, and celebrating 50 years of Jethro Tull’s music, Martin Barre’s band includes the original Tull drummer Clive Bunker. Making his first appearance at Cropredy, will be award-winning Martin Simpson-one of Britain’s greatest acoustic guitarists.

The festival will end with a marathon set by host band Fairport Convention who will be joined by surprise guests to perform a varied selection from their repertoire.

The festival’s roots go back to the mid-1970s when Fairport Convention members Dave Pegg and Dave Swarbrick moved to Cropredy.

In 1976, Fairport Convention played an impromptu concert to support the village fete’s fundraising. The event took place in the garden of Prescote Manor, owned by Dick Crossman, a Labour cabinet minister, and his wife Anne. The event was successful and was repeated in 1977 and 1978 when nearly 2,000 people turned up.

After Fairport Convention lost its record deal in 1979, the band staged a farewell concert in the open air at Cropredy. The all-day event featured guest performers including Ralph McTell, Steve Ashley, Chris Leslie and Earl Okin. The concert was recorded and later released on Dave Pegg’s newly-formed Woodworm Records label. Titled Farewell Farewell, the album sold 3,000 copies.

The next year, Fairport decided to stage a one-day reunion concert. This 1980 reunion is generally regarded as the first ‘proper’ Cropredy festival. It took place on 30 August with support from Ralph McTell, Richard and Linda Thompson, and John Kirkpatrick among others. This time, 7,000 people turned up.

In 1981, the second reunion took place at Broughton Castle, south of Banbury. This was Fairport’s first two-day festival and also the only time ‘Cropredy’ has been staged away from its home village. The festival returned to Cropredy the following year.

From 2000 onwards, the festival was extended from two to three days.

In 2007, for the first time in the event’s history, all the tickets were sold before the gates opened. This happened again in 2014 and was repeated in 2017.

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention is aimed at all ages with an emphasis on families and has developed a reputation as a particularly friendly and safe festival.

The majority of festival-goers camp for the duration of the event. There are eight camping fields, six of which are adjacent to the main music arena.

The event is renowned for its real ale bar provided by Wadworth, the Devizes brewery. This bar is used by the public and performers alike as there is no back-stage bar making Cropredy one of the few major events where festival-goers mingle with the musicians.

More festival information at www.fairportconvention.com