Have we mentioned the backstage toilets yet? We think we should. The backstage toilets at the Cambridge Folk Festival are so civilised that even the Manic Street Preachers would be hard pressed to find anything to complain about. They have wallpaper. And a little watercolour of a lovely outdoor scene on the back wall. Bless.
In the spirit of fairness and equality that this year’s sponsors the Co-op and Unison would want us to embrace, however, the ‘ordinary’ loos are a cut above as well. None of those horrible plastic booths or the metal cattle sheds of WaterAid, Cambridge Folk Festival instead has the nice bathroom trailers you more often find at country fayres and places like Glyndebourne. They have washbasins. And soap.
Aren’t folk fans meant to be a bit smelly, with woolly socks under Jesus creeper sandals? When did they all grow up and start looking like geography teachers instead? The festival’s crowd is slightly more mature than some; more interested in having a nice picnic than seeing how long it takes to cook magic mushrooms on a candle flare. It’s all terribly nice, and the warm summer afternoon sun adds to the illusion of it all being a little too perfect. Note: this is not a complaint.
We spend most of the day in the Club Tent, taking our chances with willing hopefuls from local venues Acoustic Routes and St Neots Folk Club. None of them disappoint. In between, we venture out for Cara Dillon on the main stage, back to see if Ella Edmonson deserves the hype (she does, although she also sounds like a slightly drunk version of her mother, Jennifer Saunders, which is slightly unnerving) and out again for Booker T. He may be a dubious bedfellow of the folk genre, but he puts on a damn good show, reminding an enthusiastic crowd where TV got its theme tunes from in the days before Sigur Rós.
Los Lobos and The Saw Doctors follow, spanning world folk from Mexico to Ireland triumphantly with a spirit and verve that not even the weekend’s only torrential downpour can dampen – for us, anyway, safe in the comfy and covered backstage area. For the plebs (sorry, nice festival goers, we mean. They really weren’t plebs), there was precious little cover available and if we have to pick holes in what was an otherwise lovely festival this is perhaps it.
We return to our tent smug and mostly dry, having braved the post-downfall drizzle on our journey back to Red, but our tent neighbours turn out to be less hardy souls and had given up long before, tempted by the promise of the dry. Never mind, at least there are hot showers at the campsite. And cafes. And another grocery store. Somehow, we can’t shake the feeling that other festivals are going to seem a bit of a letdown after this.