Folk Festival

Festival history and Background

The Wren Music Folk Festival started life in 1999 as The Baring-Gould Folk Festival with Chris Foster as its first Festival Director.

Before this, in the late 1980s, The Wren Trust (now Wren Music) was hosting a monthly folk club in South Tawton with locals and nationally well-known acts performing alongside each other. In 1989 Wren was asked to host a summer festival in Okehampton which involved the local community. During this time, Marilyn used to visit Exeter library to find new folk songs from archives, both for her own performance and that Wren could use in workshops and projects.

Wren created a special concert in 1989 ‘Songs of the West’ to mark the centenary of the publication of the book of the same name, by Sabine Baring-Gould. During a recording of this concert at Killerton House, Wren was shown some extra personal notebooks belonging to Baring-Gould that were not known about in the folk music sector.

Wren secured funding to have these books scanned and transferred to microfiche. In 1998 the microfiche was launched. Wren Music also created another album of songs from the collection, called ‘Dead Maid’s Land’.

Wren then secured further funding to host the first festival and study break, so more people could study the microfiche and learn these songs. The festival always included an international element, sharing traditional music from somewhere that Baring-Gould had visited. Holding the festival in October promoted tourism in the offseason, and avoided clashing with other local folk festivals. The first Baring-Gould Folk Festival and Study Break took place in 1999 in villages across West Devon.

The Baring-Gould Folk Festival then ran annually until 2019. As Baring-Gould gained more recognition in the folk world, we felt able to diversify the Folk Festival, to share other works from the local area and around the world.

In 2020, the newly named, Wren Music Folk Festival ran online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Physically distanced but socially connected. The 12-hour festival had special guests leading workshops and guest spots in the folk clubs. Wren Music’s patron Peggy Seeger joined the evening folk club, Lucky Moyo ran a singing workshop, Paul Sartin led a musicians workshop. Plus we had artists joining from the USA, Newfoundland, Iceland and Latvia as well as the 4 corners of the UK. Specially filmed concerts included performances from the Wren Musicians, Paul Sartin and Jim Causley. 2020 Festival concerts are still available to watch on our YouTube channel