BBC Folk Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winners, Fairport Convention celebrate the 50th anniversary of their formation this year. They played their first concert in a church hall in May 1967 and over the last half century have built a reputation as the country’s leading folk rock and electric folk band. Former members of their line ups, like Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, and Dave Swarbrick, are among the most highly regarded musicians of the genre and have gone on to great success in other bands and as solo musicians (not to mention become Moseley Folk Festival favourites). Today’s Fairport Convention formation comprises talents of equal standing, featuring its founder, Simon Nicol, its longest serving member Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders, who has been recording with the band since the mid-eighties, and Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway, who have been members since the 90s. It’s an honour and pleasure to welcome them to Moseley this year – especially because some members are local, and it’s great news too that this year’s anniversary shows are accompanying a new album release, 50:50@50. The band’s 28th studio album features guests including Robert Plant and Jacqui McShee.

Fairport Convention had only been playing together a matter of months when they were signed to Island Records. Looking to America for much initial inspiration, they were dubbed “the British Jefferson Airplane” as they put out their first albums, which featured versions of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell songs alongside original material. By their fourth record though, Fairport Convention had found, or it would probably be more accurate to say created, their own voice. Liege and Lief, released in 1969. was launched with a sell-out concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Recorded after drummer Martin Lamble had been killed in a motorway accident and prominently featuring Sandy Denny on vocals, it spent 15 weeks in the album charts and has been cited as an influence by artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Seth Lakeman and Alice Cooper. In 2006 it was voted The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Since 1976, the band have annually organised, hosted and headlined Fairport’s Cropredy Convention (formerly the Cropredy Festival) in the Oxfordshire village of Cropredy. About the festival, Nicol told Skiddle, “it’s an engine of enterprise for the rest of the year. The buzz you get from being there over the three days and living on the site. You meet so many people in your peregrinations around the field…I can’t stop smiling when I think about it, it’s the highlight of my year and it’s something we’re very very proud of as a band, to have created and be a part of…. It’s an event that’s developed simply from the fact that, at some point, everyone who comes has been touched by what Fairport has done”.