Music Notes: Folk beside the seaside

Norfolk's flagship folk festival — which takes over Cromer's Pavilion Theatre — is looking set to be a sell-out, with tickets being snapped up faster than ever.

The annual Folk on the Pier festival will return to the seaside venue in May with one of its strongest line-ups to date. And despite opening night being two months away organisers have already reported the fastest ever take-up of tickets in the event's 14-year history, with fans hailing the programme of 18 acts as the best yet.

Among the headliners are Home Service and The Oysterband, both of which have recently been awarded much-coveted BBC Folk Awards.

They will be joined by acoustic performers including Dave Swarbrick, the legendary fiddler from the earlier days of Fairport Convention, the Urban Folk Quartet, featuring another renowned fiddler Joe Broughton, and the recently formed duo of percussive guitarist Kevin Dempsey and American singer/violinist Rosie Carson.

A number of new collaborations will also be taking to the stage, featuring many return performers including Maart Allcock with Huw Williams. On the 'plugged in' side will be festival regulars Little Johnny England plus a first appearance from the new all-young version of the trademark Albion Band, bringing forward a new generation of folk rockers.

Among the other new faces are the Bounty Hounds, a folk rock band from Bury St Edmunds which will open the festival on May 11 with an afternoon set.

The multi-award-winning Oysterband - which makes a welcome return to the festival after appearing on the bill in 2007 - will close the Friday evening slot.

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On the Saturday an explosive performance from festival band Edward II is set to be a real crowd pleaser. The band, which performs a fusion of reggae, folk and roots, is making its first appearance at the Pavilion after performing at the first ever Folk on the Pier in 1999.

And closing the weekend of live music will be the National Theatre's recently reformed 'house band' Home Service, featuring award winning singer-songwriter John Tams and guitar master Graeme Taylor. Once again this year, organisers will be running a number of fringe events over the festival weekend and are preparing a new additional concert and dance venue, but details of both are yet to be announced.

The festival has established itself as a firm favourite in the roots music calendar. During the weekend hundreds of them will pack into the Pier Pavilion and many local pubs, clubs and hotels to savour a rich menu of headline and fringe acts putting a real springtime buzz into the resort.

But anyone thinking this might be a stereotypical bearded, jumper and sandal wearing 'folky' event will be surprised by the feel of this festival, which always seeks to add crossover genres from jazz to prog rock along with comedy into the mix.

That is down to the background and beliefs of its creator Scott Butler, who has nurtured his baby from its conception and infancy. 'The festival is not just about the music. It is the setting. People come from the midlands and south east and make a break of it. And because it is in a seaside variety theatre, I like to keep it quirky. I don't like elitism and stuffiness,' he explains.

n Folk on the Pier runs from May 11-13 with afternoon concerts starting at 2pm and evenings kicking off at 7.30pm. Tickets for the full weekend (subject to availability) cost �75, afternoon concerts �14, evening shows �16, 01263 512495,