I got back from Shrewsbury late last night...
Second year at the showground, which really does make for a good festival site. In spite of intermittent rain (luckily generally overnight), wellies weren't needed. However, in spite of the festival not being a sell-out, camping space was fairly tight... any more would have felt crammed in. As things stood, there wasn't too much to give a fire inspector apoplexy!
A lot of the issues from last year seemed to have been addressed- mainly where sound is concerned. Friday night at the main stage was pretty rough, sounding as if the speakers were physically damaged, but by the time I was in again on Sunday night it was much better- excellent clarity and well balanced. Also, this year Marquee 2 wasn't having to crank its own volume up just so that the audience could hear the concert above the main stage's acts! The simple act of having the stage facing the other direction probably helped too.
Perhaps by virtue of not being a sell-out, full houses weren't as prevalent as last year. The only event that I wanted to attend, but couldn't, was the Radio Ballads story. I know that the Ukelele Orchestra filled up, but I did manage to get in, although the steward was tried to dissuade me from taking my daughter in her buggy in. FFS, the thing is 18" x 24" footprint, not one of the three wheeled off-road monsters! Anyway, being able to go from one concert to another without fear of not being able to get into the one I wanted to, or back into the one I'd left, really meant that I enjoyed the festival a lot more than the last two years. On those arse numbing seats, you need to move every hour or so anyway!
I heard some whinging that the dance floor in the ceilidh tent sloped... I didn't think it was a problem. More importantly, it was much less slippery than before! I think it needs to be bigger though- testament perhaps to Shrewsbury's gradual climb up the "dancers festivals" stakes.
The food stall selection seems to get better and better- a good choice with plenty of variety, and good grub for veggies and omnivores alike. As always with festival food, the prices are a little higher than going into town, but that's not the festival's fault, and the slight price premium is outweighed by the convenience of not having to leave the site. Merchandise/craft stalls were pretty average, and it would be nice to have more than one musical instruments etc seller. The bars were great too... I drank far too much!
As for the line up... first class! Sure, there'll always be someone that isn't to everyones tastes (In my case, just what is the appeal of Colvin Quarmby?), but the artists were of sufficiently diverse styles within the umbrella of folk that I think there was something for everyone. My personal highlights were the Oysters doing a ceilidh, Tim van Eyken, Kerr/Fagan, Rory McCleod and Richard Thompson, and I enjoyed many besides.
After last year, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go to SFF again. This year has gone some way to matching the joy that was Bridgnorth. I won't be there next year (I'll be living in NZ), but when I can afford to return to the UK, I hope to be there.
Thanks to all involved for this year's SFF. I know that after last year's festival, the organisers were distinctly combative and rudely dismissive about some of the criticisms, but my particular concerns seem to have been addressed. I can only speak for myself though!