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Folkal Points with Paul Dunton

© Chris Pope Photography

7th December 2018

Folkal Points with Paul Dunton

The man behind Local & Live talks about the inspiration for his new winter music festival

“I think Tunbridge Wells needs a winter music festival,” Paul Dunton declares, when we settle down for a coffee in Fine Grind on Tunbridge Wells High Street.

It’s not surprising to hear him say this; after all, if he had his way, he’d be putting on Local & Live events 365 days a year. Along with other big names of the local music community like Unfest organiser Jason Dormon, Paul is an unrelenting champion of musicians in the area.

“Local & Live and Unfest are two huge celebrations of local talent,” he says, “but then there’s this huge gap after the summer.”

Paul’s solution comes in the form of Folkal and Live, inspired by the inaugural Black Deer Festival, which took place in Eridge Park earlier this year, spanning roots, country and folk music. Like so many others who attended, he fell in love with the vibe, and was filled with inspiration to shine more of a spotlight on the genres locally.

Assuming it was challenging to fill a whole weekend with local acts who fall exclusively into these categories, I asked how strictly he was adhering to the ‘folk’ in ‘Folkal and Live’.

“There’s no rock, not even in acoustic form,” he answers. “We’ve stuck primarily to folk-pop, alt-folk, country and singer-songwriters.”

The festival will be taking place across The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Similarly to Local & Live, the event is free to attend, and funding for the first instalment is coming from Paul’s own pocket, supplemented by some support from the town’s traders.

“Everyone has been so welcoming,” he tells me. “We haven’t hosted a Local & Live festival on The Pantiles since 2012. The atmosphere should be magical – mulled wine, hot chocolate, Christmas markets and outstanding music.”

Some of the stand-outs include The Standard LampsMike Wilton, The Orange Circus Band, Jon Grayson, Cracks In The Land, The Beretons, Nate Austin and Ukelear Fallout, but Paul is keen to also note the young talent who will be gracing the stages.

“We have 17-year-old Isabella Corstock, as well as Sophia Ford, who’s 15,” he reveals. “There are some amazing younger country singers, and audiences should also look out for Broken Bones Matilda – a band I’ve been working closely with recently.”

Paul hopes that the event will draw 5,000 people to The Pantiles over the weekend, and if all goes to plan, it can be something to add to the calendar annually going forward. But in order to do that, the festival will be relying on the support of the community.

“There isn’t much budget for this first year of Folkal and Live, but we’re in a transitional period at the moment,” he explains. “The long-term goal is for Local & Live to gain charity status, which will open doors for grants and funding to support our artists, musicians and events in the town. Providing there isn’t torrential downpour, I believe the community will rally so that we continue to put on these festivals.”

The stage is set for what promises to be a must-attend event, and one that will earn its place in the hearts of local music lovers. Although, I had to ask Paul, did he give himself a massive pat on the back when he came up with such a pun-tastic name?

“What can I say? Inspiration struck!” he responds. “Although, a musician messaged me recently saying he couldn’t wait for ‘Folk Off and Live’.”

Folkal and Live comes to The Pantiles Bandstand, Sankey’s Old Fishmarket and The Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 December. The music kicks off at 1pm and ends at 7pm, and entry is free.

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