You should have a drink in Moseley

Richard Nevin visits day two of the Moseley Folk & Arts Festival.

I don’t like Moseley; there, I’ve said it. Actually, I don’t dislike the place at all but from the day I was old enough to darken the door of a pub I’ve been told how wonderful it is, that I should go there for a drink, that it was cool and wherever I was at the time of being told, drinking in Moseley was better.

Of course, I’ve been plenty of times over the years and it is indeed a fine place with some equally fine hostelries, it provides a handy pre- and post-match staging post for a visit to Edgbaston, isn’t too far out of town and has an atmosphere of its own but it’s no Xanadu and as a contrarian, I baulk at the idea that the road to Kings Heath is paved with gold.

Equally I’m not the type to engage is nose-cutting for spiteful reasons so when the line-up was revealed for the second day of the Moseley Folk & Arts Festival this year, careful consideration became confirmation, and we disappeared down the alley between the shops to Moseley Park and Pool.

Logistics meant we arrived later than planned but then the two acts that tipped the balance and persuaded us to attend weren’t on until after 7pm and walking into the park with the festival in full swing, bathed in late summer sunshine certainly bought the atmosphere of this long-standing event to the fore. The weather always helps, it was dry underfoot and warm even in the shade of the trees, their gnarled roots protruding through the dusty earth.

The smell of dozens of ‘Street Food’ (formerly known as takeaway) outlets filled the air and they were doing brisk business as we made our way down the gentle slope to take our place in front of the main stage for the Mary Wallopers, suitably armed with refreshment in one of those containers that usually hold industrial cleaning fluid. Handy if you don’t want to keep traipsing back to the bar.

I saw The Wallopers back in the spring in Digbeth (the new Moseley for a modern age) and this was more or less a condensed version of that show where the band from Dundalk bash out familiar and less familiar old Irish folk standards in their own inimitable style. One bloke I spoke to described them as the “new Pogues” but it’s more nuanced than that, and lighter as demonstrated by the on stage badinage between the band members, and the audience taking bassist Rosin Barret immediately to their hearts despite the fact that she stands towards the rear of the stage, understated yet vital. The onstage introduction noted their presence and impact backstage. This was replicated onstage and made a perfect warm-up for the headliners.

The Saw Doctors made it an Irish double and judging by the number of band t-shirts floating around the park their popularity remains high as they took to the stage in Brum for the first time in over six years. I first saw the band thirty years ago, which gives you some idea of their heritage. Led by original members Davy Carton and Leo Moran they kicked things off with The Green and Red of Mayo and I was back in the Hummingbird with a full head of hair and a silly grin on my face.

The grin was still there and stayed throughout a mammoth set that was only curtailed by the strict curfew literally stopping the band in full flow. Amongst the crowd pleasers and classic such as N17 and Joyce Country Ceili Band there was time for more considered tracks, namely Clare Island which appeared to lift the atmosphere even further before a truncated Hay Wrap bought the evening to a close.

It’s at times like these you realise how much you loved a band even though they might’ve ended up towards the back of your, metaphorical/online these days at least, record collection for a long spell and that was certainly the case for me.

Following an Uber battle on the Alcester Road post gig, I can confidently say that I experienced a great evening in Moseley and look forward to my return, hopefully for this festival or the Jazz, Funk and Soul version next summer.

The place still isn’t all that, though.