Fairport Convention was formed when two mates, Simon Nicol and Ashley Hutchings, who were at the time playing in a band called the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra, decided to form another band, which they named after the house they were rehearsing in, Simon Nicol’s mum and dad’s place, ‘Fairport’, in Muswell Hill. Richard Thompson, Judy Dyble and Martin Lamb were early members of the band, which in its lifetime has included people like Maartin Alcock, Dave Swarbrick, Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas.
From their classic line up, which featured the late Sandy Denny and which produced Liege and Lief, voted the most important folk album of all time, through to their current line-up of Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway, they have filled venues all over the world – and still do.
Since 1979, they have hosted the Cropredy Festival, which is one of the most successful festivals in the world. I went there once and found the whole experience completely stunning; a massive field full of thousands and thousands of people – all having a great time.
Fairport have made many great albums and, even as you are reading this, will probably be crawling out of, or into, a tour bus somewhere. They still fire on all cylinders and give a great performance. I wouldn’t call them an institution because institutions are where you get locked up, but they are something very special in the folk and cultural life of these islands.