What’s your earliest Sidmouth Folk Festival memory?

My first memory of Sidmouth is of coming with Flook in 1996. There’s a kind of symmetry about coming back after all these years and the Ham is hallowed ground for us! We were only a couple of months formed when were first invited to Sidmouth, and that launched us both into being a band and onto the folk scene. 

Favourite moment during one of your own Sidmouth concerts? 

We’ve played a few times at Sidmouth, and it’s always the audience reaction At that first show the response was incredible and we were so young, we didn’t realise that what we were doing was potent. I remember that Ralph McTell compered the stage. Our Flook Live album opens with Ralph’s introduction, so he’s the only vocalist to appear on a Flook album! 

Most memorable performances by other artists at Sidmouth?

I’ve seen some amazing gigs at Sidmouth. I remember seeing Kathryn Tickell, and being bowled away the first time I saw Chris Wood & Andy Cutting. I didn’t know much about English folk music then, being born and brought up in Ireland, so everything was brand new to me, and what they did was spellbinding. 

Favourite festival memories away from the stages?

Going into the sea for the first time!  

Which performers at this year’s festival would you most recommend seeing?

Rowan Rheingans. She’s there two nights before us and I’m pretty gutted that we’re going to miss her. Sarah went to see her new show Dispatches On The Red Dress and was really genuinely blown away. Le Vent Du Nord on the Wednesday is going to be stonking, too! 

What makes The Sidmouth Folk Festival special?

For me, Sidmouth has a certain vibration which is unlike any other festival I’ve ever been to. Maybe it’s the rhythm of the tides coming in and out, along with the sea shanties, the cliffs and the Esplanade  – it’s all a weird, folkie siren song! In fact, I fell in love with it so much that I went to live in Sidmouth for eighteen months, when Flook were taking a wee break, years ago. 

Are you a morning workshop or Late Night Extra person? 

I’m kind of in-between, actually. I like mornings – I’ve got two young kids who get up early, and I can get a lot done. But I also like a boogie and that whole night-owl, insomniac Bulverton thing has a draw as well! 

Who’s the best ceilidh dancer in Flook?

Oh, hands-down John Joe. He’s done a fair bit of step-dancing in his time too – he’s made of rhythm! 

What advice would you give to anyone attending The Sidmouth Folk Festival for the first time?

I would just say get about – from the Morris dancers on the seafront to the late night boogieing in the Bulverton. Try to get a flavour of it all, because it’s richly diverse musical programming. Sidmouth kind of reminds me of the Fleadh Cheoil in Ireland, because the whole town opens up and there’s music bubbling out on the street and spilling out of the pubs. Maybe that’s why I immediately felt so at home there. 

What can the Sidmouth audience expect from Flook’s Ham show on Tuesday 6th August? 

We’ll be playing a lot of the new album, Ancora, and maybe a few old favourites. We can’t wait to get back – we’re sharp and ready again. We know how to enjoy these moments now, having been doing it for so long. We won’t come thinking we’re entitled to a great gig, but we’ll savour every moment. We get a lot of offers from festivals, but there are very few places that are no-brainers, and Sidmouth is one of those. Sidmouth feels like home. 

Flook play The Ham on Tuesday 6th August with Lisa O’Neill. Tickets onsale: