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Fylde Folk Festival and Fleetwood

Why the name Fylde?

Fylde is derived from the old Saxon word Gfilde which was used to describe the flat plain West of Preston and South and West of Lancaster. The Fylde land encompasses Fleetwood, Blackpool and Lytham St Annes, so the residents are truly Fylde Folk.

The Fylde Folk Festival is held in the fishing port of Fleetwood which is celebrating it’s 175th anniversary in 2011. It was a pioneering new town and “The Golden Dream” of the local squire and landowner Peter Hesketh Fleetwood, who wanted to build a port and town in the sand hills around the mouth of the river Wyre. He employed the famous London architect Decimus Burton as the designer.

Unfortunately, Peter Hesketh Fleetwood never saw his dream fulfilled for he went bankrupt, and the grand Burton project abandoned, but the port bears his name. Happily because the fishing was good and profitable, together with cargo ships trading with the West Indies and the Americas, Fleetwood continued to grow.

There were two music halls in the town by the 1880's and impromptu singing took place in the pubs and clubs whenever the fishing fleet was in port. A man called Daddy Glass led a Morris Dance team and his steps and styles are copied by dancers in the North West to this day.

In the World War 1 many Fleetwood trawlers were requisitioned to become mine sweepers with many being lost. The rifle range (now the golf course) was busy teaching new recruits how to shoot. An officer in charge in the autumn of 1916 was the poet Wilfred Owen who lodged in Bold Street close to the North Euston Hotel. Wilfred Owen later wrote that he enjoyed his time in Fleetwood. He was killed in action on the 4th November 1918 aged 25.

In the World War 2 Fleetwood was the busiest fishing port in England as the East Coast ports were closed due to enemy action. The town was full of men and women from many nations. The local Silver Bands entertained as did the Sea Cadets Bands. Local girl Morris Dancers competed with one another to win medals and trophies.

Comedians like Frank Randle entertained the masses and George Formby who lived in nearby Blackpool entertained throughout the Fylde during the wartime years. The Ukulele society formed in his memory is still active to this day.

The Cod War with Iceland in the 1970's killed the Fleetwood fishing industry. The number of trawlers declined rapidly until now only one or two inshore boats still fish, whilst the distant water trawlers have long gone to the scrap heap - with one exception.

The Marr family, famous in the fishing industry, commissioned seven new boats in the 1970’s. One boat, The Jacinta became famous for landing the biggest catches ever seen in Fleetwood or Hull. The Jacinta fished for over thirty years before her engine failed. She was saved from the breakers yard by The Jacinta trust that had her towed back to Fleetwood. The Jacinta is now restored and moored in the fishing dock for all to see.

Now her keel was laid one morning in the year of seventy two
In a famous yard in Wallsend where the men were skilled and true.
They riveted and welded good steel sheets upon her frame,
Until at last she was completed and Jacinta is her name.

She is homeward bound returning
She is homeward bound returning
She is homeward bound returning
From the sea; The Arctic sea; The Norway sea; The Irish sea.

Singing has long been the favourite pastime for many Fleetwood people. Choirs and singing societies have thrived. When the TV programme “Songs of Praise” was filmed in a small park outside the North Euston Hotel, it seemed as if every singer from Fleetwood and miles around was present.

The late and famous tenor John Lawrenson was a Fleetwood man, as is Alfie Boe. His singing at the O2 Arena recently, earned him a three minute standing ovation.

The advent of the Fylde Folk Festival in Fleetwood nearly forty years ago introduced local people to the whole new world of folk songs. The rhythms of Scotland, Ireland and the traditional and contemporary songs of England, Australia, and the USA captivated the local population.
The festival has inspired many local musicians so that traditional and contemporary music can be heard most weekends in the Fleetwood Hotels, bars and pubs. Local choirs are popular as is the general music scene with heavy metal bands competing for work whilst a Beatles teenage tribute band The Jeps, are sensational.

Whilst the fishing industry has gone from Fleetwood, a visit to the Fleetwood Museum is a must. Music of all kinds within the Fleetwood community is not only surviving, but enduringly popular. So is the Fylde Folk Festival which has become a huge tourist attraction for the town.
The festival has been awarded “The Stars in Tourism Award” for 2011.