A TOWN came alive to an ancient tradition as the air rang with the jingle of bells, the clash of sticks and the thunder of drums at a popular folk festival.

The Upton Folk Festival, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, treated crowds to a bizarre but beautiful pageant of music and dance this Bank Holiday weekend.

Strange masks, coloured banners, mischievous hobby horses (and a camel), troupes of painted dancers, fiddlers and pipe players made for a weird and wonderful spectacle. The festival featured concerts, ceilidhs, competitions, workshops, displays and a host of established names from the world of folk.

Among the artists were Cosmotheka, Melrose Quartet, The Medlars, Mice in a Matchbox, Rod Penlington, Russ Barnes, Token Women, Vital Spark and the Worcestershire Levellers.

Sixty teams of dancers representing different traditions of Morris dancing including the local Border tradition with blackened faces, and Cotswold and North West, vied for the attention of spectators in the High Street and Waterside.

Among the groups of Morris dancers was Silurian Border Morris, from Ledbury, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year.

Venues included Bar Seven, the Star, the Rugby Club Pavilion, Henry’s Cafe, the Memorial Hall, the council chamber, King’s Head, the Muggery, the Swan, the Boathouse and the Plough.

Charles Gerad’s Regiment, a regiment of the Sealed Knot Society, added some spice to proceedings with musketeers and pikemen cutting a Royalist dash in their English Civil War costumes.

It is the second year the Regiment has attended the festival.

One of their members, Royalist musketeer Graham Matthews, said: “It was such a success last year that more of us came along.”

Mo Bradshaw, one of the organisers, said it had all started as a small one day festival 30 years ago.

Mrs Bradshaw said she believed the English folk tradition was experiencing a resurgence.

She believes it was one of the best attended folk festivals they had ever had in the town.

She added: “We’re very grateful to the town for all their support and all the venues we have been able to use and all the businesses for letting us take over their rooms and bars, the rugby club, all the traders and restaurants.

“We feel very welcome in the town.”