Written by Hazel Davis


Awesome old ladies of the festival

This year’s festival scene is simply bursting with silver stars, says Hazel Davis. *applause*

Joan Baez

Joan Baez: makes everyone else look lazy.

With the Dalai Lama (79) and Stephen Hawking (73) among the key attractions at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, it seems that festival season is no longer the preserve of willowy young Sloanes.

Ticket marketplace Ticketbis has collated a list of the best silver-crowd-surfers you’ll see in the UK this summer and they have a combined age of more than 500. These lads and lasses are crashing out of retirement and they’re gonna keep on dancing until they’re 92-ooo-oooh.

Peggy Seeger: still shredding at 80. Photo by Rik Walton.

Peggy Seeger: still shredding at 80. Photo by Rik Walton.

It seems as though, while Hollywood is telling women they’re too old to play leading roles, the festival-booking world is embracing the more mature woman with open arms. And here’s why.

Top of our billing is glorious leading lady Peggy Seeger, who, at 80, will no doubt rock the socks off all the other banjo-twiddling younglings at the Cambridge Folk Festival at the end of the month.

Seeger was born in 1935 into one of America’s most legendary folk music families, chased out of the States by McCarthy, moved to the UK, marrying for convenience so she could continue seeing her (still married) lover Ewan MacColl, casually introduced the concertina to the English folk scene, went to Greenham Common then later came out as bisexual. Yeah, come back when you’ve done some of those things, Kanye, and then we’ll talk.

At Glasto just gone, legendary R&B and gospel singer Mavis Staples rocked our worlds. Staples was born in Chicago in 1939 (nearly 50 years before her fellow performer Jamie XX), is one of the most memorable voices of the civil rights movement and has been sampled by EVERYONE EVER.

Mavis Staples: a living legend.

Mavis Staples: a living legend.

Florence may have headlined Glasto, but heading up the Cambridge Folk Festival is a cheeky young upstart by the name of Joan Baez, just 74. We think she’ll go far. Oh you know, she used to go out with Bob Dylan (as did Mavis Staples*), sang through the night at Woodstock when she was six months pregnant, sings songs in tons of different languages, campaigns on basically every human rights issue going and (true fact) her dad was one of the co-inventors of the X-ray microscope. What?

One of the main stage attractions, in fact THE main main-stage attraction to our mind, at the Sunshine Festival in Upton at the end of August is the glass-ceiling-smashing and just general smashing Suzi Quatro, who this year at the age of 65 – that’s five years younger than my mum – celebrates 50 years of rock and roll, hopefully resplendent in a leather catsuit (if she’s not I want my money back).

What does all this prove? It proves that in actual fact you don’t need to be just emerging from puberty to make good music; that if you’re good, the crowd will love you whether you’re 18, 38 or 88 – and hurrah for the music festivals scene for recognising this and celebrating it. Oh, and fuck off Hollywood.

*Wait, perhaps everyone did.

Mavis Staples plays the Corn Exchange in Cambridge tonight.


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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".