• Tim Hughes talks to Ellen Smith, one of the fresher names playing at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention

THEY’re folk – but not as you know it. Fusing good old English roots with rock and pop, Ellen and the Escapades have created a sound all their own. And it is going down better than they could have imagined.

The band have spent much of the summer living at festivals – where their sunny songwriting and Ellen’s spellbinding vocals have been earning them new fans by the thousand.

And tomorrow the four-piece, pictured right, reach north Oxfordshire, where they join a clutch of new bands, and plenty of more experienced ones, setting out to win-over the 20,000-strong crowd of folk-lovers at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention.

“We can’t wait to get there,” says frontwoman Ellen Smith. “It’s absolutely amazing. We’ve heard so many good things about it. We are friends with The Travelling Band who played it last year and they said it was the best thing they’d ever done. “It’s definitely going to be the biggest crowd we’ve played to.”

Emerging four years ago, after meeting at college, the Leeds band’s big break came when they were chosen by BBC Introducing to play the Reading Festival and Leeds Festival.

They went on to win the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and performed on three of the festival’s stages. Their harmonica-driven sound, and Ellen’s dusky voice, has also gone down well everywhere from Bestival, on the Isle of Wight, to the Belladrum Tartan Heart festival in the north of Scotland, where they were last week. But how does 24-year-old Ellen think they’ll go down on the big field at Cropredy?

“People really seem to be getting what we do and we are gaining lots of new fans,” she says cheerily. “We play kind of folk, and we are a song-based band.

"We play stuff that people can sing along to; it’s easily memorable and doesn’t rely on atmospherics or anything that’s there for the sake of it. And we don’t try and be too cool, so our music doesn’t get outdated and is always going to be there.

“There will always be people who say we are not a real folk band, but I’m not bothered by that. Luckily our audiences are always open to what we do.”

The band have followed in the footsteps of Mumford & Sons and Noah & The Whale to occupy the pop/folk middle ground.

“We are a self-reliant band and everything we’ve done we’ve done off our own backs,” adds Ellen.

Their single When The Tide Creeps In reached the top of the Amazon folk and rock charts in the week of its release, and their album All The Crooked Scenes is also going down a treat. A big part of that success, and their instant appeal, lies in the band’s musicality.

Ellen and each of her Escapades is a gifted musician. “We know how, when and what to play,” she says. “And it works well!” And she is relishing the chance to share the bill with the festival hosts. “Fairport Convention are a legendary band and I can’t wait to see them play,” she says.

“We are really enjoying everything we are doing. You can see that and it rubs off. “It’s a feelgood thing. We’ve done so many amazing gigs and can’t wait to play to even more people.”

Meet on the ledge: Fairport's Cropredy Convention packs in the acts

STARTING off in the 1970s as a polite gathering on the lawn, Fairport Convention’s annual celebration of folk-rock has become an institution.
And while the band are still the focus of the Cropredy festival, they are only part of this lively three-day event.

The festival starts with a set by the veteran folk-rock band, who this year celebrate their 45th anniversary, and concludes with a three-hour show by the band, also starring many of their former members.

Those ex-Fairporters include guitar wizard Richard Thompson, who plays his own set tomorrow – in what is expected to be the highlight of the whole festival.

Other names playing to the 20,000-odd Cropredy campers and day-trippers include Squeeze and Bellowhead tonight, Saw Doctors and Joan Armatrading tomorrow, and Dr Hook’s Dennis Locorriere, and Big Country tomorrow.

Representing the new guard are Ellen and the Escapades, Brother & Bones and BBC Young Folk Award winners, Ioscaid. Even Richard Thompson’s daughter, Kami, performs – with her band Dead Flamingoes.

Also keeping the family spirit alive will be founder Fairporter Ashley Hutchings, who will be joined by his son, the actor Blair Dunlop, who is also a pretty mean guitarist.

“I enjoy coming back to Cropredy and playing with the current band,”  says Ashley.

“Young people have come along as babes in arms, and we’ve seen them growing up and bringing their own families. This year my own son will be guesting with Fairport, which makes me so proud, but also sums up what the festival is about. The audience are all part of the family.”

  • * Fairport’s Cropredy Convention runs from today to Saturday. The festival offers three-day, two-day and Saturday-only tickets, costing £110, £100 and £80 respectively.
  • All are available on the gate.
  •  www.fairportconvention.com/cropredy.php