Stanfest over the years, looking through the lens

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – Pam and Alan Sampson have had a unique point of view on the Stan Rogers Folk Festival over the past 20 years. They are both volunteer photographers for the annual music festival, and they’ve had a special visual insight into the evolution of Stanfest over the years.

That first year the couple from Liverpool were just there for fun, among the many spectators. But soon they started taking pictures, strictly as amateurs.

“That was way before digital,” Pam says of the early years behind the lens. After a couple of years they started providing some of their photos to Stanfest. “It was nothing they could really use for promotional material,” she says. “It was just to document what was going on.” After the third or fourth year they upgraded to a digital camera.

“With all the stuff they (Stanfest organizers) had to do, taking pictures was the last thing they had time to do. So they started having this photo team and they called it the ‘hotshot team,’” she says.

Over the years Pam and Alan have taken many beautiful stage shots, but she says it’s the little moments in the audience and on the grounds that most interest her.

“You develop a library of memorable events and memorable people. Sometimes I’m looking for specific people. I may not know their name but I know their face. In some cases I’ve been taking their pictures for 20 years. I’ve seen them go from black hair to grey. I’ve seen kids become adults and sometimes come back with their own kids. They have come to know I’m taking their picture and sometimes they’ll wave. They are part of the colour of Stanfest.”

Together Pam and Alan will take about 10,000 photos over the weekend. They’ve also had their three kids involved with volunteering at Stanfest over the years, including their daughter helping with photography. They’ve grown up with Stanfest.

Pam is sharing in the excitement for this coming weekend’s 20th Stanfest festival, which is shaping up to be a big reunion.

“I’m bringing my Tylenol and Gaviscon this weekend because I’m not going to sit still. There are too many people I have to see this weekend.”

When asked how she thinks Stanfest has changed over the years, Pam says the whole Stanfest experience has become much more family friendly. “Older people and little children are treated with respect and are able to fully enjoy the festival,” she says. “We got to a lot of festivals and I know that’s not necessarily easy at festivals.”

Pam says her wish for the 20th anniversary event is “that it is all fun. That everybody leaves with a great big smile.”