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Live Reviews

THE 15TH CARRYING STREAM FESTIVAL - Edinburgh - 9-16 November 2016

The Carrying Stream Festival was first held in Edinburgh to celebrate and commemorate the life and legacy of the great folklorist, songwriter and poet, Hamish Henderson, in November 2002, six months after Hamish's death in March of that year.

BROWN BREAD AND JAM CLUB - Cawley's Hotel, Tubbercurry, South Sligo - 12 November 2016

South County Sligo is well-known as the home of the iconic Irish traditional musicians, James Morrison, Michael Coleman and Paddy Killoran, but for eight years now, it has attracted an annual gathering of storytellers, singers and listeners known as the Brown Bread and Jam Club.


I challenge anyone to find a more unusual location than the main setting for this year’s Hartlepool Folk Festival. Most events are held in the Royal Navy Museum and Quay, some even held on board Nelson’s last frigate, the HMS Trincomalee. With low ceilings and wooden decks, this was a truly unique and atmospheric location.

CORK FOLK FESTIVAL - 28 September – 2 October 2016

A trip to Cork is never too much of a hardship, and we don’t usually need to be asked twice, so when the opportunity arose to visit this year’s Cork Folk Festival, we jumped at the chance. It has been a few years since we were at the festival, so we thought it was about time for a return trip. And, as we suspected, we were not disappointed.

SIDMOUTH FOLK WEEK - Sidmouth, Devon 29 July – 5 August

A large, week-long festival such as Sidmouth is made up of a very large number of constituent parts, some of which interlock, while others can stand PST as individual festivals in their own right. One such is the social dance. “If they want to,” social dance director Gareth Kiddier told me, “the dancers can start at nine o'clock in the morning and dance right through until 1.30 at night.” And, of course, participants can come and go as they choose, taking part in other events - dances, concerts, displays and pub sessions. The programme is nicely structured. Mornings was ‘homework’ with an emphasis on learning, improving and understanding the historical context of dances, with the chance to learn new material and get a deeper understanding of where it came from. The remainder of the day was geared to entertain, with a variety of different dances, bands and callers. This already popular strand is gaining even more fans with increasing numbers of young dancers and musicians attending and gifted dancers both participating and teaching.

EIRE! Festival Internazionale di Musica Irlandese - Bondeno, Italy - 26-28 August 2016

“We must have a break,” we said. “We need a holiday and a chance to get away from traditional music for a while,” we said. “Italy would be lovely this time of year,” we said. But when we realised that one of Italy’s premier Irish traditional music festivals was happening only a few short miles from where we were planning to be, it was just too hard to resist. So Bondeno, about 28 miles to the north of the wonderful city of Bologna, was added to our schedule.

Sun, Strathspeys and Shanties in Shakespeare’s County - Alex Monaghan sampled the delights of Warwick Folk Festival 2016

With headliners this year including Show of Hands, Mike McGoldrick, Le Vent Du Nord and the Marmite sound of the Unthanks, the Warwick Folk Festival is a major event welcoming hundreds of performers and thousands of punters. Based in the grounds of Warwick School, just across the picturesque River Avon from the medieval town centre and one of the most impressive castles in England, the festival has its own fringe events which extend into various halls and hostelries in the town. Everything is within walking distance, and there is a bus which runs from the festival site through the town centre, passing most of the fringe venues. It was all extremely well organised, and when things went wrong - as they are bound to in an event of this size - they were swiftly remedied.

FASTNET MARITIME AND FOLK FESTIVAL - Ballydehob, West Cork - 17-19 June 2016

Hop on the ferry to Rosslare, drive along the nicest bit of coast road imaginable, taking in Dungarvan, Youghal, Kinsale and Skibbereen, until you round the corner at Roaringwater Bay (we are just off Fastnet Rock) arriving in Ballydehob. What a little beauty this is, just before Bantry - the friendliest people with a big Irish welcome. But hang on, there's a familiar face or two - it's Dick Miles and a whole host of friends. It's the Fastnet Maritime & Folk festival and well worth the trip.

Frankie Gavin and De Dannan - The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury - 20 October 2016

Frankie Gavin and De Dannan was an inspired booking by the organisers of Canterbury Arts Festival. The band play all over the world these days – from Spain and Scandinavia to China and the USA as well as in their native Ireland, but sadly English audiences rarely get the opportunity to experience their unique brand of Irish music.

THE MCKEANEY SISTERS - Cashel Community Hall, Co Fermanagh - 30 June 2016

Rosie Stewart's fine traditional singing is well respected all over Britain and Ireland, but outside County Fermanagh, few seem to be aware that her four sisters are also first rate singers and musicians. Anna, Kathleen, Mary and Peggy joined Rosie for the launch of their first CD as a group in a community hall in the heart of the lovely Fermanagh countryside, with old friend Roisin White as M.C.