If we regard folk music as a spectrum, then Fay Hield leads an extraordinarily busy life at the performing end of that spectrum; another in the middle as an organiser; and at the other end as a well-respected academic in the music department of the University of Sheffield. These roles have never been mutually exclusive for we have performer-academics and organiser-musicians – but rarely have we had someone who fulfils all three roles.
In the years either side of 1975, a revolution took place in English Social Dance. The dominant force throughout the 20th century had been the English Folk Dance and Song Society. There had been a previous major change in the first years after 1945 when the young royal princesses took an interest in square dancing after visiting Canada. The EFDSS heartily endorsed this and the bands that played for their ubiquitous dance clubs adopted many of their reels and played them at speed.
Georgia Lewis is a folk singer, accordionist, whistle player and sean-nós step dancer from Wiltshire. She studied Professional Musicianship at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music and works in various musical collaborations with others such as Rowan Piggott, Evan Carson, Ross Grant and Aidan Bew. She performs traditional material, poems set to music and her own compositions. Georgia worked hard to create her debut CD, The Bird Who Sings Freedom, which received a nomination for a Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
The Road to Peterloo
August 16, 2019 is the bicentenary of the Peterloo massacre when 60 cavalrymen charged into a peaceful crowd of men, women and children who had assembled to protest against poverty and their deteriorating conditions and to demand improved democratic representation in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. The event took place in St Peter’s Field Manchester, just four years after the battle of Waterloo - hence the name.
2018 was a remarkable year for Aberdeenshire singer Iona Fyfe. It kicked off in January with a ‘live’ performance of her album, Away From My Window, at Celtic Connections, and ended in December with her walking away with the Scots Singer of the Year prize at the Scots Trad Music Awards. In between, she toured so extensively at home and abroad, including appearances at prestigious events like the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, that one paper said she “made Metallica look like skivers”.
Christine Kydd has been a stalwart of the Scottish folk scene for over 30 years and is renowned not only for her singing and performing, but also for her involvement in numerous teaching, theatrical and community projects and as a vocal coach and choir director.
Having been nominated for the Scots Trad Music Award for Scots Traditional Singer of the Year in 2012 and 2018, she was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame for services to performance in 2018.
For the last 20 years Scottish folk band, Malinky, has made a name for itself as one of the great champions of traditional Scots song. As the band prepares to launch its 20th anniversary album, Handsel, I caught up with two of its founder members, Steve Byrne and Mark Dunlop. They start by telling me a bit about the early days - the line-up back then consisted of Steve, Mark, Karine Polwart and Kit Patterson. Mark begins: “As I recall, the scene at the time comprised either instrumental bands who did the odd song (e.g. Deaf Shepherd), or purely instrumental acts."
Interviews! They can take place in the oddest of places! A recent one was conducted sitting on the floor in a corridor of a town hall in Kent at the end of a Saturday concert during a festival. This one with Sandra Kerr was in a rather plusher setting; it was a Sunday morning in June in the residents’ lounge of a hotel in Fitzrovia in Central London. We were both involved in the traditional song and tune weekend organised by the Musical Traditions club and the nearby King & Queen.
Recent articles on Andy Cutting and Sam Sweeney have prompted Paul Walker to take a look at Leveret’s third member, Rob Harbron... Rob Harbron is best known as a player of the English concertina, but this wasn’t his first instrument. “No, I played several instruments before I discovered the concertina - piano briefly aged about five, then guitar and recorder at school, then the violin/fiddle, which I wasn't that keen on until I discovered folk music."
The GFRS story begins in 1968 in a dwelling in Strathkinnes, a cottage known as The Poffle. It was, at the time, rented by Jimmy Hutchison and Noel Farrow. While they were residents there the cottage became a regular venue for the post-St Andrews Folk Club gatherings. At one of these, Davey Stewart mentioned something he had come across. It was a group of people who were travelling around in what was referred to as a ‘Folk Charabanc’, taking a folksong-based performance to far-flung places. This conversation sowed a seed until a time was right.