Fellside at 40

The Quality puts most other small companies to shame’ Music Week

 Fellside at 40

Fellside Recordings was set up by husband and wife, Paul and Linda Adams, in 1976. Paul and Linda were a singing duo who had made two albums by this time. Paul had some interest in recording and was working freelance for BBC local radio when they decided to set up their own recording facility. With help from other label owners Bernard Whitty (Folksound), Brian Horsfall (Traditional Sound Recordings), Alan Green (Folk Heritage), Joe Stead (Sweet Folk & Country) and the legendary Bill Leader, the label was born.

Although not setting out as a Folk Music label Fellside became one quite quickly. For some time the business was only part-time: Linda looked after the administration and the day-to-day running of Fellside alongside looking after their two young children while Paul had what he calls a “proper job” as a Pastoral Head and Head of Business Studies in a local school.

Notable debut albums by young artists such as Dave Walters, Colin Thompson, Gerry Hallom, Steve Turner and, most notably, Jez Lowe, and Paul’s skill as a recording engineer helped build Fellside’s reputation for quality. Having established artists such as Roy Harris and Martyn Wyndham-Read join the label helped consolidate that reputation. Paul’s background also involved Jazz and he was anxious to start a Jazz label, which came about in 1986 with the formation of the Lake label specialising in British Traditional and Mainstream Jazz. With deals, first with Decca and then with Universal to reissue the Record Supervision catalogue (artists such as Chris Barber, Acker Bilk, Humphrey Lyttelton, Alex Welsh, etc), Lake hit the ground running.

By now the company was developing rapidly and the continuing upward trajectory meant that something had to give and so in 1996 Paul and Linda took the plunge and went into Fellside full time. This enabled the company to develop even more rapidly and its labels become two of the leading independent, specialist labels in the UK with an admirable reputation for quality. Distribution via Proper Music Distribution ensured a network of availability to rival any major label.

Between them the two main labels have received 12 Awards For Excellence from the Music Retailers Association, four British Jazz Awards, one Scottish New Music Award; Fellside artists are regularly nominated for, and have won, BBC Folk Awards; four sets of Fellside artists won BBC Young Folk Awards; Paul was nominated for a BBC Jazz Award and this year was awarded the ‘Services To British Jazz’ in the British Jazz Awards. Also this year Paul was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University of Cumbria for services to education and the music business.

Other developments: the Smallfolk label was created to release music from the television series, Bagpuss; the Midge Bitten label was created for the Indie/Rock band, Hyabusa; Fellside has acquired the rights to the Traditional Sound Recordings and Brewhouse Music labels. Fellside also has its own publishing business, Fellsongs Publishing.

Statistics and personnel: To date, Fellside has released 280 albums and Lake 350; just over 50% of those albums have been recorded by Paul Adams; Fellside is still run solely by Paul and Linda Adams; the other person most closely associated with the company, Mary Blood, has been the artwork designer on a freelance basis since day one; in 2015 Paul and Linda’s children, Richard Adams and Susan Reid, became directors of the business; other people have helped on a casual basis over the years most notably Richard Adams, Bob Hallard and, currently, George Hunter-Brown.

Fellside still has a policy of encouraging new young talent and, over time, this has resulted in a number of artists gaining national recognition notably the aforementioned Jez Lowe (6 albums with Fellside), Sara Grey, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Benji Kirkpatrick, Spats Langham (four albums on Lake), Dr. Faustus and, of course, Spiers & Boden (four albums with Fellside). Alongside nurturing new talent Fellside, over the years, has revitalized the recording careers of several already established artists including Bobby Eaglesham, Swan Arcade, Bob Fox, Hughie Jones, Martyn Wyndham- Read, Clive Gregson and, more recently, Pete Morton.

As well as initiating its own recordings Fellside has been keen to get recordings by A.L. Lloyd and Peter Bellamy back in circulation. Over the last few years a new crop of artists is gaining national recognition: Joe Topping, Jack McNeil & Charlie Heys, The Jake Leg Jug Band (Lake), Hot Fingers (Lake), Gren Bartley, Tom Kitching, Ewan McLennan, The Hut People, Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith, James Findlay and, of course, the award winning Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar.

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