The host of the multi-award-winning Folk on Foot podcast, Matthew Bannister, is to set off on a 180-mile sponsored walk this summer to raise money for the charity Help Musicians.
The former controller of BBC Radio 1 and presenter of Radio 4’s weekly Last Word programme will start his trek at the Wickham Festival in Hampshire on Friday, August 4 and finish two weeks later at the FolkEast Festival in Suffolk on Friday, August 18, where he will be danced over the finishing line by none other than Gloucestershire’s ‘all-female prog Morris side’ Boss Morris, who famously performed alongside indie rock group Wet Leg at this year’s Brit Awards.
Matthew, who launched Folk on Foot in 2018, has invited myriad folk musicians to join him at pubs where he is staying along the trail each evening for informal, morale-boosting gatherings of songs and tunes. Confirmed artists include some of the finest names in folk – The Young’uns, Martin Simpson, Bella Hardy, and Show of Hands’ Steve Knightley joining forces with Johnny Kalsi (Afro Celts, The Dhol Foundation).
There will be a rich mix of duos, from Peter Knight & John Spiers to Megson, Honey And The Bear, Janice Burns & Jon Doran, Rowan Piggott and Rosie Hodgson of The Wilderness Yet and Sid Goldsmith and Danny Pedler of Tarren.
Others joining Matthew will be flautist Eliza Marshall (Ranagri/Freedom to Roam) and traditional folk musician Jon Wilks, singer-songwriters Kirsty Merryn and Katie Spencer and Brighton band Bird In The Belly.
The route will take him from the rolling countryside of Hampshire’s Meon Valley to a finish line in the grounds of Suffolk’s glorious Glemham Hall where the FolkEast festival is staged, traversing Berkshire, Greater London, Hertfordshire and Essex en route.
He will pass novelist’s Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire, traverse Colne Valley Park on the western flank of London, stay in picturesque Eton with its famous college, follow the tree-lined Long Walk at Windsor, cross the great Roman road of Watling Street and walk along stretches of the Grand Union Canal – the principal navigable waterway between London and the Midlands.
Matthew’s final overnight stop at Campsea Ashe, Suffolk, will see him welcomed and entertained by the multi-award-winning patrons of FolkEast, The Young’uns.
Members of the public are invited to join Matthew along the way, leaving their footprint for just a mile or two or a whole day.
Matthew said: “During the pandemic lockdowns Folk on Foot listeners raised an amazing £327,000 to support musicians who had lost their livelihoods. Half was divided between the scores of artists who took part in our four online Front Room Festivals and the other half went to Help Musicians.
“The lockdowns may be a distant memory, but the problems faced by musicians haven’t gone away. Many are dealing with mental or physical health issues or financial hardship and Help Musicians and its sister charity Music Minds Matter do a brilliant job of supporting them to build secure careers in what can be a very challenging and precarious industry. That’s why I’ve decided to tramp 180 miles across the South East of England to raise money and awareness. Music and musicians have been vital throughout my life, raising my spirits when I was down, helping me to celebrate important moments and bringing me joy every single day. This walk is a small way of saying thank you.”
You can support Matthew Bannister in many ways: