With the 13th Gate To Southwell Festival on the horizon, over five thousand visitors are expected in the Nottinghamshire town from June 6th to 9th. The family festival kicks off with a special Thursday Americana night starring Los Pacaminos (featuring Paul Young) supported by Louisiana’s Truckstop Honeymoon, young Californians Blue Summit and Joshua Cook, plus a special new Midlands’ artists showcase on the Frontier Stage.
More than 50 artists will be performing on five stages over four days. Friday June 7th welcomes Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Leicester protest singer Grace Petrie, punk veterans Otway & Barrett and Hotel Palindrone from Austria. Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys headline Saturday night (8th) with great international support from Canadians Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys, Welsh stars Calan, former BBC Folk Singer of the Year Nancy Kerr and acclaimed ceilidh band Blackbeard’s Tea Party. With top quality artists will appearing across the weekend, the festival will reach a climax on Sunday 9th with a special European concert (led by Korrontzi and BOC from Spain) followed by a Celtic finale with Scottish stars Skipinnish, the excellent Edinburgh singer-songwriter Blue Rose Code and Irish favourites Ranagri.
There will be dance sides from all over the UK – the traditional procession through Southwell takes place on Saturday 8th – plus children’s entertainment, workshops, storytelling, ceilidhs, poetry, comedy, craft fairs and food stalls. The subsidized Festival Shuttle Bus will link the town to the festival site near Southwell Racecourse.
Ahead of the festival, residents and local businesses will be participating in the annual Decorate The Gates competition in Southwell over the May Bank Holiday weekend (25th to 27th). To enter decorated gates register via the website www.gtsf.uk (under ’Get Involved’) before midnight on Wednesday 22nd May. The winners will receive a full family weekend ticket to the Gate To Southwell Festival worth £350 and a cup donated by Kirkland & Lane.
It’s ‘lucky seven’ time for East Anglia’s unique, fast-rising FolkEast – England’s most easterly folk music festival. Not only is it the seventh year the event has been held in the glorious grounds of Suffolk’s 16th century festival but this year it will offer diverse performances on no less than seven stages.
The 2019 festival will be staged between August 16-18 and has all the promise of being the best yet with an enviable line-up of artists from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Poland, Canada and USA.
Leading the way will be formidable folk legend Richard Thompson – a revered singer songwriter and jaw dropping guitarist– who takes to the main Sunset stage as Sunday night headliner. A co-founder of trailblazing folk rockers Fairport Convention, Thompson has carved himself a high class career bringing iconic international status, with anthemic songs like ‘Persuasion,’ ‘Beeswing’ and ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ becoming classics. Named as one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” he has been honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards on both sides of the Atlantic – from the Americana Music Association in Nashville, and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – as well as garnering an OBE (personally bestowed upon him by the Queen at Buckingham Palace)
FolkEast will also field some of folk’s finest female artists – opening night headliner will be the brilliantly inspired Scottish singer songwriter and hot property Karine Polwart performing with her Trio (Stephen Polwart and Inge Thomson). Karine (2018 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Folk Singer of the Year) is on a roll having released two hugely successful albums in quick succession – A Pocket Of Wind Resistance and Laws Of Motion and also migrated into the acting world including a role in Radio 4’s drama ‘A Faraway Back Of Beyond Place’, a two hander with Bill Paterson. A songwriter with heart and soul, Stirlingshire-born Karine is a wonderful wordsmith and captivating performer sure to get the festival off to a grand start.
Saturday night at FolkEast will see a very special headline event as the peerless Irish songstress Cara Dillon (“quite possibly the world’s most beautiful female voice” – Mojo) takes to the stage with ‘Cara Dillon and Friends’ celebrating the 10th anniversary of her landmark album Hill Of Thieves which won the coveted Album Of The Year at the 2008 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Derry-born Cara will be joined by the class line-up of husband Sam Lakeman (piano, guitar), Jarlath Henderson (uillean pipes, whistle), Ed Boyd (guitar). James Fagan (bouzouki), Toby Shaer (fiddle, whistles) and Ben Nicholls (bass).
Also from Ireland, the mighty Sharon Shannon Band will be heading to Suffolk. Born in County Clare, Sharon is a show stopping accordionist whose career is soaked in the Irish tradition but takes so many more influences on board. Sharon has played for Presidents Clinton and Obama in The White House, received a Lifetime Achievement Meteor award in 2009, and was honoured for ‘outstanding contributions in music’ at the Irish Books, Arts and Music (IBAM) awards in Chicago to say nothing of her 1991 self-titled debut CD being the best-selling album ever of instrumental traditional Irish music.
Keeping up the Celtic connection, the line-up will be enhanced by Scots-Irish trio Ross Ainslie (Scottish bagpipes, whistles), Jarlath Henderson (uilleann pipes, whistles) and Perthshire’s Ali Hutton whose combined talents create a sound that pushes the boundaries of what Scottish and Irish instruments normally achieve. Dubbed “the new stars of Celtic music,” they’ve crafted music that bursts with fresh energy.
FolkEast is also thrilled to announce that the eloquent and exquisite English singer-songwriter/guitarist John Smith will join the 2019 line up. Born in Essex, raised by the Devon seaside, and kicking off in the bars and clubs of Liverpool, John has released six albums including his most recent Hummingbird, with over 10 million Spotify streams. His distinctive, gravelly voice has been heard by audiences all over the world in living rooms, festival tents and sold-out concert halls. Steeped in the lineage of British folk, taking his cue from Richard Thompson and John Martyn, Smith has evolved a transatlantic blend of fingerstyle and slide guitar techniques and a repertoire of up close, no hiding place songs of life and love. He has opened for folk greats including John Martyn, Davy Graham and John Renbourn, who called Smith “the future of folk music”.
Flying the flag for Wales will be the effervescent five-piece revivalist traditional band Calan, who sing in both Welsh and English. The band formed in early 2006 when its members ages ranged from just 13 to 22. In 2008, they created great excitement at the Inter Celtic Festival, becoming the only Welsh band to win the coveted international folk band award. They also won best group at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Brittany. Playing accordion, harp, guitar, fiddle and Welsh bagpipes, they also have their own champion step dancer.
One of the most singular events on the UK festival calendar, FolkEast was launched six years ago by husband and wife John and Becky Marshall-Potter.
Rekindling the ancient Eastfolk moots on the Glemham Hall estate where for three days a year the folk from the East would meet kith and kin at harvest time for “a bit of a do”, this gathering has Suffolk running through it like letters in a stick of rock – from its locally sourced fare to its suppliers, arts and crafts.
The festival, with its ever present mythical emblem The Jackalope, offers a refreshingly different line-up across its seven stages (including the ‘Sanctuary’ stage at St Andrew’s Church, the open air Sunset Stage and the hidden woodland solar-powered Soapbox Stage), with two authentic ‘village’ pubs serving competitively-priced ales (including Suffolk-based Green Jack Brewery’s festival ale Green Jackalope) plus possibly the smallest pub in the UK, the 6 x 4’ Halfway Inn.
Then there’s the FolkEast Art Arcade, packed dance programme, archery, donkey rides, children’s activities (including den building, storybook making and a mud kitchen linked together in a special new children’s trail) yoga, poetry, storytelling, the Eastfolk Chronicle Kinedrome (showing folk and local interest films) and tours of Glemham Hall by estate owner Major Philip Cobbold.
On board again this year as a media partner will be BBC Radio Suffolk.
The Early Bird Festive Ticket offer is now open until January 6, 2019.
Advance weekend tickets are available price £110 (adult), £99 (full time students, 65+ ) and £75 for Youth tickets (12-17 year old) which must be purchased with an adult ticket. Family weekend tickets for two adults and two 12-17 year olds are £340. A great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under; camping under canvas is £20 and camping on wheels £30. More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
As a seasonal bonus those buying tickets by December 16 will be entered into a Santa’s Folk Stocking competition with two goody-filled FolkEast stockings up for grabs.
Located close to the A12, the festival will also be running shuttle buses to the site from Wickham Market station.
It’s 10 years since the masters of Welsh folk Calan released their debut album – Bling. It’s fair to say that during those 10 years they’ve blasted their way through the old traditions giving a fresh and contemporary sound to traditional Welsh music. Credited for their sparkling melodies, foot tapping tunes and spirited and energetic performances of Welsh step dancing, they’ve taken Welsh traditional music to international audiences.
Following the release of their debut album, Bling in 2008, which attracted four star responses from the critics, the five piece have played to big audiences and rave reviews at concerts and festivals around Britain, USA, Australia and Europe. It hasn’t always been plain sailing for the band, there have been a few hiccups along the way, the biggest crisis being Sam and Patrick’s night in a cell at Chicago O’Hare Airport and their deportation back to the UK the following day! Despite this not so nice experience the band’s love of touring the States has continued as they’ve recently returned from a successful few weeks of gigs that included a performance for the radio programme Mountain Stage – produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and distributed by NPR to more than 240 stations across America.
Highlights from the last 10 years include performing at the Royal Albert Hall with Bryn Terfel and Sting, singing in the rain at the Borneo Rainforest Festival and performing to 25,000 people at the coveted Cropredy Folk Festival. They’ve toured Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Australia and the USA and have performed several times at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Brittany, where they’ve received the award for the best group and they will be returning this year to perform alongside other Welsh artists such as Manic Street Preachers, Alaw, Vri and Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita.
Calan have released three further studio albums – Jonah, Dinas and Solomon and the compilation album Deg |10 is a combination of their favourite tracks along with three brand new songs, two live recordings and two brand new remixes of previous singles ‘Apparition’ and ‘Synnwyr Solomon’. Calan are heading out on tour again and we are looking forward to see where the next 10 years will take them!
The new song ‘Irontown’ tells the story of the Chartist uprising of November 4th 1839 when iron workers and coal miners from the valley towns of south Wales marched into Newport in support of the People’s Charter. A charter which called for universal suffrage, secret ballot, a salary for MPs, giving those who did not own property the right to vote. Waiting for them were troops from the 45th Of Foot who opened fire on the crowd. By the end of the protest 22 men were dead and 50 wounded. The troops were defending the Westgate Hotel where it was rumoured some Chartist supporters had been taken prisoner. The hotel still stands today and it is believed the bullet holes can still be seen in the fabric of the walls.
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I was a little nervous about reviewing the CD Solomon by the Welsh band Calan, released on 14th April. After all, it’s been more decades than I care to think about since, as a student in North Wales, I picked up a few words of Cymraeg, and those few words are long gone. Fortunately, while most of the songs are sung in Welsh, the notes are in both Welsh and English, so I’m in with a chance of not getting my facts terribly wrong. Even more fortunately, there are some great sets of tunes as well as songs that feature lovely vocals and harmonies, so not understanding most of the lyrics didn’t impair my enjoyment at all.
Calan are Bethan Rhiannon (main vocals, accordion, step dancing, percussion), Patrick Rimes (fiddle, Welsh bagpipes, pibgorn, whistle, hulusi, vocals), Angharad Jenkins (fiddle, vocals), Sam Humphreys (guitar, percussion, effects, vocals), Alice French (harp, vocals). The band is augmented on this recording by Greg Sterland (saxophone), Josh Barber (trumpet), Lloyd Pierce (trombone) and Nigel Jenkins (reading an extract from his poem The Creation during the song ‘Kân’).
‘Kân’ is “a patriotic song about the future of the Welsh language and culture“. If I didn’t have the review copy, I’d probably buy the CD on the strength of this song alone. Nigel Jenkins has one of those resonant Welsh voices – think Richard Burton. The chorus is based on a style of psalm chanting that used to be popular in West Wales, but don’t expect a churchy feel: here, it gives the recording added punch.
The resemblance in the title ‘Ryan Jigs’ to the name of a certain Welsh football player is entirely intentional: this set of jigs is dedicated to the Welsh side, and comprises the traditional tunes ‘Crwr Da’, ‘Breuddwyd y Wrach’ (which you may know as ‘The Hag’s Dream’), ‘Y Facsen Felen’ and ‘Ffidl Ffadl’ (I love that name). And if that set doesn’t propel the team to further success, I don’t know what will.
‘#Deportationselfie’ is a set of tunes “inspired by Sam and Patrick’s adventures getting into the US” – a story of visa misadventure that attracted some attention on social media, as I recall. The individual tunes are the well-known ‘Black Joak’, plus ‘Chwi Fechgyn Glân Ffri’, ‘Ooh-Eeh, Nasty Devil’ (apparently by Patrick Rimes) and ‘Naid Dros Llannerch’.
‘Apparition’ is a Calan original in English, and while it’s “based on some entries in the diary of Edmund Jones speaking about the fairy realm in South Wales” there’s nothing twee or fey about it: it’s an excellent folk-rock-ish song.
‘Hayes and Quinn’s’ is also an original, described as “a wedding tune written for our dear American friends…” A very attractive tune and arrangement.
‘Madame Fromage’ is a set of tunes dedicated to Carrie Rimes, maker of the band’s own Calan Cheese. But there’s nothing cheesy about these tunes. ‘Madame Fromage’ is by Angharad Siân Jenkins, and Y Folantein is traditional.
‘Pe Cawn i Hon’ (If She Were Mine) is beautifully sung and accompanied by restrained and very effective electric guitar.
The writer of ‘Yr Eneth Ga’dd ei Gwrthod’ (The Rejected Maiden) is unknown, though it is based on a true event of the mid-19th century: the sadness of the theme is evident even across the language barrier.
‘Synnwyr Solomon’ (The Wisdom of Solomon), a song learned from the collector/performer Meredydd Evans (Merêd), is rather less mournful, telling of a man who finds that the women of Wales are a little too feisty for him to marry.
‘Dennis, Polca!’ consists of three tunes: ‘Welsh Morris’, ‘Anastacia Riddles’ and ‘Polca Cefn Coed’. Described by the band as “a banging set” and I won’t argue with that. I’ve always felt happier sitting in the band than being out on the dance floor, but my feet haven’t tapped so much in decades.
‘Yr Hwiangerddi’ (The Lullabies) brings the pace down with a delightful set of traditional lullabies: ‘Y Lili Ymysg y Drain’ (Also known as ‘The Colour Of The Lily Amongst The Thorns’.), ‘Si Hei Lwli’, and ‘Mil Harddach’.
‘Big D’ is a “slamming” set of tunes that starts off with a clog dance. Which is a better idea than it sounds. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to finish a super CD. ’27 Club’ is written by Bethan; ‘Y Fasged Wyau’ is traditional; ‘Composition 11’ is credited to P E Rimes (I guess that’s Patrick); ‘Roaring Hornpipe’ and ‘Pibddawns Morfydd’ are both traditional.
If this is Brythonic folk-rock, I wouldn’t mind hearing quite a lot more of it.
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