A Newcastle folk band with strong links to Teesside is set to record its first album, thanks to a bursary in memory of one of the North East’s most acclaimed songwriters.
The Rachel Hamer Band has been named as the latest recipient of the award made by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and the award winning band The Unthanks in memory of Middlesbrough songwriter Graeme Miles who died in 2013.
This is the second memorial bursary, worth £1,200, to be given. The scheme is administered by EFDSS and supported by The Unthanks through fundraising concerts.
A contemporary of Ewan MacColl, Graeme wrote his first song at the age of 14 and after hearing the traditional songs of Tyneside, set himself a 20-year task to create a collection for his adopted native Teesside. He wrote hundreds of songs about the area, finding poetry and beauty in the industrial landscape of Middlesbrough and the surrounding Cleveland hills and dales.
The young Newcastle based quartet will use the bursary to pay for studio time to record their first album.
Fronted by Rachel Hamer, whose family hails from Teesside, the band comprises of fiddle player, vocalist and clog dancer Grace Smith, guitarist and vocalist Graeme Armstrong, and Sam Partridge, a flautist and multi-instrumentalist, and is fast establishing itself as a major force on the traditional music scene in the UK.
Rachel Hamer, speaking on behalf of The Rachel Hamer Band, said:
“We are honoured and thrilled to be awarded the Graeme Miles Bursary. Graeme was a prolific songwriter and champion of North East folk music and we feel privileged to be a small part of his legacy.
“This award is invaluable to our development and we are excited about the award, our new album, and for what the future holds for us. The bursary is giving us the unique opportunity to pay for studio time to record our debut album.
“Our self-produced EPs have sold well at our gigs but we now feel ready to record our debut album. We are excited to start recording the album and the bursary is giving us an incredible start.
“We would like to thank everyone at EFDSS, The Unthanks, and the artists who gave their time to raise additional funds for this opportunity,” she added.
About The Rachel Hamer Band
The Rachel Hamer Band is made up of Rachel Hamer, 23, from Whitley Bay, a previous winner of the John Birmingham Cup songwriting competition. She has strong links to Teesside – her grandfather worked at ICI in Billingham and her father grew up in Billingham. The other band members are Grace Smith, 22, from Saltburn; 24-year-old Graeme Armstrong from Jedburgh, and Sam Partridge, 22, from Glossop.
Together they combine their passion for traditional tunes with Rachel’s extensive repertoire, having been born and bred on the local traditional folk scene, to arrange their innovative and exciting music. Each member brings their own unique approach to their diverse musical traditions.
Folk Radio UK:
“The magic of these four lies in their cutting-edge combination which, whilst steeped in the tradition, has a brilliant fresh sound”
About the Graeme Miles bursary
The Graeme Miles Bursary scheme is open to artists or groups, aged 18 to 25, in the North East of England, which includes Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne and Wear, and the Tees Valley. The bursary is to fund a significant development opportunity, project or programme of activity that could have a lasting impact on their career.
Applications are invited from individual musicians, composers, and groups who are in the early stages of their professional career or final stages of advanced musical training with a genuine commitment to build a professional career in folk music.
Artists’ website: www.therachelhamerband.com
‘The Witchfinder General’ – live at the Davy lamp folk club: