2019 is a big year for folking award winners Harp And A Monkey, with the planned release of album number four, and the band are excited to be playing some new venues and meeting new fans of their brand of experimental folk music.
A small rural church in Cumbria, a disused airfield in Norfolk, an old railway wagon in Sussex, and the winding room of a former colliery in Tyne and Wear – these are the odd collection of sites that provide the backdrop for a new documentary about a series of poignant performances by the acclaimed experimental folk and storytelling act Harp And A Monkey.
The Lancashire trio are renowned for doing things differently, and they certainly lived up to that reputation during the second phase of their ongoing project to mark the centenary of the First World War with unusual stories from home shores.
The band, who include an internationally respected WW1 historian, author and broadcaster, have been playing at places in Britain with different tales to tell of the conflict. They have been documenting the process by recording the performances and interviewing local people with evocative stories.
Sponsored by Arts Council England and the Western Front Association, the new documentary The Great War: New Songs and Stories (Part 2) can be viewed on the band’s website (see below), YouTube and on the website of the Western Front Association, which is the largest international body committed to the study and remembrance of the war. A short trailer for the documentary is presently being circulated.
Martin Purdy, the band’s front-man and a respected WW1 historian, explained: “The shows featured in this documentary gave us the chance to talk about the role of religion, flight, espionage, repatriation of the dead and industry. We also discovered that the last surviving British veteran of the conflict was a woman from Norfolk, which was news to us! We really hope people find this documentary as interesting and entertaining to watch as we did to make.”
The performances, which are tied to the band’s critically lauded third album War Stories, include field recordings and interviews with veterans, new songs and re-workings of traditional and contemporaneous songs. Harp And A Monkey are presently putting together a further series of shows related to the project, whilst also performing their popular (non-war) shows around the country in what is the outfit’s tenth year as leading figures in the experimental British folk movement.
If you would like to order a copy of any of the Harp And A Monkey albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.
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Songs about cuckolded molecatchers, a lone English oak tree that grows at Gallipoli, care in the community and medieval pilgrims…we can only be talking about the folk experimentalists Harp And A Monkey.
Formed in 2008, these harp and banjo driven electro-folk experimentalists have been building up a loyal following via the old fashioned practice of relentless gigging and modern practice of social network sites. The quality of their music and the vast range of influences, from lone English Oak trees in Gallipoli to Care In The Community, make them entertaining and memorable. Imbued with a deep Lancashire sensibility that shines through in their beautifully crafted and sometimes spooky vignettes of northern life, love and remembrance. Ask them about their influences and they are as likely to cite Ordnance Survey maps and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as they are Bert Jansch, Bjork or Bellowhead.
Regulars on the northern folk circuit, in recent years they have expanded their live outreach across the country, helped massively by appearances on BBC Radio and rave reviews in the national and mainstream press. This year, they were awarded the accolade of Best Band 2016 by the highly respected folking.com website.
The band have gained a strong reputation for building an excellent rapport with their live audiences and the fact that they have never played anywhere and not been invited back. Such is the strength of their reputation as a quality live act, they have twice been asked to perform at the Homegrown festival; the annual international showcase of the best of English folk music.
The trio’s melodic and hauntological storytelling, which is always underpinned by a firm commitment to classic songsmithery, has caught the attention and support of the likes of Steve Lamacq, Mark Radcliffe and Mike Harding on BBC Radio 2, Lopa Kothari and Nick Luscombe on BBC Radio 3, Folk Radio UK and many more international, national and regional broadcasters.
The band’s self-titled debut album received critical acclaim on its release in late 2011.Their second album, All Life Is Here , was released in April 2014 and again received outstanding reviews, with the likes of fRoots magazine describing them as “ undoubtedly one of the most vital and charismatic things happening in English folk music right now”. The band’s third album, War Stories, was released in July, 2016, as part of their ongoing project (part-sponsored by Arts Council England and The Western Front Association) to mark the centenary of the First World War. The album has received outstanding reviews, with the likes of The Observer describing it as “bold and brilliant”. Support from BBC Radio 2 has been substantive, including sessions and interviews with Clare Balding (Good Morning Sunday) and Mark Radcliffe (The Folk Show).
2017 has seen Harp And A Monkey involved in a unique project to remember World War 1 nurses, in particular Nellie Spindler, a nurse from Wakefield in Yorkshire. Martin Purdy, the band’s frontman and a WW1 historian, said: “Recent events to mark the centenary of the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres, or “Passchendaele”, have focused on the soldiers, but it would seem fitting today to spare a thought for the nursing staff, many of whom – like Nellie Spindler – were never too far from danger.”
The project culminated in the band writing and recording the beautiful and poignant ‘Clean White Sheets’ (The Nellie Spindler Song), inspired by the work of secondary school children from Nellie’s home town, who worked with Professor Christine Hallett (from Manchester University), to remember the sacrifices of their local heroine, who was only in her mid-twenties when she died
Nellie Spindler, a nurse from Wakefield in Yorkshire, was resting in her tent after a hard night-shift at the No.32 British Casualty Clearing Station in Brandhoek, Belgium, when a German shell fragment pierced the canvass, hit her and killed her.
The sacrifice of Nellie Spindler, and nurses in the First World War in general, has been the focus of a recent project involving the folk experimentalists and storytelling trio Harp and a Monkey – and they have released a video today (which you can view here) to mark the anniversary of Nellie’s death.
Martin Purdy, the band’s frontman and a WW1 historian, said: “Recent events to mark the centenary of the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres, or ‘Passchendaele’, have focused on the soldiers, but it would seem fitting today to spare a thought for the nursing staff, many of whom – like Nellie Spindler – were never too far from danger.”
Martin added: “The idea of ‘Clean White Sheets’ is based around the memoirs of the wounded, who would often judge how close they were to home – and safety – by how clean the sheets were. It just seemed like a very simple but evocative and powerful image.”
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So here they are: the Folking Award winners of 2017.
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who voted – more than 20,000 votes were cast. Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the runners-up, although all our nominees are winners to the writers who enjoyed their music, either live or on record, over the last year and placed them on the short list. Here are the public vote winners and now, may I have the first envelope please… no, not that one!
Soloist of the Year – Ralph McTell
Listen to the Darren Beech/ Paul Johnson interview with Ralph at Cropredy 2016 here
Best Duo – Show Of Hands
Read all about Show Of Hands’ Big Gig at the Royal Albert Hall here
Best Band – Harp And A Monkey
This was a very close vote but we’re delighted that Harp And A Monkey triumphed in the Best Band category even though they narrowly beat another of our favourites.
As before, there are no actual trophies to present (but if anyone would like to tender for making some in the future please let us know). However, everyone on the long lists and on the short lists as well as the winners can rejoice that they made an impression on a lot of people during 2016.
Have another great musical year!
The Folking team
If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.
Welcome to the 2017 Folking Awards. Last year’s inaugural poll was such a success that we had to do it again. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with sweat, tears and not a little blood by the Folkmeister and the Editor.
There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have been featured in the pages of folking.com in 2016.
As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes. However, its not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.
Soloist Of The Year
Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby
Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater
O’Hooley & Tidow
Show Of Hands
Afro Celt Sound System
Harp And A Monkey
Nancy Kerr and The Sweet Visitor Band
Best Live Act
The James Brothers
Robb Johnson and the My Best Regards Band
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Mad Dog Mcrea
Tall Tales & Rumours – Luke Jackson Ballads Of The Broken Few – Seth Lakeman/Wildwood Kin Preternatural – Moulettes Somewhere Between – Steve Pledger Dodgy Bastards – Steeleye Span
Rising Star Act
The Brewer’s Daughter
Said The Maiden
Emily Mae Winters
Best International Act
The public vote closed Midday Saturday 22 April 2017 and the winners have now been announced HERE
If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of our award winners (in CD or Vinyl), download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected songs (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above.
Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us
I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first hearing of Harp And A Monkey. Their publicity material is entirely accurate but the bare facts fail to paint a true picture of the band. All Life Is Here is their second album.
Coming from Manchester they have the down-to-earth quality that I’ve missed since I came down south. Martin Purdy’s voice immediately transported me back forty-odd years and two hundred miles north and their heavily rewritten traditional songs welcomed me back. But it’s not just nostalgia. ‘Molecatcher’, for example, isn’t the exercise in single entendre that it became in the folk clubs. Glockenspiel gives the song a new lightness and the band’s new chorus and bridge, coupled with the omission of the defiant penultimate verse, make this a story of regret.
Harp And A Monkey always intend their songs to be stories and the opener, ‘Walking In The Footsteps Of Giants’, links the Kinder Trespass with memories of Spanish Civil War volunteers from Lancashire – I think you have to be from Manchester to find that connection – and ‘The Gallipoli Oak’ is a true story of a pilgrimage to plant an English oak tree in a Dardanelles cemetery. In contrast to these grand ideas are the songs of daily life like ‘Doolally Day Out’ and ‘Tupperware And Tinfoil’ – no, I can’t really explain any further.
The band’s minimalist arrangements decorated with odd combinations of instruments are the final ingredient. Harp (of course), melodica, viola and banjo combine with the glockenspiel and programming of the strange noises to give them an immediately recognisable sound. I can enthusiastically recommend this album.