Starting line-up revealed for the annual Towersey Festival

Towersey Festival

Folk favourites Kate Rusby, Steeleye Span and Show of Hands are some of the confirmed acts that will welcome festival-goers at Towersey Festival’s new home of Buckinghamshire, in August 2020.

The iconic folk and roots festival will celebrate its 56th year from 28-31 August 2020, in Buckinghamshire’s stunning Claydon Estate, in Middle Claydon.

Joining these folk greats are more contemporary names such as This Is The Kit, Grace Petrie, London’s ground-breaking Brass ensemble The Hackney Colliery Band and Scottish power trio Talisk. Also, on the initial roster are new band The Magpie Arc, featuring guitar great Martin Simpson, English folk singer Nancy Kerr and leading musicians from Scotland.

Four years since her last visit to Towersey, Kate Rusby was described by The Guardian as “one of the superstars of the British acoustic scene”. Forever proud to call herself a folk singer, Kate’s beautiful, expressive vocals never fail to connect the emotional heart of a song to that of her audience. The crossover appeal Kate enjoys is unprecedented for a folk singer and has been achieved without resort to compromise.

Among the most commercially successful and influential traditional artists, thanks to their hit singles ‘Gaudete’ and ‘All Around My Hat’, Steeleye Span changed the face of folk music forever. After 50 years, they are as creative and vital now as ever, with a new album that is garnering rave reviews and taking their live performances to new levels.

Also returning to Towersey 2020 is the multi-award-winning Show of Hands, with their new four-piece line-up including master percussionist Cormac Byrne, who returns with his blistering additions by popular demand. There’s no doubt that Show of Hands the four-piece, now something of a supergroup, and their combined musicianship is guaranteed to sound nothing short of magical.

Towersey is renowned for staging artists that are not often seen at bigger music festivals so it should not be a surprise to see one of the country’s leading choral groups, The London Welsh Male Voice Choir, amongst the first artists revealed.

Others joining the line-up include indie-folk band Laura Cortese And The Dance Cards, girl power bluegrass band Midnight Skyracer and 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award ‘Best Album’ winners, The Trials of Cato.

Towersey Festival Director Joe Heap said: “After a record-breaking 2019 festival we are very excited to be moving to an incredible new site and working with Claydon Estate. 2020 will be such a special year – our new and stunning location provides such a fabulous backdrop for our festival, and with these first-named artists, we have the beginnings of what could be our greatest line-up to date.

“There’ll be loads of other surprises and more great names to come in 2020, but we are so excited to be sharing these first artists now as well as announcing our exclusive Circus and Music Show ‘Circocentric’ which will premiere at Towersey.”

Towersey is the UK’s longest-running independent music festival, with seven venues featuring an extensive music programme, over 30 hours of ceilidh, and a packed schedule of daily workshops. 2020 will feature many of the regular favourites plus the introduction of new circus shows and workshops, well-being & mindfulness activities and outdoor experiences.

With a dedicated and acclaimed programme of activities for children and younger festivalgoers, as well as street theatre performers, arts and crafts, film screenings, late-night sessions, real ale and cider bars and street food, there really is something for everyone.

Tickets for Towersey Festival, which runs from Friday 28 to Monday 31 August 2020 at Claydon Estate, Middle Claydon, Buckinghamshire (, are now available from £144 (adult), £134 (concessions), £70 (young person 5-17). For more information go to

The line-up so far

Friday 28 August

Steeleye Span
Show of Hands
Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards
Forest of Fools
Honey And The Bear

Saturday 29 August

This Is The Kit
Midnight Skyracer
The Trials of Cato
Jackie Oates & John Spiers
Smith and Brewer

Sunday 30 August

Kate Rusby
Hackney Colliery Band
The London Welsh Male Voice Choir
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra

Monday 31 August

Grace Petrie
The Magpie Arc
Matthew Byrne
Circocentric – EXCLUSIVE TO TOWERSEY! A newly created Circus show by The Chipolatas and The Pirates of the Carabina!


Weekend Tickets with camping (4 days)
Standard: Campsite access from 9am on Friday 28th August.

Adult £169; Conc £159; Young Person (5-17yrs) £85; under 5s FREE.

Weekend Tickets without camping (4 days)
Standard: Site access from 9am on Friday 28th August.

Adult £144; Concession £134; Young Person (5-17) £70; under 5s FREE.

Day Tickets without camping

Fri Adult £45; Young Person (5-17) £30; under 5s FREE.

Sat/Sun Adult £50; Young Person (5-17) £35; under 5s FREE.

Mon Adult £35; Young Person (5-17) £25; under 5s FREE.

Day ticket camping Adult £15; Young Person (5-17) £10; Under 5s FREE

Box office: 0115 807 7900

Festival website:


Award Winning Underneath the Stars Festival announces first acts for 2020

Underneath The Stars

  • Paul Carrack (Friday), Kate Rusby (Saturday) and Suzanne Vega (Sunday) are the first names to the be announced for the seventh Underneath the Stars festival.
  • Run by the production team behind folk artist Kate Rusby, award-winning Underneath the Stars features music, performance arts, crafts and more for the whole family plus food, drink and shopping, sourced from independent vendors, brought together in the stunning rural setting of Cinderhill Farm, Barnsley.
  • Underneath the Stars won Small Festival of the Year and took home the prestigious Judge’s Award at the sought-after National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) Awards 2019. The festival has also gained an Attitude is Everything Silver Charter Award.

The award-winning, independent family festival Underneath the Stars is set to return for its seventh year on Friday 31st July – Sunday 2nd August 2020, bringing live music, performance arts and delicious dishes from Yorkshire and beyond to its cosy corner of rural South Yorkshire.

Kicking off the star-studded line-up on Friday is Grammy nominated, singer songwriter Paul Carrack. Celebrating 20 years of phenomenal output as an independent artist, the Sheffield born artist has carved a niche for himself where blue-eyed soul and pop rock collide, promising a formidable live experience. His voice is instantly recognisable on numerous hits including ‘How Long’, Squeeze’s ‘Tempted’, Mike + The Mechanics ‘Living Years’ and ‘Over My Shoulder’.

To honour Yorkshire Day on Saturday 1st August, Barnsley’s own nightingale, Kate Rusby will take to the stage, performing traditional folk and stunning self-penned songs. Yorkshire born and bred, Kate is known for her wistfully pure singing voice, good humour and the down-to-earth warmth of her live performances. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to folk music, dance or song, Kate is the latest recipient of an English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) Gold Badge.

Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation and an iconic female artist, Suzanne Vega will appear on Sunday. Her work, including hits such as ‘Luka’, ‘Marlene on the Wall’ and ‘Tom’s Diner’, is as utterly distinct and poignant today as when she first made a name for herself. She is a masterful storyteller who observes the world with a clinically poetic eye.

Festival director Emma Holling says: “Building on our sell-out festival this year, we are delighted to announce our first names for Underneath the Stars 2020. To see the festival become an established event on the UK festival scene is just amazing – our recent awards and successes are testament to the hard work of all the team. We look forward to announcing more acts and other exciting plans soon!”

Alongside a musical line-up, festival-goers can expect captivating storytellers, circus pursuits, lively street-performers and a whole host of workshops to take part in. Last year saw everything from ukulele, swingdance and Tai Chi, to singing, songwriting and instrumentation workshops.

Underneath the Stars handpicks food traders and prioritises quality ingredients and value for money. In addition to boutique street food vendors, and hustling bar areas – promising fantastic flavours and worldly wines; the Makers Market showcasing local independent traders returns for 2020. Committed to fair and ethical trading and environmental sustainability, Artisan Makers promise unique, handmade products and stunning one-off pieces.

Continuing developments on reducing waste and plastic use, the team at Underneath the Stars have put new initiatives in place for 2020, from reviewing waste management systems and drinking vessels, to working closely with Zero Yorkshire, a zero-waste shop based in Huddersfield offering earth friendly alternatives to everyday items.

Underneath the Stars festival is a community interest venture with inclusivity and community at its heart. The team recently enjoyed a week of celebrations as they won Small Festival of the Year and took home the prestigious Judge’s Award at the National Outdoor Events Association’s (NOEA) Awards ceremony on Wednesday 27th November 2019.

They also gained an Attitude is Everything Silver Charter Award. AIE is a disability-led charity supporting non-profit and commercial organisations to make what they do more accessible and inclusive for Deaf and disabled people. Its Charter improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working in partnership with audiences, artists and the music industry.

Tickets are available from


KATE RUSBY – Holly Head (Pure PRCD57)

Holly HeadHaving already released the excellent Philosophers, Poets & Kings, Rusby returns with her second album of the year, the fifth in her ongoing biennial festive series that again, produced by Damien O’Kane, mixes Yorkshire variants of well-known carols with both obscure and her own seasonal songs. Substituting ‘People Awake’ for ‘Christians Awake’ and with a few other lyrical variations, she gets the celebrations underway with the brass-polished ‘Salute The Happy Morn’, written in 1745 by Broughton-born John Byron for his daughter Dorothy and retitled from ‘Christmas Day For Dolly’ when John Wainright set it to music around 1766.

The first of the three originals comes with a reminder that ‘Christmas Is Merry’, sleigh bells putting in an early appearance behind the cascading chords and swayalong melody, while, set to the traditional tune ‘Noel Nouvoulet’ and accompanied by an icy piano note, muted drums and minimal guitar, ‘The Holly King’ has an almost liturgical feel to its account of the pagan mythic archetype, a precursor of Santa Claus, representing the second half of the year, forever battling his adversary the Oak King.

There’s only three traditional carols proper, the first arriving with ‘Yorkshire Three Ships’, which is, of course, ‘I Saw Three Ships’, here merrily lolloping down the street to a circling guitar pattern as the instrumentation gradually builds, complemented by the cascading notes of a gently lullabying five-minute ‘Bleak Mid-Winter (Yorkshire)’, Christina Russell’s words set to music by Gustav Holst, the number gradually swelling with the arrival of the warming brass, and a fingerpicked minstrel-like ‘While Shepherds Watched’ (her sixth different version). A similar period atmosphere (with almost a Slavic air) enfolds the traditional, echoey-sung, ‘Lu Lay’, better known as either ‘The Wexford Carol’ or ‘The Coventry Carol’, while ‘Celestial Hearts’ (“We’ll tune our hearts and raise our voice”) is a Yorkshire variant (Worrall and Oughtibridge to be exact) of ‘New Celestial’, sparklingly arranged by Rusby and O’Kane.

Departing from carols per se, the five minute ‘I Am Christmas’ is a simple fingerpicked treatment of the 2010 song (“I am warmth and I am light/ And I am kith and kin./ I am Christmas, let me in”) co-written by lyricist Bill Meek and composer John Conolly of ‘Fiddler’s Green’ fame, and, published in 1844 in Songs, Ballads and Other Poems, ‘Mistletoe Bough’ comes from Thomas Haynes Bayly (who wrote ‘Home Sweet Home’) and Sir Henry Bishop and is based on the story of The Mistletoe Bride which, first surfacing in 1823, told of how a young bride suffocated on her wedding day when she was unable to get out of the large chest in which she was hiding. The legend has been ascribed to several different counties, but the song settles on Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire. Either way, the arrangement is more festive than the tragedy it recounts.

The album also comes with a brace of novelty numbers, first up finding her trail the gift wrap around the tuba parping silliness of the jaunty ‘Hippo For Christmas’, a Christmas hit from back in 1953 sung by 10-year-old Oklahoma City child star Gayla Peevey under the self-explanatory title ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas’. A little digging reveals it’s not as obscure as you might think, with versions popping up on festive albums by the likes of Captain & Tennille, Gretchen Wilson, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves and, surely worth seeking out, a Sesame Street duet by Big Bird and Anne Hathaway and, for Brit nostalgists, Terry Hall and Lenny The Lion.

The other, and the album’s final track, ‘B.B.B.B.’, (that’s Bill, Beryl, Belinda and Bob) continues the ongoing story of Barnsley’s own super-hero Big Brave Bill, brass section, diatonic accordion and sleigh bells providing the jaunty backing as Rusby recounts his finding love and raising a Yorkshire Tea-supping family when he himself is rescued after a near nasty husky-drawn sleigh-ride scenario. As the album cover suggests, this is a crowning glory.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

Live at The Lowry:

Kate Rusby announces new Christmas album

Kate Rusby

Pure Records presents Holly Head, the 5th Christmas album from award-winning folk singer Kate Rusby.

Like Petrolheads are mad about cars and Cureheads have a thing for Robert Smith, Kate Rusby is a Holly Head. If you hadn’t already spotted from Sweet BellsWhile Mortals SleepThe Frost Is All Over and Angels And Men, she is not only Santa’s biggest musical helper, but she is also an incurable Christmas nerd.

Obsession can lead an individual down many different paths, but in 2019, it has drawn Kate Rusby to her fifth festive long-playing offering. It’s one of the warmest Christmas albums you’ll ever encounter. That’s nowt to do with climate change. Winter is supposed to be the season of barrenness, of Jack Frost nipping at your nose and of needing your big coat. It may get dark at four o’clock and you may become cynically sick of Slade, John Rutter albums and Merry, Merry Christmas by New Kids On The Block by the second week in December, but Holly Head will illuminate and kindle hearts and hearths.

It’s the Christmas album you’ll still be compelled to play, guilt-free, at significant volume, in mid-May.

To begin at the beginning, the very first words that Kate sings are, “People awake; salute the happy morn.” It would take a bleary, grump-laden Scrooge to hear that early on the 25th and not feel somewhat motivated to follow her benevolent orders. When the penultimate track, ‘I Am Christmas’, presents us with, “I am warmth and I am light/ And I am kith and kin./ I am Christmas, let me in”, even Noël naysayers of Dickensian proportions ought to be moved to stand, Spartacus-style and proudly, defiantly declare “I’m Christmas”.

You’re probably more used to Christmas tunes where the music seems somewhat of a vehicle for the more significant words. Holly Head, however, is a modern folk album that also has seasonal lyrics. Even the traditional carols feel new: ‘While Shepherds Watched’ is lush, ‘Bleak Mid-Winter (Yorkshire)’ is atmospheric and from land-locked Barnsley, ‘Yorkshire Three Ships’ sounds like the sonic equivalent of a cracking real ale. The production values that Damien O’Kane brings to the party are the third wise element that ought to draw people to Holly Head from near and far.

A Rusby family Christmas has always been a massive deal. On Holly Head, the arrangements of the songs, resplendent with brass and the electronic effects that have become familiar additions to her sound over the last few albums, resound with the power of community that we’d all like Christmas to represent. “We’ll tune our hearts and raise our voice” (‘Celestial Hearts’) should become the perfect mantra to ward off the type of voice-raising that can occur in some households once a late-afternoon wine haze has descended.

Holly Head is a stocking full of fun. It reclaims the often emptily parroted phrase, “Merry Christmas” and genuinely reminds us that ‘Christmas Is Merry’. ‘Hippo For Christmas’ could bear the alternative title, ‘Christmas Is Daft’, as if you can’t be foolish at Yuletide, when can you? The notion of requesting a hippopotamus for Christmas, on the basis that it can live in the double garage, may bring some awkward last-minute gift demands from young’uns. There’ll be a widespread shortage of gift wrap in the South Yorkshire area if the idea starts to spread. Lumbering playfully, we also manage a sighting of that rarest of beasts, a horn solo.

Plus we get to update ourselves on how Big Brave Bill’s life has progressed since he last saved Christmas in 2017. No spoilers on this one. Suffice to say a lot’s been going on for our hero. You’ll have to hear for yourself.

You could ask for Holly Head under the tree at Christmas, but (aside from the retail eternity in the shops) Christmas surely begins with Advent on December 1st and Holly Head comes out on November 29th. That said, listening to these twelve songs for just over three weeks, you’re likely to add to your letter to Santa requests for excellent speakers, a mixing desk, tuba lessons and, quite possibly, your very own hippo.

Artist’s website:

KATE RUSBY – Philosophers, Poets & Kings (Pure PRCD53)

PhilosophersIncredibly, Philosophers, Poets & Kings is Rusby’s 17th studio album in just over 20 years. Once again, a collection of the traditional and self-penned with a couple of covers for good measure, it pays homage to her Yorkshire roots, both musical and personal, as well as furthering her exploits into electronic realms with Moog, synths and programming.

It opens though without any techno frills on her setting of a traditional song, ‘Jenny’, which, although I’ve been unable to track down its provenance, I would assume to originate from Yorkshire and tells the playful tale of Yorkshire Jen, the long shout outsider who proves to have the stamina to stay the course when the others can barely trot. As befits the subject, it builds into a sprightly drum thumping number that features cornet and flugelhorn, Michael McGoldrick on flute, double bass, diatonic accordion and Ron Block on banjo as well as Damien O’Kane on guitars and vocals. Not only that, it’s reprised in a remix version as the penultimate track that strips out flute, bass and accordion and replaces them with Anthony Davis’s programming for which you might want to break out the folk glow-sticks.

Horses also get a mention in the languidly paced ‘Bogey’s Bonnie Belle’, a much recorded bothy ballad about impregnation out of wedlock and the class system divide popularised by Scottish Travellers, here featuring O’Kane on tenor guitar, Ross Ainslie on whistles and moody Moog provided by Duncan Lyall. Apparently, when she was young Rusby’s family had a Staffy named after the song, which leads nicely into the swayalong title track. Another traditional song set to a new tune, celebrating the inspirational power of the vine in promoting poetry and song that namechecks Diogenes, Plato and Democritus it also harks to wine-fuelled family singsongs and, who knows, may well have been the inspiration for Monty Python’s ‘Philosophers’ Song’.

The first original number comes with ‘Until Morning’, a twinkling I’m by your side lullaby of sorts essentially about how it’s always darkest before the dawn, followed by the two covers, first up being a rousing reading of Thompson and Swarbrick’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’ from Liege and Lief, although fiddle is conspicuous by its absence, substituted by whistles, Moog and programming. The second is a rather more left field choice, being an emotionally plaintive take on Oasis’ ‘Don’t Go Away’ featuring just Rusby and O’Kane’s tenor guitar, Rusby having first performed it on Jo Whiley’s Radio 2 show.

Co-penned with dad Steve and featuring wheezing accordion and whistles, the whimsical lurching ‘The Squire and the Parson’ is apparently based on a local folk tale involving much strong wine, a night-time coach journey and the two characters mistaking each other for a highwayman and knocking one another about.

A bittersweet mood shrouds ‘The Wanderer’, a poignant self-penned story about a man from her village suffering from Alzheimer’s who spends his time walking in search of his lost soul mate. Staying local with a dedication to the Barr Family who host Rusby’s Underneath The Stars Festival, ‘The Farmer’s Toast’ is another airy, waltzing accordion-based arrangement of a song originally published as a broadside in the early 19th century celebrating the idyllic pleasures of farming life a century earlier.

That soul-swelling sense of joy spreads over the Rusby original ‘As The Lights Go Out’, on which, joined by Chas MacKenzie on electric guitar and Sam Kelly on vocals, another anthem to hope in the face of loss, grief and doubt as she sings about facing the dawn with a smile and how “Tonight the stars are yours and mine.”

It closes though on a much darker note the self-penned ‘Halt The Wagons’ conceived as a lullaby to the 26 children, 15 boys and 11 girls aged 7-17 from Silkstone, who, in 1838, were drowned in the Barnsley Huskar Pit disaster when the coal mine shaft in which they were working was flooded in a freak storm, their bodies found with their arms around each other for comfort. Written to commemorate the 180th anniversary, it features evocative Yorkshire brass and euphonium but, more movingly, 26 members of the Barnsley Youth Choir of the same ages and gender, recorded underground at the National Coal Mining Museum of England. It’s impossible to listen to without welling up.

The booklet features quotes from three Greek philosophers, among them Aristotle who said “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Kate Rusby bears the torch.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Jenny’ – live:

Kate Rusby announces new album

Kate Rusby

Pure Records presents Philosophers, Poets & Kings, the 17th studio album from award-winning folk singer Kate Rusby. Seamlessly blending old and new across twelve tracks of traditional folk, covers and self-penned songs, the inimitable contemporary folk songstress’s new solo album is a deeply personal collection which pays homage to her family and musical heritage, and home life in Yorkshire.

With Philosophers, Poets and Kings, Kate Rusby raises a toast to her parents. She recalls an upbringing filled with music; whether recording songs performed during wine-fuelled family singalongs or her formative years spent watching festival performances by famed musicians including Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick.

As you could tell from the unmistakable strains of Moog on 2016’s Life In a Paper Boat, Kate Rusby’s (kind of) gone electronic. No-one gave her the Bob Dylan treatment on tour and shouted “Judas” at the appearance of weird contemporary machinery, so adventures in synthesised sounds have made for a brave new world so far.

It’s not quite time yet to call in The Pet Shop Boys for a collab or reset your Rusby radar to Kiss FM, and Calvin Harris has not yet buzzed Barnsley, but 2019 sees Kate take the next steps in being increasingly less unplugged with Poets, Philosophers and Kings.

Hang on. Philosophers, Poets and Kings? What about this ‘brave new world’? Doesn’t that sound a bit historical and backwards-looking as an album title?

Yes…. And equally, no.

First and foremost, couldn’t we all do with a few philosophical voices offering genuinely complete and well-formed thoughts in 2019 as we struggle as a nation to reconcile ourselves with who we are and where we’re going? Equally if we struggle as individuals to achieve a mindful peace in the cacophonous whirligig of everyday life, oughtn’t philosophy to be welcome wisdom?

Secondly, surely poetry – the pursuit of beauty and truth – is even more necessary than it’s ever been? It was Aristotle who asserted, “It’s during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” So shines this album, as a good deed in a weary world.

Thirdly, and most importantly, isn’t the essence of really appealing modern folk a combination of careful homage to the past, but bringing age-old songs into the present with fearless innovation? That’s where you’re at with Philosophers, Poets and Kings: where the idea that you can only truly embrace the present if you have the past firmly in your bones rings entirely true.

Don’t get your glow-sticks and whistles out when you see the word ‘Remix’ next to track ten, but it is indicative of a novel approach in that the album carries two separate and distinct versions of the traditional track, ‘Jenny’. In Kate’s own words, “From the moment I started working on this song, I could hear two completely different ways that we could approach it… Turn this version up and get your dancing shoes on.”

As much as there’s the elevating presence of joy and much excuse for limbs to jig, there’s also the emotive, grounded sense of her South Yorkshire home that we’ve come to breathe in through our rarefied, Rusbified atmosphere over the years. ‘The Wanderer’ depicts a man from Kate’s village suffering from Alzheimer’s; ‘The Farmer’s Toast’ honours the family on whose land she hosts the Underneath The Stars Festival; ‘The Squire and the Parson’ comes from a local folk tale and carries a co-writing credit from Kate’s Dad, Steve.

Try to contemplate the final track, ‘Halt The Wagons’ without some increased action in your tear ducts. July 4th 2018 saw the 180th anniversary of the Huskar Pit disaster, where 26 children working in the mine lost their lives when a freak storm flooded the mine shaft. 15 boys and 11 girls aged 7-17years old, were drowned. They were found with arms around each other for comfort. Kate was asked to write a song to commemorate the disaster, and was joined by 26 members of The Barnsley Youth Choir, 15 boys and 11 girls, their ages 7-17. Together they went underground at The National Coal Mining Museum of England to film and record the children singing on the song: “They were brilliant. I wanted people to see and hear 26 children, to understand what a huge effect the terrible tragedy had on the small village of Silkstone (just up the road from me). Most of all I wanted to give a voice to those children and their mothers.”

The title track pays tribute to the inspiration for much poetry, philosophy and many a singalong: wine. With its mention of Diogenes, Democritus and Plato, associations with Monty Python’s ‘Philosophers’ Song’ are never far away. Conversely, there’s a cover of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Go Away’; never before has that song sounded so soberly plaintive.

Pour yourself a glass of something indulgent on May 17th and ‘Rusby-up’ your stereo. You’ll feel majestic.

Philosophers, Poets and Kings is released on Friday 17 May. Kate Rusby is touring nationally from May – October 2019.

She headlines Underneath The Stars – the family-run independent arts and music festival held in Barnsley, South Yorkshire – from 2-4 August 2019.

Artist’s website:

‘Jenny’ – live: