The Young’uns and The Ballad Of Johnny Longstaff

Three time BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners The Young’uns present a new and unique piece of modern folk theatre.

The Ballad Of Johnny Longstaff is the story of one man’s adventure from begging on the streets in the north of England to fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, taking in the Hunger Marches and the Battle of Cable Street. It’s a timely, touching and often hilarious musical adventure following the footsteps of one working class hero who witnessed some of the momentous events of the 1930s. With their trademark harmony, honesty and humour the Teesside trio bring together sixteen specially composed songs, spoken word, striking imagery and the real recorded voice of Johnny himself to tell a remarkable human story oozing with modern relevance.

To find out more about the story, watch the promo here:

After an overwhelming response to the show earlier in 2018, the twelve date tour in 2019 will see the show visit some of the most iconic venues across the UK and Ireland including the Southbank Centre in London.

Tour Dates

January

28th – HULL Middleton Hall
29th – MANCHESTER Stoller Hall
30th – DUN LAOGHAIRE Pavillion Theatre
31st – BELFAST The Strand

February

1st – GLASGOW Tron Theatre
2nd – GLASGOW Tron Theatre
3rd – SHEFFIELD City Hall Ballroom
4th – BURY ST EDMUNDS Apex
6th – WAVENDON The Stables
7th – YEOVIL The Octagon
8th – MIDDLESBROUGH Town Hall
9th – LONDON Southbank Centre (Purcell Room)

All tickets on sale now and links are available from www.theyounguns.co.uk

To find out more about Johnny’s story, you can access a specially designed app called Johnny’s Journey. This can be accessed via the following link:

http://theyounguns.co.uk/johnnylongstaff

A new album comprising the songs from the show will be released on Friday 7th December 2018, with pre-ordering beginning in November.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2018 – Winners Revealed

Photo Credit BBC

The winners of the Radio 2 Folk Awards 2018 have been announced in a ceremony broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio Ulster, from Belfast Waterfront in Northern Ireland.

A key highlight of the music calendar – now in its 19th year – the awards produced by 7digital saw a host of music stars come together in Belfast for an evening of recognition and show-stopping performances. The ceremony was presented by Radio 2 Folk Show host Mark Radcliffe and world renowned Gaelic singer, Julie Fowlis. Talented artists received prizes including Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Album, Musician of the Year, Young Folk Award and many more.

Music legend Van Morrison presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to musician and producer Dónal Lunny for his massive contribution to folk music.

Photo Credit BBC

The Good Tradition Award went to the Armagh Pipers Club to recognise their contribution to the preservation, dissemination and progression of traditional music over more than 50 years.

Folk Singer of the Year was awarded to Scottish singer-songwriter and musician, Karine Polwart, a talented artist who is also a theatre maker, storyteller, spoken-word performer and essayist.

Photo Credit BBC

Dónal Lunny took to the stage to perform with acclaimed musician Zoë Conway on the fiddle, and earlier in the evening Cara Dillon performed accompanied by Sam Lakeman on piano and John Smith on guitar.

Photo Credit BBC

Opening the show with a rousing performance of Devil In The Woman was Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, driven by brass and electric guitar. And across the night there were also fantastic performances from Lankum, with their song What Will We Do When We Have No Money?, Paul Brady with a solo acoustic rendition of the ballad Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender, and finally, a nine-piece from the Armagh Pipers Club brought the evening to a close with a performance of three specially composed new songs.
The evening included the presentation of the 20th annual BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, an educational contest that exists to discover the next generation of folk acts. Mera Royle, a young harpist from the Isle of Man, was the recipient.

Photo Credit BBC

Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2 said: ‘I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners – the calibre of nominees was extremely high and the wealth of talent that was seen on stage across the evening in Belfast was spectacular. The Radio 2 Folk Awards is an annual celebration of the thriving folk music scene – supporting both established and burgeoning folk musicians – and part of our specialist music content that Radio 2 is proud to broadcast across the year.’

Influential singer-songwriter Nick Drake was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame to celebrate the lasting impression he has had on folk music, despite passing away at the age of just 26 in 1974. Had he lived, he would have turned 70 this year.

Olivia Chaney performed a special tribute with a sublime piano-based interpretation of Drake’s essential song, River Man. Olivia is a great fan of Nick Drake and a multi-talented singer, musician and songwriter. Her collaboration with The Decemberists, called Offa Rex, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2017. Her second solo album, Shelter, will be released in June 2018.

Photograph courtesy of Village Voice

Although Nick Drake’s music didn’t garner commercial success during his lifetime, decades after his early death, his music would find a wide and reverent audience. Featuring sublime and original guitar work which is heavy with meaning and mood, his work has been highly influential on singer-songwriters of all kinds. Actor Gabrielle Drake, Nick’s elder sister, was present at the Radio 2 Folk Awards to tell the audience how her famously shy brother might have felt about the occasion.

Later this evening (4 April) at 11pm on Radio 2, Lost Boy: In Search Of Nick Drake will be re-broadcast. In the documentary which originally went out in 2004, Hollywood film star Brad Pitt shines a light on the life and work of the cult singer-songwriter. Featured in the programme are contributions from producer Joe Boyd, engineer John Wood, Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, Gabrielle Drake and Nick’s late mother, Molly Drake.

The Folk Awards will be broadcast on Sunday 8 April on BBC Four at 9pm and on BBC Two Northern Ireland at 5.30pm, plus selected highlights will be available to watch at bbc.co.uk/radio2 after the show.

The full list of winners:

HORIZON AWARD presented by Jamie Lawson
Ímar

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK presented by Val McDermid
Banks of Newfoundland by Siobhan Miller

BEST DUO presented by Rab Noakes
Chris Stout & Catriona McKay

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR presented by Leo Green
Mohsen Amini

BEST ORIGINAL TRACK presented by Ralph McTell
The Granite Gaze by Lankum

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD presented by Van Morrison
Dónal Lunny

BEST GROUP presented by Finbar Furey
Lankum

HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Nick Drake

YOUNG FOLK AWARD presented by Lynette Fay of BBC Radio Ulster
Mera Royle

BEST ALBUM
Strangers by The Young’uns

GOOD TRADITION AWARD presented by Tommy Sands
Armagh Pipers Club

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR presented by Karan Casey
Karine Polwart

If you would like to order a copy of any of the winning artists or their albums (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

The Folking Awards results 2018

Here they are, the results of the 2018 Folking awards. Thanks to all our writers who submitted nominations and to everyone who participated – almost 17,000 votes were cast. Every one of the nominees made an impression on our writers either on record or on stage during 2017. Without further ado, here are the top choices with percentage of the votes cast.


Soloist of the year – Richard Thompson (31.3%)

Folking Awards results

Read a short bio here (as if you really need to!).


Best Duo – Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman (46%)

Read a short bio here.


Best Band – Merry Hell (35.6%)

Best Live Act – Merry Hell (32.1%)

Just in case we haven’t told you about them often enough you can read about Merry Hell here.


Best Album – Strangers by The Young’Uns (29%)

Strangers

Read Dai Jeffries’ review of Strangers here.


Best Musician – Ryan Young (35.6%)

Read Ryan’s bio here.


Rising Star Act – The Trials Of Cato (33.2%)

Read The Trials of Cato bio here.


Best International Artiste – Le Vent Du Nord (45.7%)

Photograph by Alistair Cassidy

Read Le Vent Du Nord’s bio here.


If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of folking.com’s 2018 award nominees (see full list here), they are available in CD or Vinyl format, as an album download or as an individual track (track previews are usually on the download page). Click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Use the left and right arrows to scroll.

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.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Transports – A Tale Of Exile And Migration (Hudson Records HUD007LP/CD)

TransportsTom Paxton once remarked about one of his songs that it originally sounded as if it had been written a century ago, but that he no longer considered that a virtue. Fortunately, Peter Bellamy had no problem with “telling it like it was”. His ballad opera The Transports was, in the opinion of many, the best example of how effectively he could write songs that sounded as if they had been written around the time of the events they describe, which happened in the late 18th century. The Transports – A Tale Of Exile And Migration, released on January 12th 2018, is not, of course, the first recorded version of the opera.

The first recording was released in 1977, and included some enormously influential artists, including some whose influence has survived long after they themselves left the stage. (For example Bert Lloyd, Cyril Tawney, Dave Swarbrick, and Peter Bellamy himself.) The ‘silver edition’ released in 2004 included not only the (remastered) original recording, but also a collection of newer recordings by other artists, including members of Fairport Convention; Coope, Boyes & Simpson; Steve Tilston; and Damien Barber and John Kirkpatrick. This latest CD, produced by Andy Bell, features a younger generation of singers and musicians, including members of The Young ‘Uns, Bellowhead, Faustus, Waterson: Carthy, Whapweasel, and Belshazzar’s Feast, as well as Nancy Kerr, Matthew Crampton and Greg Russell.

This live CD isn’t just a reproduction of the original recording with different musicians, however: it mirrors the touring revival from 2017 (which at the time of writing is just beginning another 14-date tour that ends in Norwich on the 24th January: see the website linked below for details). While it’s still based on the true story that captured Peter Bellamy’s imagination all those years ago, it uses spoken narrative between songs rather than the four sections of ‘The Ballad Of Henry And Susannah’ from the original recording. The narration, by Matthew Crampton, also draws parallels with the plight of 21st century forced migration. Perhaps the only reservation that I have about the CD is that while the narration is very capable, even a new listener might not want to hear it every time after they’ve become acquainted with the story. But in this age of iGadgets and personal playlists, I suppose people are much less likely to simply put on a CD and play it all the way through.

The production also includes Sean Cooney’s own recent song ‘Dark Water’, about Hesham Modamani, who swam from Turkey to Greece in his bid to escape from Syria. Live performances include stories of migration researched by the Parallel Lives project. While the song doesn’t have the ‘traditional’ quality of Peter Bellamy’s songs, it doesn’t jar – on me, at any rate – and it’s an excellent performance.

For comparison with previous recordings, here’s a listing of the songs: there are 28 tracks altogether, including the spoken tracks.

  1. ‘Us Poor Fellows’
  2. ‘The Robber’s Song’
  3. ‘The Leaves In The Woodland’
  4. ‘The Ballad of Norwich Gaol’
  5. ‘I Once Lived In Service’
  6. ‘Sweet Loving Friendship’
  7. ‘The Black and Bitter Night’
  8. ‘Dark Water’
  9. ‘The Humane Turnkey 1’
  10. ‘The Plymouth Mail’
  11. ‘The Humane Turnkey 2’
  12. ‘The Green Fields of England’
  13. ‘The Still and Silent Ocean’
  14. ‘Roll Down’

For reasons of space, I won’t go through the performances individually: the songs are of a uniform high quality (and, happily, the booklet includes the lyrics). The vocals (both solo and ensemble) and instrumental work are never less than very good, though Nancy Kerr’s bravura performance on ‘The Leaves In The Woodland’ deserves a special mention.

If you already have an earlier version, it’s still worth taking a look at this for its change of focus (and, of course, some excellent performances). If you’re not acquainted with The Transports but like the sound of songs that are very much in a traditional vein and tell a fascinating historical story with 21st century resonances, you should definitely take a look. And if you tend to prefer more contemporary renditions of contemporary material, take a look anyway. You might just surprise yourself.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Artist’s website: www.thetransportsproduction.co.uk/

A Taste Of The Transports:

SEAN COONEY talks to Folking about writing songs and life as a Young’un

Sean Cooney

The Young’uns have come a long way in a very short time. I asked Sean Cooney what he attributed this to – apart from natural talent and charisma – and it came down to one word: passion. The beginnings of the group came in a moment of revelation.

“Michael Hughes and I knew each other from school and we met David Eagle at college when we were about seventeen. We were into all sorts of music but we had no idea about English folk music until one night in a pub back room in Stockton. We didn’t know that people sang in their own voices and it was quite a discovery. We became immersed in it and met lots of inspirational people like the Wilsons.

“It was about a year before we had the nerve to get up and sing and we only knew one song – ‘Roll The Old Chariot Along’ – and we didn’t know the verses so we said ‘We’ll sing the chorus if you’ll sing the verses’.” And from such small beginnings, the Young’uns became the phenomenon they are today.

“Ron Angel [who ran the club] invited us to do a full night but we said ‘we’ve only got one song’. He said ‘well, you’d better learn some more’. We nicked most of the songs and we knew nothing of folk club etiquette: him in the corner sings that song, so it’s his and we can’t do it.”

That first booking was in 2005 and led to more and more local gigs. Eventually the trio opened their own club. “There wasn’t a club on the Headland so we started one at The Harbour Of Refuge, known locally as The Pot House, meeting every other Friday.” Having established themselves locally it seems that things just fell into place for The Young’uns. First they were invited by Richard Grainger to join the Endeavour Shanty Men alongside Ron Angel and that took them to Holland, Norway and Whitby where they were invited to The Gate To Southwell Festival in 2009. “We knew nothing about the festival”, admits Sean. Then came Folk East.

“People are often puzzled about how we came to be involved in a festival so far from home and which focuses on the music of Suffolk. We went to the first one and met John and Becky Marshall-Potter, who sold their house to get the festival going, and we got on like a house on fire: they are always up for a laugh. They invited us to be patrons of the festival which means that we are there every year and also at other associated events.”

However, there was one major change still to come.

“There were two points in my life when I thought I’d never, ever write songs; I never should or could be able to because I was so immersed in other songs. The first of those times was when I was completely immersed in the songs of Bob Dylan from when I was sixteen. It just felt then that Dylan said so much and the songs were so all-encompassing that I thought there was never any point in anybody else writing songs. I was completely absorbed by Dylan; his protest songs, his love songs, his pop songs, his blues songs, his gospel songs and all the influences that he took on board. Dylan led me to literature – Dickens and Conrad and Hardy – and poetry like W B Yeats and Keats.

“I sort of grew out of that a little bit although my love of Dylan never left me but when we discovered folk clubs when we were in our late teens and early twenties I suddenly had a completely new passion for traditional songs and I really threw myself into those with the same passion with which I’d immersed myself in Dylan.

“At that point in my life I thought there was never any need or desire to write songs because traditional songs said all there was to say and spoke to me on so many different levels: the old story-telling ballads, the comical little ditties, the working songs of the sea and of the land and at one point I was learning a song a day. I built up a repertoire of over one hundred and fifty traditional songs and I thought that was all I needed to do as a singer and as a follower of folk music. Just keep learning traditional songs and keep singing them because they deserve to be sung.

“That was my background and, looking back now, I was quite snobbish in my attitude and I’d think that I’d only ever sing traditional songs because they’re the best. But as the years passed I began to feel a need to write and it was having that background, that education that stood me in good stead for finding my own voice as a songwriter. It was the time when I moved to Hartlepool, living right by the sea and I was so blown away by the history of Hartlepool and the stories that people would tell me that I decided to write and I had all this inspiration from traditional music. I began to write songs in, I suppose you would say, a traditional style using this vast vocabulary of traditional lyricism.”

Sean’s early songs were, by and large, historical in nature and about the place he lived and the stories of the people around him.

“I sort of believed that’s what folk songs were and, as someone who had studied history, when I moved to Hartlepool I was determined to document its history. There were so many people who didn’t have a grasp of how beautiful and how colourful and how important the history of the area was. I find that quite often: people are so proud of where they come from but are unaware that there are all these songs and stories out there, so I felt that I was on a mission to write as many songs about my local area as I could. It felt really important for us to share the stories of Hartlepool and Stockton.”

You could say that Sean was continuing the great folk tradition of making songs about the places around him and the events that happened there and, while that hasn’t changed, his horizons have broadened.

“It just feels so natural now to write about great stories and to write them in the style and language I’m used to. People ask me, about the new album, will it be difficult to go back and sing traditional songs? I always answer no because it’s all part of the same thing.”

Some of the songs on the new album, Strangers, are about real people who have done extraordinary things and, just a few weeks ago, the Young’uns went on a road trip to meet four of them.

“It was an amazing thing to do and the enormity of it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I wrote these four songs over a year ago about four people who had witnessed and overcome and achieved remarkable things. I was so nervous about writing songs about real people who I had never met but I was compelled to because the stories were so moving and inspirational. We’d performed the songs, across the world really, for a year or so and as the release date approached we thought it would be a good thing to go and meet them.

“The trip began in Middlesbrough where we met a wonderful man called Ghafoor Hussain who spent thousands of pounds of his own money converting a coach into a kitchen and has spent the last eighteen months driving across Europe feeding refugees, migrants and homeless people. He was preparing for another mission and we sang the song to him on the bus and it was really, really special.

“Then we went to Paris and met Mark Moogalian who was one of the heroes of the Thalys terrorist train attack. He and five other men managed to thwart the intentions of a heavily armed gunman on a train to Paris. He told us with great grace and humility every single thing that went through his head in the moments after he was shot and had to play dead. Because he is a musician and, like me, had been a busker we had this great connection and Michael decided that we should sing the song to him – we began and Mark joined in and it was brilliant.

“And then we flew to Berlin and met Hesham Modamani, whose incredible five mile swim across a stretch of the Aegean [to escape from Syria] inspired me to write ‘Dark Water’. I’d originally heard Heshem sharing his story to the BBC in these simple, stark, beautiful phrases – how he described the deep, dark, cold water and the great fear and the moments when he thought he could swim no more, but also the joyous moments when he swam on his back and could see the stars. To meet him and to hear his story in his own words was something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

“Finally, at the gates of Hampstead cemetery we met Matthew Ogston, a man who has lived through an enormous tragedy in losing the love of his life, his fiancé Dr Nazim Mahmood, because of his religious family’s reluctance to accept his sexuality. We sat on Naz’s memorial bench and talked about everything Matt has been through and how his life is now a mission to share his story with as many people as possible in the hope that something so tragic need not happen again.

“It was wonderful to hear Matt’s reaction to the song, ‘Be The Man’, because as a songwriter it’s with great trepidation and care that I go about trying to turn these stories into songs and in the case of this song it took over a year of thought to actually get the confidence to write it and to hear that Matt loves the song so much was a really moving moment for the three of us. He said to the local press, who asked what he thought of it, ‘it was like I’d written it myself’.

Strangers will be released later this month with The Young’uns touring throughout October. In the New Year they return to the stage to tour with The Transports and…

We’ve got some ideas. There’s a whole load of stories that I’m spending many hours trying to turn into songs so we’ve got a few project ideas that we haven’t quite firmed up but we’re just looking forward to getting these new songs out there and reaching out to people.”

Dai Jeffries
If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Artists’ website: www.theyounguns.co.uk

On their recent Talk to Strangers road trip Michael, Sean and David went to meet Matt Ogston, the man who inspired Sean’s Be The Man song at Hampstead Cemetery, where there is a memorial bench for his fiancé, Naz. Here is the new video.

The Young’uns road trip

The Young'uns
Photograph by Elly Lucas

Teesside trio The Young’uns have embarked on a road trip to meet four men who have inspired songs on their acclaimed new album Strangers (out Sept 29) – two in the UK, one in France and one in Germany.

First Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle were in their native Teesside to meet Middlesbrough man Ghafoor Hussain (right).

Songwriter Sean Cooney was touched by the Teesside grandfather’s humanitarian work in 2015 when he converted a bus into a travelling kitchen to feed migrants and refugees across Europe. At one point, in the refugee camp in Dunkirk, he was serving 3,000 hot meals and 10,000 cups of tea a day. The catchy resulting song, ‘Ghafoor’s Bus’ has proved popular both here and in Canada, with its optimistic message.

Today (20th) they fly to Paris where they will meet Mark Moogalian, the 53 year-old French-American hero of the Thalys train attack, shot when he tried to tackle the gunman. Sean wrote the song ‘Carriage 12’ about the incident and the incredible bravery of Moogalian and others who confronted the attacker. Moogalian heard the song and wrote to The Young’uns to say: “Many thanks for this wonderful song – the only thing that has ever brought tears to my eyes regarding what happened that day”.

From Paris the trio will travel to Berlin tomorrow (21st) to make the acquaintance of Hesham Modamani, who fled Syria following the disappearance of his brother and took the drastic decision to swim the Aegean Sea with fellow Syrian Feras Abukhalif. Sean wrote the beautiful song ‘Dark Water’ about this.

Hesham is now studying in Germany and contacted Sean saying “I am honoured that my journey made words for your song.”

Back in London on Wednesday (23rd) they will finally meet Matthew Ogston whose affecting story inspired the song ‘Be The Man’.  Matthew founded the Naz and Matt Foundation to tackle religious and cultural homophobia following the tragic death of his fiancé Nazim Mahmood. www.nazandmattfoundation.org

‘Be The Man’ is the first single taken from the album.

The Young’uns will be writing an on-the-road blog and making a podcast of the road trip.

In the space of little more than a decade – and just three years after giving up their day jobs – they have become one of UK folk music’s hottest properties and best-loved acts.

Stockton Folk Club’s star graduates clinched the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Group’ title two years running (2015 and 2016) and last year saw them spreading the net, taking their unique act and instant audience rapport to Canada, America and Australia.

With their strong songs, spellbinding harmonies, human touch and rapid fire humour, they have achieved one of the trickiest balancing acts – an ability to truly ‘make them laugh and make them cry’, while cutting straight to the heart of some of our most topical issues.

On September 29 they will unveil their fourth studio album Strangers – playing their strongest suit to date.  Bold, profound and resonant it showcases the growing talents of Sean Cooney, fast becoming one of folk’s finest songwriters, in a collection of folk songs for our time.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Artists’ website: http://www.theyounguns.co.uk/

‘Be The Man’ – radio edit: