Music for the August Bank Holiday Weekend and Beyond

At this time of year we would normally be attending festivals. But of course there is nothing normal about 2020!

However, the creativity of musicians and event organisers shines through and we still have access to some wonderful music:

  • On Sunday 23 August ‘virtual’ FolkEast’ took place. A few hundred people braved the weather to attend but you can watch it in the comfort of your home via the wonders of Facebook. The great line-up of artists was topped by the inimitable, multi-award winning FolkEast patrons The Young’ uns, the bill also included performances by festival favourite Sam Kelly (together with Evan Carson and Toby Shaer from his Lost Boys band), the brilliant John Spiers (Bellowhead, Knight and Spiers, Gigspanner Big Band); instrumental duo The Hut People (Sam Pirt and Gary Hammond), new folk singer-songwriter sensation Katherine Priddy and local Suffolk duo Honey & The Bear (Jon & Lucy Hart). And the legendary Peter Knight contributed a song to the day from his home in France.
  • The official festival programme for Whitby@Home 2020 (23 – 28 August) is available on Facebook. There are a huge number of events – some of which you need to book in advance. Enjoy!

  • Shrewsbury Virtually Folk Festival will be held on 29 and 30 August bringing us an amazing two days of music, dance, workshops and more.View the full programme here.
  • The online 2020 Towersey Festival takes place on Saturday 29 August 9.00am – 11.00pm. You can find details here.

Half the money we raise will go to the charity Help Musicians – which supports musicians undergoing financial hardship – and the other half will be divided equally between the artists who take part in the Festival.

Full details of the festival and how to donate (and get your T-shirt) can be found here.

  • After a short, well-deserved break, Cambridge Folk Club resumes its virtual meetings on Friday 28 August with a showcase featuring Liz Simcock. Details here.
  • Folk Weekend:Oxford’s wonderful series of online concerts continues to delight us. Jack Rutter is performing on Friday 28 August. See details of this and all the other events here.
  • And on Saturday 5 September at 7.30pm, Chris While and Julie Matthews will present an other concert ‘Live from the Headshed’. This talented duo have worked hard to perfect their sound and vision during the pandemic and have given us some superb performances. Tip jar available (please give generously) but no obligation. Details here.
  • And those of you who like sunshine and 4*/5* hotels with your music will be thrilled to know that Costa del Folk (an innocent and much lamented victim of the global pandemic) has risen like a phoenix and two festivals are now planned for 2021 – Ibiza in April/May and Portugal in September/October. See the Costa del Folk website for full details.

Many other musicians and artists are doing live shows via Facebook, Zoom etc – sadly, there are far too many to mention individually here. Please continue to support your favourite artists and to seek out new ones. These are tough times for many people. The pandemic will be over one day and we all want the music to play on……..

Stay safe and keep supporting live music and dance.

Online Festival Today and Lots More

As the weather’s rubbish, it’s lucky that TODAY’S (Thursday 13 August) Folk on the Hill Festival from Harrow is online – so you can enjoy the music without getting drenched! Starting at 3pm, via the Facebook page you can see performances from a variety of very talented musicians. The festival is free but all donations will go directly to the artists and to the ‘Help for Musicians’ fund.

On Saturday 15 August at 7.00pm Ninebarrow are doing their most innovative online performance yet – an outdoor concert. E-tickets must be purchased in advance and you can find full details here.

Another way to pass the time while we wait for some sort of normality to return is perusing Foraged Music – The John Spiers Traditional Tunebook 2020. This is a new collection of 94 traditional melodies (with chords) including all the ones that John has recorded over the years together with a number of excellent session tunes and all in the  ‘friendly’ keys of G, D, Am & Em.  The tunes are collected into categories – stepdances & hornipes, jigs, reels, rants and polkas, 3/2 hornpipes and ‘other tunes’ including some waltzes and slow airs.  The informative notes will point you to recordings of the tunes and John makes some  interesting comments on their origins. 

John really needs no introduction. He is an instinctive natural folk musician, working now with Peter Knight and with Jackie Oates and well known for his previous outings as Spiers and Boden, Bellowhead and with Eliza Carthy and he’s also a great session player. His online “Isolation Pub Sessions” from his ‘shed’ have been a lifeline for many socially deprived musicians during ‘Lockdown’. 

This book is highly recommended and it’s well worth a place on your music stand – or pub table!

Another date for your diary for the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Every year, Watford Folk Club regulars play at “Farm Fest” on August Bank Holiday to support their work of The Catholic Worker Farm and Mary House who provide accommodation, food, English lessons, counselling and other services for 22 destitute female asylum seekers and their children (who don’t have access to public funds), at no charge. All of the women are street homeless, and are referred to the CW Farm by refugee services/agencies. The CW Farm /Mary House meets their physical needs in relation to shelter, food and clothing, but just as importantly enables the guests to live in a supportive and loving environment.

The Farm is in a wonderfully peaceful setting and the Festival is usually held in the grounds, but this year it will be “virtual”  like many others. Playing this year are Watford regulars: Pete Nutkins, Linda Birmingham, Tom Lavin, Liz Lawley, Julian Mount, Jill Waterson & Ady Shaw with Mandy Hardingham and joining them this year will be Paul MacNamara of local duo Namara.

The Festival raises much needed funds for the work of the Farm, so if you are able to donate, it will be much appreciated. See the Facebook page for details.

And finally a reminder about the wonderful online gigs regularly coming to us regularly from Tim Edey, Reg Meuross and Daoiri Farrell. Too many to list individually – just head to the artists’ Facebook pages for all the details.

Please let me know about other events and folk related news so that I can help spread the word.

More information on other August Bank Holiday events coming in this blog soon.

In the meantime stay safe and thanks for supporting live music and dance.

Events and Happenings in the World of Folk Music

Here’s some news and updates from the world of folk music:-

  • We’re all missing our festivals – not just the music, but also the chance to buy some merchandise, especially CDs to add to our collections. So if you haven’t been able to find the albums you are looking for, try the Veteran Virtual Festival CD Stall which went live on 31 July and will be open throughout August and September.
  • Have you seen the Show of Hands‘ ‘Secret Garden’ film from Abbotsbury? Recently recorded, this great show where Steve and Phil play together for the first time this year in the breathtaking setting of Dorset’s sub-tropical Gardens, is going down a storm. Find it here and please contribute to the tip jar if you can.
  • And talking of Show of Hands, Phil Beer has been doing some very popular chats online. This week he has an online gig on Tuesday 11 August at 6.30pm. You can see it here.
  • Tomorrow Saturday 8 August at 7.30pm, Chris While and Julie Matthews are doing another online gig ‘Live in the Headshed’. Tip jar available (no obligation). See details here.
  • On Tuesday 12 August at 7.30pm Miranda Sykes will be performing another concert from her home. There will be a tip jar for donations. Miranda has been entertaining us with some wonderful music in these challenging months, despite undergoing a course of chemotherapy. She has also been raising money for the NHS during this time. This concert may be the last one for a while as she is going into hospital the next day for a mastectomy and she may not be able to play again until she has fully recovered. She has done so much to inspire and support others during the pandemic – so now its our turn to support her. We all wish her and her family well and send her lots of positive vibes for a speedy and complete recovery. You can find the concert on her Facebook page and you can pre-order her new CD ‘The Farmhouse Sessions’ at
  • On Thursday 13 August, there is the exciting online Folk on the Hill Festival.
  • FolkWeekend:Oxford are continuing with their series of great online concerts. You must purchase tickets in advance. See their website for details.
  • On Saturday 15 August at 7.00pm, Ninebarrow are live streaming an outdoor concert. They’ve decided to bring the field to us as we are all missing our festivals. Singing LIVE at sunset, they promise to transport us through the magical landscapes that shape their music in a brand new, multi-media concert. Tickets must be purchased in advance and you can find full details here.They’re really confident their online concerts will go-off without a hitch – but if for any reason they can’t broadcast in full, they will refund your eTicket.
  • Many folk clubs have mastered the technology and are doing Zoom meetings – I know this is happening at Bedford, Cambridge, Chesham and Herga and I’m sure there must be others. Why not visit a club that is normally too far away for you to attend? At least you won’t get stuck in a traffic jam!! Check on the clubs’ websites and Facebook pages for details of what they are doing.

Keep on eye on the blog for more information – especially about the wonderful online festivals planned for the end of August. And please send me information about events and gigs you hear about and I will do what I can to help publicise them.

In the meantime, stay safe and support live music.

No Edition of Unicorn Magazine This Autumn

It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that I have to announce that for the first time since its launch in 1983, Unicorn Magazine will not be published this Autumn. This is entirely due to the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the world of folk music and dance.

However, I will continue to publish blog posts as often as possible, so please keep sending me information about what is happening in your neck of the woods. I will also be including some CD reviews in the blogs.

I knew I could not afford to repeat the popular online edition I published in June which was free of charge to all contributors. So I conducted a survey of all the key advertisers and organisations who regularly support Unicorn to seek their views on a way forward.

Almost half the people responded (43%) but their feedback made depressing reading as almost half of them (47%) had either cancelled all events for 2020 or had no clear plans for the rest of the year.

Although the idea of an online issue was popular – with two thirds of people preferring this to a hard copy issue or no issue at all – only 5 people said they would definitely take advertising at full price and, even worse, only 8 said they would buy advertising space even at a 50% discount! And only 13 people said they would contribute editorial. No-one came up with any ideas for producing the magazine that would generate the necessary revenue to fund it.

So I have no choice but to put the regular issues of Unicorn on ice and cross my fingers that things improve by late autumn, when I will review the situation.

On a more positive note, 82% of the respondents said they find the Unicorn blog useful – so that will continue. There were also some very positive comments about Unicorn Magazine – which were much appreciated.

“Unicorn Magazine is immensely important to the local folk scene.”

“Fantastic what you do.”

“It’s very respected in the folk world so keep it up!”

More news, events and online gigs coming soon – watch this space!