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Supporting local folk music for over 30 years in the counties of Herts, Beds, Bucks, Cambs, Northants & surrounding areas. www.unicornmagazine.org

Virtually Tenterden starts on Thursday 1 October

The first virtual Tenterden Festival offering four days of folk song, music, dance, crafts and tradition starts on Thursday 1 October. Just the thing to brighten up your Autumn days, you can find full details on their website. Or on their Facebook page, YouTube, Zoom, Twitter and Tumblr.

There is so much to enjoy – please support this festival and everyone who has worked so hard to make it happen.

More news of online folk happenings soon.

Two virtual folk festivals and an online catalogue of guitar music

Hi everyone – hope you are all keeping well! Here are details of two online festivals that are coming up shortly – Tenterden and St Albans and information about a fascinating online catalogue of guitar music published by Michael Raven Publications.

Preview in new tab

  • St Albans Folk Festival (postponed from June) will take place from September 25 -27. It will mainly be online and will include a live-streamed concert featuring leading singer Fay Hield. Support will be by Alison Raymond, winner of last year’s Watford Folk Club song writing competition with her song, ‘King of the Meadow’. Tickets for the festival concert can be booked through the Abbey Theatre website https://www.abbeytheatre.org.uk/whats-on/fay-hield/.There will also be a new and well-reviewed documentary film ‘All my life’s buried here’ about the composer, folk song collector and Morris dancer, George Butterworth which can be viewed online any time from 9am on Friday September 25 to midnight on Sunday September 27, as well as an online discussion with the producer, Stewart Morgan Hajdukiewicz at 5pm on Sunday September 27. Tickets are available at www.ticketsource.co.uk/stalbansfolkmusic/ and admit to both the film and the discussion. The day of music, with showcase performances by local singers and musicians, which usually takes place in local pubs, will be on YouTube. There will also be a chance to take part in music sessions and singarounds on Zoom.The events will be free but there will be invitations to donate via gofundme. The link is https://www.gofundme.com/f/st-albans-folk-festival-2020. Further information from Alison Macfarlane, Tel 01727 852111, 0770 801 2991 (mobile) or info@stalbansfolkmusic.org.uk or www.stalbansfolkmusic.org.uk
  • Plans are now well advanced for the first virtual Tenterden Folk Festival on 1st – 4th October on Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr. Online sing-a-rounds and music and song sessions will feature pre-booked guests and well known local performers. The popular Cinque Ports Sea Songs and Shanties Session will also take place via Zoom. You can even try a Zoom dance! Events will be live streamed on Zoom and Facebook and posted to YouTube so that you can watch them again later.  The festival organisers will also be posting new video concerts from some of the festival guests past present and future on YouTube.  You can also visit a virtual photograph exhibition  and see selected photos from Tenterden Folk Festival 2019 and previous events related to the festival. Guests will include: Barrie and Ingrid Temple, Barry Goodman, Bob Kenward, Brian Peters, Broomdasher, G&G Morris, Gavin and Julie Atkin, Graeme Knights and Family, Highworth Folk Band, Jeff Warner, Jez Lowe, JIB, Jim Mageean, John and Di Cullen, Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham, Morrigan, Nick Dow, Nunhead Folk Circle, Pete Castle, Peter Collins, Pete Luscombe, Peter and Barbara Snape, Roses are Red Morris, Scold Bridle, Tom Patterson, Travelling Folk, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer and The Wilson Family. Lots more information on their website.
  • And for the guitar players among you – Michael Raven Publications invite you to visit their online catalogue where you will find many guitar music books in a variety of styles. All the books contain excellent arrangements and original compositions by Mike Raven of English Country Dance Tunes, Reconnaissance and Classical Music and Flamenco Dances. They also publish a guitar tutor and a recorder book. Full details on the website or from Eve Raven on 07840 138300.

That’s all for now. Please let me know about events and concerts that you come across so I can help to promote them. Thank you.

Stay safe and keep supporting music and musicians in any way you can.

Let the Music Play On …..

Time for another update on some events on the folk music scene. If you enjoy these updates or want to give me any feedback – please email unicornmagazine@hotmail.co.uk. It would be great to hear from you.

And so in no particular order………………………………………….

  • Miranda Sykes is recovering well from her recent surgery and is launching her new album ‘The Farmhouse Sessions’ at Ipplepen Village Hall on Saturday 26 September. Tickets for the live gig are now sold out but she is live streaming the evening and you can buy a ticket here. The digital version of the CD is available here and you can pre-order the album on Miranda’s Facebook page
  • Phil Beer is doing another online concert on Saturday 5 September – this time with Paul Downs. Details on his Facebook page
  • If you are pining for real live music (rather than on screen), Benslow Music in Hitchin, Herts has a Moonrakers Garden Prom on Saturday 12 September at 6.30pm – Eleanor Dunsdon on Celtic harp, Sarah Fell on vocals and Jon Bennett on guitar and vocals. Tickets are £15 and full details of how to get them and all their Covid -19 precautions are available on the website or by phoning 01462 459446
  • There will be more real live music at the Four Rivers Folk Club at the Hertford Club, Bull Plain, Hertford, SG14 1DT organised by Pat Crilly on Wednesday 16 September. If not rainy it will be outside in the garden, if rainy it will be inside. There will only be waitress service and the club and a risk assessment is being done to ascertain the logistics. See details on Pat’s Facebook page
  • Oxford meets Cambridge! Cambridgeshire ceilidh band Frog on a Bike are playing for a Zoom ceilidh hosted by Oxfolk Ceilidhs and in support of Wallingford Bunkfest – Oxfolk will donate the profits from this ceilidh to BunkFest, to help make sure that this wonderful festival happens again next year. Gather your household together in your kitchen, living room, garden, wherever there is room, log into Zoom and enjoy the fantastic music of Frog on a Bike. The fabulous Fee Lock is the caller, and will be adapting dances for couples, small groups and solo dancers. Fee always explains the dance moves clearly, whilst simultaneously channelling rock goddess class in a cut-glass accent! Optional dress code of anything green, with bonus points for frog-related outfits! Tickets are available here and you can find more details on Facebook  
  • Louise Jordan has been very active during the pandemic and has just published a newsletter with details of her future plans. You can find details here and on her Facebook page
  • The mighty Skerryvore (if you were at their 2019 closing gig at Shrewsbury Folk Festival​ or recent Costa del Folk Festivals, you will know what I am talking about!) are playing together for the first time in six months on Saturday 5 September and you can watch it live in your living room. See website for details
  • Ninebarrow have scheduled another amazing online concert – this time from an ancient church – on Saturday 17 October at 7.00pm BST. Details on Facebook. You need to buy a ticket in advance but this will allow the whole household to view (special arrangements for people watching on their own) and you can watch it on the night or for a whole week afterwards.
  • News is just coming in of three exciting concerts streamed LIVE from London by the redoubtable Richard Thompson. They are on 13 September, 27 September and 11 October and each one will have a different theme and an entirely different set list. For tickets and more information click here
  • And last but definitely not least, plans are being finalised for the live streaming of the St Albans Folk Festival concert with Fay Hield on Sunday 27 September. Tickets are available on the Abbey Theatre website. There will also be an online showing of the film ‘All my life’s buried here. The story of George Butterworth’ about singer, composer and morris dancer, George Butterworth, who died in 1916 on the Somme. Tickets will be available on the St Albans Folk Music website shortly.

Sorry I didn’t have time to put pictures on the blog today – so much to do, so little time!!

Stay safe and keep supporting folk music!

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 mirandasykes.bandcamp.com
  • 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!

More Great Music for You to Enjoy

Positive news!! Some live music is coming back and there are some wonderful online events planned for the next few weeks.

  • On Friday 7 August, Show of Hands are performing at a Drive-In Picnic Gig organised by Wickham Festival. Tickets have sold out but I’m told that a second day may be possible. Keep watching the Show of Hands Facebook page
  • The Beardy Folk Festival will now take place on 17 – 20 September at Hopton Court, near Cleo Mortimer, Shropshire. See the website for details
Keith Donnelly
  • This Thursday 23 July, Keith Donnelly will do two back-to-back shows – the first at 6.00pm BST, aimed primarily at children (but of course suitable for all ages) and the second longer set at 7.30pm BST for the more mature members of the audience. He did his first online ‘Who Needs Money When You’re Funny?’ show a couple of weeks or so ago and I loved every minute – hilarious at times, poignant at others – professional throughout. Don’t miss this one and please remember the tip jar. See Keith’s Facebook page for details
Sidmouth Festival Online
  • We are all sad that the iconic Sidmouth Folk Festival has had to be cancelled for 2020 but I’m delighted to tell you (in case you didn’t already know) that plans are coming together for a memorable Online Sidmouth Folk Festival on Saturday 1st August and Sunday 2nd August  5-9pm. Central to it will be four hour ‘live’ shows from a secret location in Sidmouth, hosted by Matthew Crampton and Kitty Macfarlane, the shows will feature live appearances by Steve Knightley and Jim Causley and specially recorded performances by Martin Simpson, Brighde Chaimbeul, Jez Lowe, Talisk, Yves Lambert, Ewan McLennan, Jackie Oates & John Spiers, Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage, Cohen Braithwaite- Kilcoyne and many more
  • I’m also delighted to tell you that the 2nd Annual Folk on the Hill festival is to go ahead (normally based in Harrow but online for 2020). On Thursday 13 August at 3.00pm BST, the 2nd Annual Folk on the Hill festival – “We’re back, and this time it’s not personal” will be streaming six videos, each of around one hour featuring more than 15 artists. These will be FREE to view but you can donate either directly to the artists, or to “Help for Musicians”. They guarantee that no money will be going to Folk in the Hill – only to artists. Please donate if you are in a position to do so. The artists include :   Beans on Toast, Bernard Hoskin, CHaS, Craig Joiner, Man The Lifeboats, Marilyn Middleton, Odette Michell, Pauline Vallance, Steve and Julie, Tom Reid, Findlay Napier, Harbottle and Jonas, John McCutcheon, Reg Meuross, Jamie McCoan, Phillip Green, Tim Brooks and others tbc. The website is http://www.folk-on-the-hill.co.uk and the website for “Help for Musicians” benevolent fund is https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/support-our-work/make-a-donation.You can also find some ‘invitations’ from some of the artists on the YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvIbU8p1ytHYYEvVtIN1aOQ/

As always, stay safe, support the music in any way you can and please let me know about events and gigs that you think would interest Unicorn Magazine readers so that I can spread the word.

More News of Online Festivals and Concerts

The creativity and energy of musicians is astounding and lots of things are happening on the folk scene while we come to terms with the pandemic and keep ourselves safe ready for a return to something approaching ‘normal’!

  • If you were busy on Saturday 11 August and missed their Live from the Headshed gig, you can still catch Chris While and Julie Matthews on their Facebook page
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  • On Sunday 19 July, at 5pm, we have the exciting Folk by the Oak’s ‘Family Nest’ Fest (full line-up listed above). Find full details and donate here
  • News is just coming in about a FREE virtual Folk on the Hill Festival on Thursday 13 August, featuring artists including Findlay Napier, John McCutcheon, Reg Meuross, Odette Michell, Harbottle & Jonas and many other, with support from Herga Folk Club. Donations are invited to support the artists and the ‘Help For Musicians’ fund. Full details on the Folk on the Hill Facebook page
  • On Saturday 25 July at 10.00am Christine Collister will perform her fourth concert in lockdown (weather permitting from her garden!). Details on her Facebook page
  • And later that same day, Saturday 25 July at 7.30pm, Miranda Sykes will perform a Jazzy/Bluesy set. Details on her Facebook page
  • On Wednesday 5 August at 8.00pm Greg Russell will present a show hosted by Folkweekend:Oxford. Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost just £14 per household (not per person) – excellent value! Details and tickets here
  • Folkweekend:Oxford are also hosting some other great shows, too numerous to mention in full here – such as Belshazzar’s Feat on 26 July and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman on 1 August.Check out the list on their website
  • Although we have had the sad but not unexpected news that both Tenterden and Hartlepool Festivals have now been cancelled for 2020, we do have the Shrewsbury Virtual Folk Festival to look forward to on 29 and 30 August. T-shirts are on sale now (for a limited time) and full details can be found on their Facebook page.

That’s all for now – check on the websites and Facebook pages of your favourite artists and bands for details of all their activities – and keep supporting them in any way you can.#LetTheMusicPlay.

Online Music for the Weekend….and Beyond

Here are details of some great music coming up soon…..

The music industry has had some good news from the government this week but for most musicians the situation is still dire and online gigs are their only way of earning a crust! Please support them through donations and where possible by buying their CDs too. Sadly, downloading and streaming only generates a pittance for the artists!. If you want details of this, have a look at the table Simon Care posted on his Facebook page recently. Shocking!!

  • On Saturday 11 July at 7.00pm BST Ninebarrow are presenting ‘The 4th Ninebarrow Live-Stream: The Hit Parade!’. The boys have really got the technology side of these gigs sorted (no pressure there!) and if the previous gigs are anything to go by, we are in for a real treat. Unusually for them, they have compiled the set list entirely from requests – 15 great tracks to look forward to. Details on their Facebook page (and the show will also be on their website http://www.ninebarrow.co.uk/live and YouTube.)
  • On Saturday 11 July at 7.30pm BST Chris While and Julie Matthews are doing another ‘Live from the Headshed’ gig. Full details on their Facebook page.
  • Also on Saturday 11 July but at 9.00pm BST, Tim Edey will present the latest show in his wonderful ‘The Sleeping Tunes’ series. Details on his Facebook page.
  • On Monday 13 July at 8.00pm Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry (aka Edgelarks) are doing a special show for Nettlebed Folk Club. Now is the time to get your requests in! Details on their Facebook page and tickets available by clicking here.
  • On Wednesday 15 July at 8.00pm BST the ‘Godfather of Grunge Folk’ himself Wild Willy Barrett is doing an Open Air Live show. See his website for more information.

Well, hopefully that’s enough for a ‘fix of folk’ for the next few days.

I’ll be back soon with news of Folk by the Oak’s Family Nest Fest on 19 July, Miranda Sykes’ Jazz/Bluesy show on 25 July, and Christine Collister in Lockdown also on 25 July – and probably others too!

Stay safe and keep supporting the music sector in any way you can.