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Headliner

Nancy Kerr

Nancy Kerr

Already a respected interpreter of traditional material, Nancy’s emergence as a writer of rare style has drawn comparisons to William Blake in her reawakening of a radical folk mythology as a backdrop for contemporary narratives about love and conflict, motherhood, migration, hardship and jubilation, and the tensions between rural and urban life.

Nancy is one of the most celebrated folk musicians of her generation, and has to date won 6 Folk Awards from BBC Radio 2: 2015 FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR • HORIZON AWARD 2000 • BEST DUO 2003 and again in 2011 with James Fagan • BEST GROUP 2014 with The Full English • BEST ALBUM 2014 with The Full English. Nominated Best Original Song 2011 for Queen of Waters. Winner Best Album (Spiral earth 2011) for Twice Reflected Sun (Navigator041).

The Young 'Uns

The Young’uns (Saturday)

Teesside trio The Young’uns have always had the human touch. In the space of little more than a decade – and just five 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 the last years have seen them spreading the net, taking their unique act and instant audience rapport to Canada, America and Australia.

With their strong songs, spellbinding harmonies 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.

In 2017, they unveiled their fourth studio album Strangers – playing their strongest suit to date. Bold, profound and resonant it showcased the growing talents of Sean Cooney, fast becoming one of folk’s finest songwriters.

Together with Michael Hughes and David Eagle, Cooney has come up with a collection of folk songs for our time, all sensitively arranged by the 30- something trio – looking back at wartime heroes here, offering a news report for the 21st century there, turning the spotlight on injustice and ultimately celebrating the indomitable human spirit.

In 2018, Strangers was crowned ‘Best Album’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. In the same year, The Young’uns produced and presented 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 Cable Street Riots.

It’s a timely, touching and often hilarious musical adventure following in 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 16 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.

Seth Lakeman in concert

Seth Lakeman (Thursday)

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower ship setting off to the Americas. The ship carried British and Dutch passengers with hopes of fresh settlement, and who were famously met by the Wampanoag first nation tribe upon their arrival. Bottling the spirit of the 17th century pilgrimage, Seth has written and performed a selection songs that shape a fictional narrative of the journey, informed by extensive research from text such as the journals of William Bradford, conversations with modern day ancestors of the Wampanoag people at the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, and information sourced at the national heritage sites that still exists in the UK.

Chronicling the voyage and early settlement in these songs, Seth has created a drama that celebrates the history, but doesn’t lose sight of the journey’s tribulations. It stays sensitive to important facets of the story; the religious liberation that passengers were trying to achieve, the nefarious deeds enacted upon the Wampanoag, and the deaths that followed on both sides. It’s a story Seth feels he is intrinsically linked to, “I didn’t have far to go for inspiration. The Mayflower Steps, on Plymouth’s cobbled Barbican streets are 20 minutes away from me. I fished from this quay as a boy, sang songs on tall ships tied up here and played music in just about every old sailors’ pub in this Elizabethan quarter.” Furthermore, as one of the most celebrated members of British folk music, Seth is wholly qualified to replicate the trappings of traditional 17th century musical styles; whether it be through his vocals, stringed instrument arrangements, fiddle playing, or percussion.

The stories in the songs are told from a variety of perspectives, from personal accounts such as the opening number ‘Watch Out’ detailing deadly premonitions of a Wampanoag girl, to tales of the collective travellers in songs such as ‘Pilgrim Brother’ and ‘Sailing Time’, which march at a hopeful cadence reflecting their early optimism. Close your eyes, and with each track you feel possessed by one of those 17th century characters; a crewman wrestling to control the ship, a pilgrim celebrating in rapturous faith, or the solemn Wampanoag tribesmen forlornly surrendering to the new way of life thrust upon them. Seth has married mood to pulsing rhythms in an immersive tale of struggle that, 400 years later, still holds an emotional impact.

Inspiration for the project came when Seth was on tour with Robert Plant, and paid a visit to the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts to talk to the Wampanoag that still reside in the area. It didn’t take long for the songs to form upon his return to England, “After I travelled home from the “New World” to Plymouth, Devon everything happened in a quite mystical way. The songs came together so speedily and with exactly the vibe I wanted, and we recorded in a very short time in my studio at home on Dartmoor.”

Show of Hands

Show of Hands (Friday)

The trio has expanding to include 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.

This will be a performance spent immersed in the talents of some of the most accomplished musicians of their time, and is not to be missed.

Steve says, “With the heartbeat and harmonies that Cormac and Miranda add, we are at last creating a sound we’ve dreamed of making for twenty-five years!”.

The concert promises infectious new songs and a sound with more depth and intensity than ever before. 

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