More about our line up!! Afro Celt Sound System Band of Burns Benji Kirkpatrick & The Excess Boxwood Chessmen Calan Dervish Edwina Hayes FOS Brothers James Yorkston Joji Hirota Kabantu Kate Rusby Lindisfarne Oysterband Pendevig Seckou Keita Quartet Seth Lakeman Sheelanagig Sheema Mukherjee Sherburn Bartley Sanders Show of Hands Sisters of Elva Hill Sona Jobarteh The Carrivick Sisters The Christians The Jellyman’s Daughter The John Martyn Project The Longest Johns The Lost Words: Spell Songs The Trials of Cato The Young’uns Truckstop Honeymoon Will Pound’s A Day Will Come
We have revealed our plans for a covid-safe festival including a refreshed line-up to celebrate the best of British based folk artists. We have elected for outside stages and more outdoor activities to ensure we can meet any possible covid related regulations that might be in place by August Bank Holiday.
The new line up includes Kate Rusby, Oysterband, Show of Hands, Afro Celt Sound System, Seth Lakeman, The Christians, Dervish, Lindisfarne and The Young’uns. Shrewsbury will host the only festival appearance of The Lost Words: Spell Songs with Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter, Jim Molyneux and illustrator Jackie Morris and shanty sensations The Longest Johns are also on the bill.
Other acts include leading kora musician Sona Jobarteh, Joji Hirota and the London Taiko Drummers, Band of Burns, Seckou Keita Quartet, The Trials of Cato, Calan, Edwina Hayes, FOS Brothers, Sheelanagig, Kabantu, Pendevig, Benji Kirkpatrick & The Excess, The Carrivick Sisters, SherburnBartleySanders, Sheema Mukherjee, The Boxwood Chessmen, Sisters of Elva Hill folk ballet, The John Martyn Project, Will Pound’s A Day Will Come, The Jellyman’s Daughter, Truckstop Honeymoon and James Yorkston.
More about our line up!!
Afro Celt Sound System
Formed by Grammy-nominated musician and record producer Simon Emmerson, Afro Celt Sound System is a European and African based collective which has forged a reputation for energetic, uplifting shows.
Winners of the Songlines Best Group award, they combine folk traditions of different cultures in a unique and innovative way.
Afro Celt Sound System released their 8th studio album ‘Flight’ in 2018. The album explores themes of migration – both human and avian – with a dazzling cast of stellar musicians from around the globe.
Emmerson is joined by long-term members’ vocalist, kora and balafon player N’faly Kouyaté and Dhol Foundation drummer Johnny Kalsi on 11 self-penned and 2 traditional tracks on ‘Flight’ introduce moving devotional songs alongside Afro Celt Sound System’s trademark driving afro house, with drum and bass beats, bold west African brass and exuberant electronic rhythms and bass lines. Both the album and their live shows feature contributions a host of outstanding musicians from around the world.
Calan bring together the remarkable talents of 5 young musicians giving a fresh and vibrant sound to traditional Welsh music.
With a contemporary and lively approach they breathe new life into the old traditions through their sparkling melodies, foot tapping tunes and spirited and energetic performances of Welsh step dancing. They blast their way through some of the old favourite reels, jigs and hornpipes with fast paced and uplifting arrangements before melting into some of the most beautiful and haunting songs.
Following the release of their debut album, ‘Bling’ in 2008, which attracted four star responses from the critics, the five-piece have been playing to big audiences and rave reviews at concerts and festivals around Britain and Europe, including the coveted Cambridge Festival; Celtic Connections, Glasgow; Shrewsbury Folk Festival; Moseley Folk Festival; Derby Folk Festival; Bromyard Folk Festival, Whitby Folk Festival a concert tour of Italy, Austria and Belgium along with a number of performances at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Brittany, where they’ve received the award for the best group.
The group, who’ve raised some eyebrows with a deliberate policy of eye-catching clothes and presentation, despite the ancient roots of their music, see themselves as a new generation of ambassadors, striving to take their new sound to new audiences, while raising the profile of Welsh traditional music on an international level.
With their unique instrumental blend fiddles, whistles, guitar and bagpipes and a traditional reed instrument from Wales called a pibgorn made from a wooden pipe and the horns of a bull. Great fun, a sense of humour and step dancing from a champion dancer who dances in a style unique to Wales
They have introduced a new generation of music fans to Welsh traditional music – in Wales and beyond. Audiences in Belgium, Malaysia and Australia as well as all over the UK have given them a terrific reception they are now on their fourth tour of North America.
The band began by busking in the streets of Cardiff raising money to pay for university fees. By 2015 they were performing alongside Bryn Terfel and Sting at the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of Bryn Terfel’s 50th birthday party and in 2019 won the award for ‘Best Band’ at the BBC Wales Folk Awards.
At the end of 2019 Dervish received a prestigious lifetime achievement award from the BBC, a fitting tribute to the band after over 30 years of recording and performing all over the world.
Described by the BBC as “an icon of Irish music”, the band have played at festivals from Rio to Glastonbury. They accompanied the Irish President on state visits to Latvia and Lithuania and Prime Minister of Ireland on a trade mission to China as Cultural Ambassadors taking time out to play an impromptu session on the Great Wall of China.
Dervish have a line-up which includes some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians, fronted by one of the country’s best-known singers, Cathy Jordan. Regarded by many as the most distinctive voice and finest front-woman in Irish traditional music today – the instrumental line-up of fiddle, flute, bouzouki, mandola, bodhran and accordion draw from seemingly limitless depths of talent, finesse, subtlety and fiery energy. Exceptional musicianship, breath-taking vocals, vibrant sets of tunes and instantly compelling songs all come together to make Dervish as complete a band as are to be found anywhere in the tradition.
Dervish are regular visitors to the US, performing sell out shows from coast to coast. However, their fan base stretches across several continents, including Europe, Asia, and South America. They were the first Irish band to play the world’s biggest music festival, Rock in Rio, performing to an estimated 250,000 people. Over the years they’ve been on the same bill as artists such as James Brown, Neil Young, Sting and even Iron Maiden!
All six members of Dervish are steeped in the musical traditions of counties Sligo and Leitrim in north-west Ireland. It’s an area which matches Atlantic coastline with storied mountains and rural landscapes. It has inspired a host of musicians, artists and writers, including the Nobel Prize-winning poet W. B. Yeats.
Of all the stars in folk music’s wondrous firmament few shine as brightly as Yorkshire’s Kate Rusby.
A remarkable interpretive singer, Kate’s soulful vocals resonate with the wistful beauty of an earthbound angel. Inhabiting a lyric with unforced conviction – no matter how old or how modern – she has that rare ability to transport her audience, touching them emotionally and making each tune live vividly within their experience and imagination.
Audiences are sure to be thoroughly entertained by Kate’s choice of much-loved classics from her back catalogue stretching over a quarter of a century of music making together with a selection of fresh new songs from her most recent albums and new releases.
As ever, she will be joined on stage by the cream of British folk musicians who form her band. These virtuoso artists are sure to delight you with their exceptional talents: Damien O’Kane on guitar, electric tenor guitar and banjo; Duncan Lyall on double bass and moog; Nick Cooke on diatonic accordion; Steve Byrnes on bouzouki and guitar. The crossover appeal Kate enjoys is unprecedented for a folk singer and has been achieved without resort to compromise. Rusby’s wondrous singing and hugely engaging Yorkshire wit and the intuitive support of the band ensure that audiences will be treated to a truly remarkable and unforgettable concert experience.
Currently Oysterband consists of founder members John Jones (vocal, melodeon), Alan Prosser (guitars, vocal), and Ian Telfer (violin, keyboard, vocal) with Dil Davies (drums), Al Scott (bass guitar, mandolin, vocal), and Adrian Oxaal (cello, guitar, vocal).
At first – around 1978 – purely a dance band (“The Oyster Ceilidh Band”), we soon started experimenting with radical arrangements of traditional songs and with home recording, and even put out 4 albums in the early 80s. These sound harmless enough now, but at the time their home-made, try-anything attitude was controversial. We were determined that traditional music should not be just a branch of the heritage industry.
Other musicians came and went. The name shortened to The Oyster Band. We began to learn how to write songs. In 1985 we met a new roots-music label, Cooking Vinyl. Step Outside (1986), with Ian Kearey on bass and Russ Lax on drums, was their first release. We went on to make 9 studio albums with them.
In the late 80s we toured almost continuously. As well as territories opened up by our new record company in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and North America, and shows with similar-minded artists such as Michelle Shocked and Billy Bragg, we toured for the British Council in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco. Travel on this scale had a powerful impact on our attitudes to the world and on our songwriting.
It also made normal domestic life difficult. First Ian Kearey left in 1988, to be replaced by Ray Cooper; then when Russ Lax left in 1990 Ray called up his old friend drummer Lee Partis. The name shortened again at this point to Oysterband. Russ’s last act was to record Freedom And Rain with us and the great English folk diva June Tabor. Although it was essentially a covers collection, the songs were shrewdly chosen, and the album was very well received, particularly in the US. “Imagine if Aerosmith and Madonna announced they were to tour together?!?” said Rolling Stone, excitably.
Meanwhile in the UK the ground was shifting. As we were expanding from a folk background, others were expanding from a rock background in a folk direction, and the convergence became a new scene. The Pogues, The Levellers, The Waterboys, Celtas Cortos….we found ourselves working in a different context, often called “Celtic” (though the word seems to mean something different in every country). The US became harder, but we acquired new audiences in the UK, Germany and Spain. The high-point of this period is probably Holy Bandits(1993); the first song “When I’m Up I Can’t Get Down” was later a substantial hit for Great Big Sea in Canada. (Thanks, guys!)
By 1997 our relations with Cooking Vinyl had cooled somewhat. We didn’t seek a new contract, but we co-operated with the preparation of a “Best Of” 2-CD collection, Granite Years (2000), covering the years 1986-1997.
In 2003 we were honoured to receive the “Good Tradition” award at the BBC Folk Awards, and in 2005 were voted “Best Group”.
Lee Partis spent some years training as a counsellor/therapist, even while drumming and singing for Oysterband. In 2008 he fulfilled a long-term ambition and left us to work in a prison in the north of England, possibly a first in the history of the entertainment industry. The very experienced Dil Davies then took over the drummer’s stool.
In recent years, we’ve consciously tried to evolve our songwriting beyond the clichés of the “Celtic” style, and with Rise Above (2002) and especially Meet You There (2007) we think we’re getting somewhere. Meet You There was hailed widely at the time as our best recording ever.
However, just when we were thinking of taking a tea-break, everything was turned upside down again by the remarkable success of our reunion album with June Tabor, Ragged Kingdom, released in 2011. Waiting 21 years to make a follow-up to Freedom & Rain may seem perverse, but hey! both parties were seriously busy. We never lost our friendship with June in the meantime, and even played the occasional show together; and one day the time just seemed right to try recording together again. Ragged Kingdom gained us 3 more BBC Folk Awards (Best Album, Best Group and Best Trad Track, plus Folk Singer of the Year for June). We toured it very enjoyably through 2012 and 2013 and featured on BBC TV’s Later….with Jules Holland.
In early 2014 we put out a collection of new material, Diamonds On The Water. The 6-piece line-up with Al Scott and Adrian Oxaal is getting well bedded in, and gigs are possibly even more fun now than they’ve ever been. We’re beginning to contemplate doing a “Best Of… Vol 2” to cover the years since 1999. Even after so long a career, we can’t help feeling the most fruitful time might be right now.
Award-winning Senegalese kora virtuoso Seckou Keita and his quartet combine African drums and percussion, double bass, Egyptian violin, and cajon with Keita’s innovative twists of improvisation on the 22-string West African kora.
Keita’s eclecticism is reflected in his quintet, whose members include Davide Mantovani (Italy), Surahata Susso (The Gambia), and Samy Bishai (Egypt). The band will perform tracks from their album ‘The Silimbo Passage’ as well as new material.
West country folk singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Seth Lakeman was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2005 for ‘Kitty Jay’.
It catapulted Lakeman into the forefront of the new British folk movement and his follow up was the gold-selling ‘Freedom Fields’ which was released twice in 2006. Produced by his brother Sean Lakeman it came out on iScream and was then re-released by Relentless (EMI) where it went on to become Seth’s first of 6 UK Top 40 albums.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary, Seth played a worldwide online concert stream with his band playing the album which includes ‘Lady of the Sea’, ‘King and Country’ and ‘White Hare’ plus other favourites.
Seth released new album ‘A Pilgrim’s Tale’ in early 2020, a year that marks four centuries since The Mayflower ship departed the UK. Seth was raised and still lives on Dartmoor, within sight of the sea at Plymouth, from where the Puritans sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. A live recording of The Pilgrim’s Tale, which tells the epic and soulful tale of the Pilgrim Fathers, plus other favourites including Kitty Jay, White Hare and Lady of the Sea from Seth’s last show in February in Plymouth has been released on double CD.
In between recording and touring with his own band, Seth has also been touring around the world for the last couple of years with rock legend Robert Plant, playing as part of his band The Sensational Space Shifters.
For over a decade Sheelanagig have brought their array of foot-stomping folk tunes to audiences across the globe.
A quintet with a well-stocked armoury of stringed instruments – guitar, fiddle, double bass – added with the rhythmic energy of flute and drums and a bagful of joint-jumping tunes, these boys from the South-West England create a real dynamic which is inherent in both their furious dance medleys as well as their interestingly arranged original pieces.
Putting the groove into a selection of traditional and original European Folk music dating from the medieval times to present day, it’s difficult – nay, impossible – for your limbs to remain stationary when you’re within earshot of them in full flight.
The fact that they often play with a knowing wink shouldn’t obscure their impeccable technique, and outstanding musicianship that raises the roof in every place they play.
In the last year they have toured France, Switzerland and Australia as well as busy summer festival season and an extensive UK tour. Catch them out on the road again in 2019, see website for tour dates.
Sona Jobarteh is the first professional female Kora virtuoso to come from any of the West African Griot dynasties. Her lineage carries a formidable reputation for renowned Kora masters, most notable amongst these are her grandfather Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and her cousin, the legendary Toumani Diabaté.
Sona is reputed for her skill as an instrumentalist, her distinctive voice, infectious melodies and her grace onstage, and she has rapidly achieved international success as a top class performer.
The demand for Sona Jobarteh’s live performances has rocket in recent years, and 2019 saw her perform at some of the world’s most renowned festivals and venues such as the Hollywood Bowl in LA, WOMAD in Australia and New Zealand and Symphony Space in New York City, whilst also performing all over Europe, in China, Africa and Canada.
Sona has the unique ability to touch audiences from all over the world and from all backgrounds and cultures, whilst also commanding the attention of sitting presidents and royalty alike. Her captivating stage show has proved to be popular everywhere, and with a repertoire that exudes accessible sophistication, her audience demographic is forever expanding.
As a vocalist, Sona has featured in award-winning films such as the Hollywood movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and The First Grader – the latter winning the “Discovery of the Year” prize at the Hollywood World Soundtrack Awards in 2012.
Show of Hands
Just when you thought Show of Hands couldn’t get any better…
Steve Knightley and Phil Beer, two undisputed kings of the folk, roots and acoustic scene reunited with long-term collaborator Miranda Sykes and the new addition of master percussionist Cormac Byrne. 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.
The new album ‘Battlefield Dancefloor’ featuring Cormac and Miranda was released in 2019.
The Longest Johns
We doubt any of Bristol’s The Longest Johns ever imagined they would be able to get so far on just four voices.
In a few short years they have gone from singing sea shanties in a kitchen to International folk festivals, tours, TV appearances and gained a huge online following.
With their third studio album being released in the summer of 2020, they will be bringing a new mix of instruments and putting their own unique take on some folk standards, as well as introducing a collection of fantastic original songs.
The Trials of Cato
The remarkable rise of BBC Radio 2 award winning trio The Trials of Cato on the UK folk-scene has been the subject of massive critical attention.
Dubbed “the Sex Pistols of folk,” (J Davis) they pay clear homage to the tradition whilst twisting old bones into something febrile and modern, with stomping tunes and captivating stories.
Formed in Beirut, the band returned to the UK in 2016 and set to performing tirelessly up and down the country, leading to BBC Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe hailing them as “one of the real discoveries on the folk circuit in recent times.” Their debut album, Hide and Hair, gained attention in national publications, receives repeated national airplay on BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, and won Best Album at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Following a year of wall-to-wall touring across the UK, Europe, and North America in 2019, the band’s march was halted by the live silence of the global pandemic. Now, they emerge from their chrysalis transformed. As ever, ‘The Trials Continue’ – but this time the multi-talented instrumentalist and singer Polly Bolton joins their ranks.
The Trials of Cato’s hotly anticipated second album is scheduled for release later this year. Entitled Gog Magog, the album is named both after the mythical giant of Arthurian legend and the Cambridgeshire hilltop, where the new album was birthed over lockdown.
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.
The Lost Words: Spell Songs
See the only 2021 festival performance of this incredible project at Shrewsbury!
The Lost Words: Spell Songs is a musical companion piece to The Lost Words: A Spell Book, the acclaimed work by authors Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, responding to the removal of everyday nature words from a widely used children’s dictionary which grew to become a much broader protest at the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of the creatures and plants with which we share our lives, in all their characterful glory.
Recognising the great musical potential within the pages of The Lost Words book; with its poetic rhythms, imagined birdsong and resonating watercolours, Folk by the Oak Festival eagerly commissioned Spell Songs. They invited eight remarkable musicians whose music engages deeply with landscape and nature, to respond to the creatures, art and language of The Lost Words. Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Kerry Andrew, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter and Jim Molyneux sing nature back to life through the power of music, poetry, art and magic.
Spell Songs is a performance rich in spoken voice, whispers, accents, dialects, native languages, proverbs, sayings, birdsong, river chatter and insect hum, alongside beguiling music, song and visual beauty.
The Spell Songs performances are woven through with original artwork by Jackie Morris (winner of the 2019 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal and Shadower’s Choice Awards for The Lost Words) who lived and breathed the music with the musicians. With her visionary artistic skill, Jackie has also painted live at each Spell Songs performance, conjuring creatures using inks and poetry.
Will Pound's A Day Will Come
Acclaimed harmonica and melodeon player Will Pound is embarking on a musical journey across the states of the European Union, to discover and unveil the diversity and common ground of their traditional music and song.
From the lively Swedish polska to the upbeat Italian tarantella, the lilt of the Irish jig, to buoyant French bourées, relentless rachenistas from Bulgaria and the rip-roaring Spanish jota – these tunes have travelled, evolved and merged as Europeans have enjoyed freedom of movement and expression, a shining example of the strength and joy in unity.
Together with Polish poet, Bohdan Piasecki, and a live band featuring James Fagan(Kerr Fagan, Melrose Quartet), multi-instrumentalist Jude Rees (Jim Moray, RSC, Pilgrims Way), bass player and beatboxer John Parker (Nizlopi) and fiddle player Patsy Reid (Breabach), join Will and be uplifted by the joyous sounds of the traditions of a continent and hear the stories and hopes of those affected by the politics of division.
An accompanying album featuring this new ensemble, alongside a host of guest musicians, will be released in May 2020.
Photo Credits: (1) Shrewsbury Folk Festival, (2) Afro Celt Sound System, (3) Calan, (4) Dervish/a>, (5) Kate Rusby, (6) Oysterband, (7) Seckou Keita, (10) Sona Jobarteh, (11) Show of Hands, (12) The Longest Johns, (13) The Trials of Cato, (14) The Young'uns, (15)-(20) The Lost Words (Julie Fowlis, Rachel Newton, Karine Polwart, Beth Porter, Jim Molyneux, Kris Drever) (21) Will Pound & Bohdan Piasecki (unknown/website); (8) Seth Lakeman (by Walkin Tom); (9) Sheelanagig, (by The Mollis).