FolkEast, known as one of the best and most friendly folk festivals in England, has always offered some activities for young aspiring folk musicians, but over the last two years this has been expanded and made more professional, with the introduction of its Youth Moot. This year I had the opportunity to interview the inspiring Finn Collinson, a profound, amazing recorder player who has his own band and is the main leader of Folkeast’s Youth Moot, a space dedicated for young people at Folk East, filled this year with more exciting wokshops and activities.
Widely regarded across England as one of the most forefront recorder players on the English folk scene and quickly growing a reputation as an inspiring, creative young musician, Finn is the perfect person to be running the Youth Moot and is someone who I am sure many young musicians alongside me aspire to be more like.
This year, Folk East ran the Youth Moot ran for the second year, providing new opportunities for those aged 11-17; through workshops including singing and vocal sessions, Boss Morris teaching some of their dances, songwriting with talented songwriter Ellie Gowers, of course also tunes with Finn himself; and more.
Importantly, not only is the Youth moot a space to participate in inspiring workshops, but it is also a space for young people to use throughout the FolkEast festival weekend - where you can meet others and make new friends, collaborate, do crafts and sometimes come in together and play music. Finn says ‘it is so important to nurture an interest and passion for folk music at this level alongside arts and crafts’. Folkeast is a festival which truly exceeds at capturing all the different angles of folk- not only the music element.
So why is the Youth Moot so important to Finn? As Finn says, many schools across the country do not teach folk music at all, therefore it is something which is not hugely common for young people to know about. This makes it all the more special that FolkEast attracts a variety of people of all ages including young people, and that it now provides an opportunity for young people be directly immersed into this style of music. Finn strives for the Youth Moot to give young people not acquainted with playing folk music an accessible way to discover this new music, perhaps a new way to play an instrument through learning by ear for the first time or to find ways to add rhythm and groove into their music. He says ‘ the genre of folk music is a tradition - something we want to uphold and continue and evolve and ultimately it’s the young generation who will do this for the future, so we want to give them a chance to get really stuck in as early as possible so that this becomes easier for them to do and they naturally develop a passion for the music they make.’
In schools, music is generally taught with a very classical approach, involving completely learning and playing from sheet music and following the prestigious grade examinations. Therefore, there are few places where you can simply play and learn by ear. This is something that might make it more difficult for younger people to have much experience of or access to playing folk. Finn was taught music in a classical background but grew up surrounded by folk music. However, Emma Beach, co-Youth Moot leader, brilliant oboist and a member of Finn’s band, fully came from the classical background. She wasn’t particularly aware of folk music until she met Finn who asked her if she could play in one of his gigs - whereby she said what do you mean, I don’t know what to play. From there she learnt how to play folk music, hence she is a very relatable person for many young musicians who feel completely alien to playing folk music, and to the whole process of learning and creating this music by ear. Finn explains how the fact both of them come from completely different angles to folk music makes it an interesting pairing for running the youth moot because they know both sides of classical and folk music world. Finn says it shouldn’t matter in folk if you come from a completely classical background, it is about enjoying the music, getting involved; ‘If you just play, something will come’.
FolkEast has been supportive of young musicians in a range of ways over the years. Alongside the big main acts (this year featured for example Capercaillie, Kathryn Tickell, Imar, The Young’Uns, Lindisfarne), many young local musicians have had their first big opportunities to play to a larger audience. There is always a strong focus on young newcomers – thinking of for example Honey & the Bear, Tilly Moses, Ellie Gowers and Finn himself. Over the last couple of festivals, there were also showcase concerts of young musicians. 2022 hosted a concert of the National Youth Folk Orchestra. This year featured both the Filkin’s Ensemble – a collective of young folk musicians around Seth Bye, Chris Roberts and Ellie Gowers, and a very special local youth showcase by the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust in partnership with FolkEast. The latter was supported by National Lottery and had Finn and Emma as the tutors, where nine young musicians created new music inspired by the local folk music collections of Ralph Vaughan Williams. These concerts were some of the respective highlights of the festivals.
Folkeast has played a huge role in Finn’s musical development and FolkEast’s organisers Becky and Jon have provided him with special opportunities that have allowed him to grow, and they have always been big supporters for what he does. So he says ‘I see it as giving back to something that has made such a difference to my musical journey. The youthmoot is definitely becoming a key part of FolkEast, developing each year. It’s here to stay.`
Next year’s Folk East festival is held 16-18 August 2024, at the usual stunning setting of Glemham Hall near Woodbridge, in Suffolk.
Photo Credits: (1) Vaughan Williams Folk Youth Showcase (4) Finn Collinson & Emma Beach, (5) Filkin's Ensemble (by The Mollis); (2) FolkEast (unknown/website). (3) Finn Collinson Band (by Rowan Collinson).