Bristol Folk Festival has taken the wraps off its full artist line up for the Mayday Bank Holiday weekend, revealing a strong programme of top acts from across the UK Folk scene including Show of Hands, Seth Lakeman, Bellowhead, Dervish, Rachel McShane, Bella Hardy, Fay Hield and more!
Three of the finest female acts on the current roots scene – Rachel McShane, Bella Hardy and Fay Hield –will be flouting some girl power alongside the male-dominated headline acts of Show of Hands, Seth Lakeman and Bellowhead – arguably the current “Big Three” of folk, but rarely all seen at one event.
McShane is best known as the cellist, singer and only girl in the 11-piece big band Bellowhead but is now exploring a solo career with a band rooted less in folk and more in jazz, soul and funk. Popular young fiddle-singer Bella Hardy hails from Derbyshire’s Peak District and is a three times BBC Folk Award nominee with a mesmerising voice and intricate fiddle skills whilst Fay Hield, with her unadorned, finite folk singing voice, is nominated in the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in the Horizon (Best Newcomer) category. Fay will front her Trio, ably backed by fiddler Sam Sweeney and box player Rob Harbron.
More than 40 diverse acts have now been added to the effervescent programme of the three-day festival (April 29-May 1), which returns to Bristol after an incredible 32 years absence. Festivalgoers can be guaranteed no wet weather problems as the whole event will take place on two stages in the city’s revamped Colston Hall.
Festival organisers Jan Ayers and Steve Parkhouse have also already announced that Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends (one of the biggest music stories of 2010 when they netted a £1million recording deal) will appear as special guests of Show of Hands on the middle day, along with exuberant Irish band Dervish whilst two of the finest exponents of British traditional folk music – John Spiers and Jon Boden – are to stage a rare May Day Ceilidh ensuring a non-stop party atmosphere on the final day of the much anticipated event.
With a strong South West stamp, the festival has signed up top artists from Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire and Bristol itself, as well as further afield.
From Cornwall comes rising indy folk star Ruarri Joseph who has been described as a British Jack Johnson. Edinburgh-born Ruarri has made past appearances with David Gray and Paolo Nutini. Inspired by the likes of Nick Drake, he has a background that has explored jazz, rock and punk. His acoustic material is sometimes mellow, sometimes upbeat and always infectiously catchy, all delivered by his distinctive vocals.
Ruarri will appear on the opening day as will 3 Daft Monkeys, who also hail from Cornwall. Tim Ashton, Athene Roberts and Jamie Waters are an in-demand acoustic act juggling an array of world music influences. Gravelly voiced Yorkshire-born singer songwriter Tom Palmer will also be “representing” Cornwall, his adopted home.
The Devon contingent will be led by multi award-winning Show of Hands and will also include talented young North Devon singer songwriter Jenna. Jenna’s startlingly mature voice has seen critics compare her to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny and her debut album, released whilst still a teenager, earned her a 4* review in the Financial Times. Dartmoor-based Sean Lakeman and Kathryn Roberts who appeared together in the folk-rock band Equation will also be a key attraction on the opening day of the festival combining Sean’s expert guitar playing with Kathryn’s exquisite vocals (she will also be hosting song and instrument workshops), while “new kid on the block” Cole Stacey also appears – another young Devon-based singer songwriter with a rapidly growing reputation.
The wickedly inventive Belshazzar’s Feast – Paul Hutchinson (accordion) and Paul Sartin (oboe, violin and vocals)-promise a spellbinding set on May 1st. Nominated for Best Duo at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards they are described by the BBC’s Mike Harding as “playing like no -one else you’ve ever heard.”
Gloucestershire based singer songwriter Johnny Coppin, former frontman of cult folk-rock band Decameron and a collaborator with Laurie Lee, setting Lee’s poems to music, will appear on the final day.
Bath-based The Scoville Units – a hot property Celtic/bluegrass band – appear on the Saturday as do new band Pilgrims’ Way whose jaunty and distinctive take on trad song is making waves.
Luke Concannon is another featured artist, famous for his JCB Song whilst in the band Nizlopi- – the song, based on Luke’s childhood reminiscences, reached UK No 1. He will also host songwriting workshops.
The winners of the Festival’s own Isambard Nu-Folk Award will also be making an appearance while there will be several performers from Bristol itself, including singing star Jane Taylor and world folk and gypsy jazz group Sheelanagig. BBC Bristol’s Keith Warmington (a harmonica and guitar-playing singer songwriter) will appear with bluesman Brooks Williams and there will be performances from Bristol Morris Men, Bristol Poets and Bristol Shantymen. Other acts from the city will be singer songwriter Gaz Brookfield , the first festival signing; Bashema; Free Range Choir and Bristol’s most popular residents Wallace and Gromit putting in a special appearance!
The Festival’s charity is Cots for Tots, part of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, which aims to raise £1 million to provide life-saving equipment for Bristol’s St Michael’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit. BFF has already raised over £1,000 from collections at festival curtain-raising gigs and through sales of a specially commissioned single, Lullaby.
Another city favourite will be remembered during the festival. The second stage will be temporarily named “The Fred Wedlock Stage” during the festival in honour of the much-loved Bristol-based musician and comedian- famous for the song “The Oldest Swinger in Town”, who died last year.
Tickets for the festival are selling well. EarlyBird three-day passes are available at the special discounted price of £60 (adults) and £50 (over 65s and children aged 6-16) until midnight on January 31 from Colston Hall box office on 0117 922 3686 or online at www.colstonhall.org.EarlyBird family tickets for two adults and two children are also available for £190. From February 1, ticket prices will be £75 (adults), £60 for over 65s and children 6-16 and £230 for a family ticket. Under 5’s go free.
On Friday, April 29, doors open at 3pm with music from 4pm-midnight whilst on the Saturday doors open at 10am with music from midday to midnight. Sunday will see special May Day celebrations with a maypole outside the Colston Hall, doors opening at 8am and entertainment from 9am-midnight. There will be dance performances by Morris sides in the main hall, foyer and outside the venue.
Other performers will include Elephant Talk, Dyer Cummings, Dave Garner & Alan Doyle , Jenny Bishop ,Phil King, Jacanda, Unstrung Heroes, Keith Christmas, Elfynn, Leander Morales, Hotwells Howlers,Barry Walsh, Roger Tarry,Nonesuch Morris and Rag Morris. Adding to the mix will be mummers and storytelling, workshop and open mic sessions. More information at www.bristolfolkfestival.com