The 33rd Orkney Folk Festival take place over the holiday weekend of May 21-24, 2015, comprising a wealth of concerts, ceilidhs, clubs, sessions, the Open Stage competition, talks and more. With just over five months to go, the event’s organisers have announced three of the artistes scheduled to appear at the late May event.
World-renowned Irish accordionist, Sharon Shannon, rising stars of the UK country scene, Ward Thomas, and Mercury nominated, English singer/songwriter Seth Lakeman will all make their debut Orkney appearances at the 2015 festival.
These announcements come ahead of the full line-up release, which is scheduled for mid-January. Acts still to be revealed include artistes from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, England, mainland Scotland and Shetland, as well as a number from Orkney’s own thriving folk scene.
The festival committee hope, by releasing a few names before the New Year, to build upon the event’s primetime nationwide exposure gained through their hosting of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show at the 2014 weekend – and so appeal to a greater share of the mainland UK market, who may be planning their holidays over the festive period.
During the hour-long Orkney Folk Festival special edition of the flagship BBC programme, presenter Mark Radcliffe hailed the festival to be; “an amazing and indelible few days”.
Looking ahead to his first visit to the county, Seth Lakeman said: “I’m really looking forward to performing at one of the northernmost folk festivals, Orkney, in 2015! It will be the first time I’ll have been there and I’m very excited, as I’ve heard some great things about it through the years.”
A singer, songwriter, fiddler and multiple BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner, Seth is one of the most renowned folk musicians in the UK. His 2005 album, Kitty Jay, was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, whilst its gold-selling follow-up, Freedom Fields, spawned the hit singles Lady of the Sea and The White Hare. For his most recent recording, Word of Mouth, Seth unearthed hidden histories and unsung everyday heroes from his native Devon and Cornwall, to commemorate in song. Although renowned for fronting his own band, Seth will be appearing solo over the Orkney Folk Festival weekend, providing a rare treat for lovers of folk song.
With their debut recording crowned UK Album of the Year at the 2014 British Country Music Awards, Ward Thomas have fast become one of the most hotly-tipped acts on the UK country scene. From Where We Stand – from 20-year old twin sisters, Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas – entered the top 20 of the UK album charts the day after its release, the iTunes country chart at number one, and sat at the top of the UK country chart for five weeks, signalling very big things for the young Hampshire duo.
On the other hand, it is no stretch to say that Sharon Shannon has already achieved legendary status throughout the world. Her back catalogue of collaborators speaks for itself – Steve Earle, Bono, The Waterboys, Sinead O’Connor, The Chieftains, Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Alison Krauss and Shane MacGowan, to name just a few – a list that is testament to Sharon’s versatility, as well as talent. On top of countless worldwide concert and festival tours, garnering multi-platinum album sales, she has entertained two US Presidents; Clinton at the White House, and Obama in Dublin.
Orkney Folk Festival’s Artistic Director, Bob Gibbon, said: “With winter making its presence well and truly felt in recent days, it’s warming to already be looking ahead to early summer and the 33rd outing of the Orkney Folk Festival. The three acts announced this week are just a taster of what’s to come in the full line-up, but represent many of the key themes that we aim to bring together in just one weekend.
“In Sharon Shannon we have arguably Ireland’s most well-known instrumentalist, renowned for her many collaborations – perhaps most notably with The Waterboys, and Steve Earle – and for catapulting the modern session staple Music for a Found Harmonium into the stratosphere. Seth Lakeman is one of the highest selling English folk singers in recent years, yet is rarely seen north of the border – and indeed solo – so that is quite a coup. Ward Thomas, though, are at the forefront of the new age of UK country artists – adding a flavour of Nashville to the festival, via Hampshire and the BBC Radio 2 daytime A-list – and are visiting us at what looks to be just the beginning of a very illustrious career.
“These three acts really are just to whet appetites for the full cast that will be announced in January, and even then visiting acts are just one half of our programme – Orkney’s own thriving folk scene is very much the backbone of the festival. From veteran stalwarts to teenage prodigies, such a breadth of home-grown talent is rarely found elsewhere, and not only draws audiences from far and wide, but draws them back time and time again.”
Tickets for the 2015 Orkney Folk Festival will go on sale in the spring. Members of the festival’s Patronage scheme will receive advanced access to tickets, at least a week ahead of their general sale, as well as discounted ferry travel to Orkney from the Scottish mainland with NorthLink Ferries. To find out more about becoming a patron and supporting the festival year-round, or on any other aspect of the festival, head to www.orkneyfolkfestival.com.