It’s very fitting that a songwriters bursary created in the memory of the late Middlesbrough songwriter Graeme Miles has gone on to support young artists from the North East. David Eagle of The Young’uns told us in an interview (read it here) that Graeme wrote Sea Coal, about the sea coal trade in Hartlepool, at the age of fourteen. He found that there were few songs written about Teeside so he made it his mission to write them:
He saw great beauty in the place, including its industry and the jet black fume-filled river Tees. He has an amazing ability to portray the bleak and even the ugly romantically and poetically. Graeme writes about real Teesside, about his Teesside.
The latest recipient of the award is Newcastle folk band The Rachel Hamer Band, who we’ve previously featured on Folk Radio UK. The band have have strong links to Teeside and have been touring extensively across the North East since their formation in 2013. The funds will help pay for studio time to record their debut album.
Fronted by Rachel Hamer, whose family hails from Teesside, the band comprises of fiddle player, vocalist and clog dancer Grace Smith, guitarist and vocalist Graeme Armstrong, and Sam Partridge, a flautist and multi-instrumentalist, and is fast establishing itself as a major force on the traditional music scene in the UK.
This is the second memorial bursary, worth £1,200, to be given. The scheme is supported by The Unthanks through fundraising concerts and administered by EFDSS.
Two shows to raise bursary funding for future years take place next month. Artists including The Unthanks, The Wilsons, The Young’uns, Martyn Wyndham-Read, The Keelers, Mike Nicholson and Robin Dale will perform at an evening in celebration of Graeme at Middlesbrough Town Hall on February 12 and at Band on the Wall in Manchester on February 13.
The money raised will be spilt between the Graeme Miles bursary and supporting the Redcar Steelworkers Fund. The Rachel Hamer Band will also perform at both shows.
Another amazing quality of Graeme’s was how he immersed himself in the world he was writing about. He gave up his cushy job at Middlesbrough Museum to go out and work in the foundries and factories in order that he could experience first-hand the life he was writing about. And that genuine passion and knowledge of his subject matter really shows in his songs and poems. Perhaps it puts modern-day folkies like us to shame, for we only write and sing the songs, we have not lived and breathed them. David Eagle interview with Folk Radio UK
Rachel Hamer, speaking on behalf of The Rachel Hamer Band, said: “We are honoured and thrilled to be awarded the Graeme Miles Bursary. Graeme was a prolific songwriter and champion of North East folk music and we feel privileged to be a small part of his legacy.
“This award is invaluable to our development and we are excited about the award, our new album, and for what the future holds for us. The bursary is giving us the unique opportunity to pay for studio time to record our debut album.
“Our self-produced EPs have sold well at our gigs but we now feel ready to record our debut album. We are excited to start recording the album and the bursary is giving us an incredible start.
“We would like to thank everyone at EFDSS, The Unthanks, and the artists who gave their time to raise additional funds for this opportunity,” she added.
EFDSS Chief Executive and Artistic Director Katy Spicer said: “We had a very strong field of applicants for this bursary. The Rachel Hamer Band is an exciting and innovative group of musicians and we feel the award, at this moment in their musical development, will make a positive and significant difference to their future. We will be looking forward to hearing their first album.”
Adrian McNally of The Unthanks said: “It feels good to give the award to an act fronted by a fine young singer brought up with the songs of the area, and who understands the legacy of Graeme Miles. An act may not always appreciate the name on an award, so long as the money helps them on their way, but I’ve no doubt The Rachel Hamer Band will feel honoured to receive an award in Graeme’s name and be inspired to use it all the more brilliantly.
“We are very pleased to be part of this programme in honour of Graeme’s legacy and we will continue to fundraise towards this fitting annual memorial to him.”