Broadside Ballads sees three of the UK’s most innovative folk artists collaborate for the first time. Sam Lee, Lisa Knapp and Nathaniel Mann will lead a five-piece band that will reinvent a collection of British Broadsides giving a rare insight into Britain’s music, literary and political history. Delving into the collection of Broadsides at the Bodleian Libraries and beyond.
All three artists challenge the preconceptions of what ‘traditional folk’ should sound like. Sam Lee (Mercury nominated) has blazed a dizzying trail as a song collector and singer, well-loved for his rich, resonant voice. Sublime singer and fiddle player Lisa Knapp has established and evolved her own crafted sound and songwriting skill. Whilst sound adventurer Nathaniel Mann is well known for his work in Dead Rat Orchestra, and his performances involving instrument making, ethnography, folklore and storytelling.
As part of the development of this special touring project, the artists will spend time together at the Bodleian Libraries, talking with experts and handling the Broadside Collection. This research will inspire new arrangements and original material for their uniquely contemporary take on broadside ballads.
A broadside (also known as a broadsheet) is a single sheet of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. Broadside ballads, from the 16th to 20th centuries, contain words and images once displayed and sung daily in Britain’s streets and inns. Although part of living traditions of folksong, popular art and literature, these illustrated printed sheets are now rare and preserved in only a few libraries.
Digital collections and catalogues have improved access to these fragile survivors of popular culture in print. The Bodleian Libraries holds nearly 30,000 broadside ballads, many of them unique survivals, printed from the 16th to the 20th Centuries. Digital facsimiles and an online database were first made accessible in 1999. In 2013, the Libraries launched Broadside Ballads Online, which is a digital collection of the Bodleian’s broadside ballads together with links to digital collections at other libraries and institutions. You can check them out here.
Lisa Knapp – voice, fiddle, autoharp
Sam Lee – voice, Jews harp
Nathaniel Mann – voice, bowed banjo, electronics and meat cleaver
Plus guest musicians:
Seth Bennett – double bass
Pete Flood – percussion
Sat 25 Feb: Holywell Music Room, Oxford | Tickets
Sun 26 Feb: The Foundling Museum, London (two shows) | Tickets
Mon 27 Feb: Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich | Tickets
Tue 28 Feb: The Glee Club, Birmingham (Promoted by Moseley Folk) | Tickets
Wed 01 Mar: Exeter Phoenix, Exeter | Tickets