Three of the British folk scene’s finest, most formidable and forthright female acts take to the stage to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017. BBC 6 Music favourites and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 Best Duo nominees O’Hooley and Tidow will be joined by BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Finalists Lady Maisery and the irrepressible Leicester songwriter Grace Petrie as Coven. This is a rare opportunity to experience these thought provoking, heartfelt, entertaining and enthralling women in one unrepeatable performance.
Belinda O’Hooley took some time out to talk to Folk Radio UK about the Tour and International Women’s Day.
It’s great to see you reforming The Coven again for International Women’s Day. How well received was last year’s tour?
The response to Coven has been nothing short of incredible. There is an excitement and energy; both with the audiences that seem to love this combination of artists, and on stage, where there is a lot of chemistry. Most of the gigs sold out weeks in advance last time around, which is obviously a lovely feeling for us and for the venues who are putting their trust in us to deliver a great evening of music and entertainment.
Will you be following the same format as last year, what can the audience expect?
For the performance, we are all seated in a semi-circle on stage. Each individual act performs a song or two and we then collaborate together. The show is a really impressive spectrum of folk, from the very traditional with the amazingly talented Lady Maisery through to the contemporary side with us, and the wonderful Grace Petrie bridging that gap. The common themes of socialist and feminist politics run through all our work. Audiences seem to especially love the collaborations or ‘collabs’ as we like to call them. With that in mind, we head to Cooper Hall in Frome next week to record an EP of collabs, which will be available to buy at the concerts.
Regarding those involved, you’ve picked some strong players. Grace Petrie is a well known political voice and Lady Maisery’s last album ‘Cycle’ also tackled a wide array of issues, as do you in your own music. Do you feel this union has strengthened your resolve in dealing with inequalities and injustice?
As individual artists, we all use our voices to highlight inequalities and injustice. As a collective, we are a force to be reckoned with! The energy and drive we have together is quite something, with each of us providing inspiration, motivation and ideas. Hopefully, Coven can be a role model to other women who may want to get up on that stage to make music and say something.
What makes this particular union of artists work so well?
We just clicked. I think being fans of each other’s work helps. We are all passionate and driven and a bit bonkers too. There is a lot of laughter, and of course, that makes working together fun, but there is also a mutual respect, with no definitive leader, so that every person in Coven has a voice. We’re all in love with each other, and as such, we will probably end up having a group wedding in Lesbos.
International Women’s Day was honoured for the first time in 1911 with more than one million men and women attending rallies for “women’s right to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.” Where do you see the biggest struggle today?
For women to feel safe in their own bodies and not have to fear sexual harassment, assault or rape. These statistics from Rape Crisis speak for themselves.
- Approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts.
- 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16
- Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police
- Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence
What do you look forward to most on such a tour?
Eating vegan for 12 days. Actually, it’s the feeling that you’re part of something bigger. As you know, me and Heidi love trundling around on tour together in our camper van, but with Coven, we can make a bigger noise, and feel like part of a gang. We went on a Coven night out after our Newcastle gig at The Sage. They persuaded the elderly component of the group (me and Heidi) to go with them all to The Power House; an LGBT nightclub. We had such a blast, boogying the night away, and taking selfies which included Hazel’s EFDSS bag and three drag queens.
What was the most memorable concert of last year’s and what was the audience response like?
It sounds like a cliché, but they were all memorable. We did two sold out nights at Sheffield Greystones, which we’re repeating this time, and it felt like we were at home in our living room for those concerts. We work with some of the loveliest promoters around, including Mark Scott at the Greystones, Graham Smallwood of ‘Folk on Monday’ in London, Richard Haswell at Liverpool Phil, Barney Jeavons at The West End Centre in Aldershot, Laura and Jill at Bridport Arts Centre, Ben Ennis at Leicester Guildhall and Fay Goodridge at Cooper Hall. When you work with professionals like these, it makes you really look forward to a tour.
How structured is the tour, regarding what you plan in advance and agree on as a whole?
The format is structured, but the content isn’t. We develop songs and arrangements ideas in rehearsals before the tour, but there is also loads of room for improvisation throughout the tour, as we start to stick our oars into each other’s songs.
Last year’s Coven Tour was so well received, you can read our live review here, that we expect many of last year’s audiences will be jumping at the chance to see them again so make sure you get your tickets quick!
Coven are also set to record an EP this month…stay tuned.
COVEN TOUR MARCH 2017