The Graeme Miles Bursary is now in its third year, created in the memory of the late Middlesbrough songwriter Graeme Miles it has gone on to support young artists from the North East. Graeme made it his mission to write songs that told the story about industrial Teesside, inspiring the likes of The Unthanks, The Young’uns and the Wilson Family. The bursary is funded and administered by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and funded by The Unthanks through fundraising concerts.
The last recipient was Newcastle folk band The Rachel Hamer Band and the winner of this year’s recipient has just been announced as Alasdair Paul, who was chosen by a selection panel including Adrian McNally and Rachel Unthank from The Unthanks.
The Unthanks said: ‘Supporting exciting young North-East based musicians is one of many ways we hope to celebrate and remember the inspiring and important work of Graeme Miles. Alasdair Paul is one such talent and we look forward to the work he creates through this bursary founded in Graeme’s honour.’
About Alasdair Paul
Alasdair Paul grew up around the Highlands of Scotland. His interest in music began with chanter lessons from Carol-Anne Mackay and eventually led him to study on Newcastle University’s Folk and Traditional Music degree. There he was exposed to a wide range of music, broadening his outlook to encompass influences from Irish, Northumbrian and other European traditions as well as from the eclectic music scene centred around the University. An in-demand accompanist around the Newcastle area, Alasdair plays with ‘progressive trad’ sextet Pons Aelius, the Manx quartet Birlinn Jiarg and brand new Scots-Irish quartet The Flyting.
In addition to performing Alasdair is also active as a composer, having recently completed a Master of Music degree at Newcastle University. His compositions seek to combine and juxtapose new harmonic, textural and structural ideas with the melodic nature of traditional music.
The bursary will allow Alasdair to purchase new recording equipment to support his work as a composer and to record a new album of original folk music. Alasdair Paul aims to record and release one track a month to represent the changing seasons of the year.
About Graeme Miles
In 2014 we interviewed David Eagle of The Young’uns who gave us this insight into Graeme’s life and influence:
“Graeme was a very quiet and unassuming man who I think was more interested in people knowing his songs rather than himself. There are probably people reading this who might not know of Graeme Miles, yet they will be very much aware of a lot of his songs: My Eldorado, Sea Coal, Ring Of Iron for instance. Graeme was one of the founding members of the Stockton folk club and we would see him at the club from time-to-time. He is a massive inspiration for us and indeed many North East folk singers including the Wilson Family and The Unthanks…
“Graeme wrote Sea Coal, about the sea coal trade in Hartlepool, at the age of fourteen. He was so inspired by Teesside from an early age. He realised that there weren’t really any songs about the area. He, therefore, 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.
“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 show 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.” Read the full interview here.
For more information about EFDSS and its work, go to www.efdss.org
Photo Credit: Dominic Younger