Some of my folky friends prefer to avoid the support acts and to only get to their seats for the main event. I always watch the support, as everyone has to start somewhere, so I feel they should be encouraged – and just occasionally you stumble across a real gem. About 25 years ago, I went to see Richard Thompson at the Wycombe Swan and supporting him was the then little-known Kate Rusby. In her 3040-minute set, the ‘Barnsley Nightingale’ immediately blew me away. So what did Kate do right (and still does) that night, that so many support acts get wrong?

When she first came on stage Kate told us who she was, where she came from and then a bit about herself. She announced the title of each song straight into the microphone and didn’t turn her head away as she was about to sing so that you didn’t catch the whole title. So many artists, even experienced ones, do this and it’s really irritating! She told us a little bit about each song (not too much) and how she had sourced it. She didn’t sing ten songs she had written herself that nobody had heard before. This is often my main complaint about a support act, as it’s such hard work for the listener. Kate mixed up her set with some well-known songs from the tradition, many with choruses that people could join in with. We folkies like a good sing!

The songs she chose had a different pace to them, some slow, some livelier, some accompanied on her guitar or piano, some not. Obviously with Kate’s fine voice you could hear all the lyrics of the songs clearly, which is so important, particularly if they are songs you haven’t heard before. She mentioned her current album, but not after each song, so it didn’t come across like she was selling a time-share!

Kate had engaged with the audience, got them on her side and thoroughly entertained them. So it was no surprise that there was a huge queue, including me, at her merch desk to buy her album during the interval.

Graham Hobbs


Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music. It has been produced for over 40 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.

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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk



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