Folking Around … news from around the wonderful world of folk



War & Peace – Photo Elly Lucas

After four or five years of events marking various stages of the First World War, we are inevitably coming towards the end now, but there is one major commemoration that folkies in particular should be aware of. War and Peace: Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Loss from the First World War is a new event to mark the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles – the peace treaty that ended the Great War. Inspired by personal stories of Doncaster people collected for the Doncaster 1914-18 project, War and Peace is an evening of storytelling and song presented by Bella Hardy, Findlay Napier and Greg Russell. There are just four performances – Cusworth Hall, Doncaster, Heath Street Baptist Church in Hampstead, Doncaster again at the Cast Theatre, and then, finally, at The Hive in Shrewsbury. This is likely to be one of the highlights of First World War commemorations this year and you can find out more at website

Another event folkies will be interested in comes from multidisciplinary performance company Clod Ensemble. Interestingly, they make live performances that sit at the intersection of different forms and disciplines, in theatres, dance houses, galleries and public spaces nationally and internationally (it says here). Their next piece is called On the High Road and features a new collaboration with Irish Traveller folk singer Thomas McCarthy, who will sing live, and has just been made the Gradam Ceoil TG4’s Singer of the Year 2019. Plus, he’ll be joined by an outstanding company of dancers, actors and musicians. There are performances at the Oxford Playhouse on May 20 and 21, but for all other dates go to website

No stranger to the stage is BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year 2018, Karine Polwart, who has been one busy folkster. Following on from her award-winning Wind Resistance performance and album, and chart-topping Laws of Motion album, she’s part of the Folk by the Oak-inspired, The Lost Words: Spell Songs project and she has a new album of her own out on 2 August too. Scottish Songbook reimagines a clutch of beloved songs that encompass fifty years of Scottish pop, from eighties classics by Deacon Blue, The Waterboys, and Big Country to the full-on stadium balladry of Biffy Clyro and bang up to date with Chvrches (not forgetting Ivor Cutler, and rightly so). Featuring regular band members Steven Polwart and Inge Thomson, plus Graeme Smillie, Calum McIntyre, and Louis Abbott of Admiral Fallow, there is at least one of your Shire Folk editors who is more excited about the prospect of this album than is seemly for a man of his age. website

For those of us missing the genius of Joni Mitchell during her enforced hiatus due to illness, there is interesting news of a book being produced as part of her seventy-fifth birthday celebrations. Originally hand-produced in a run of 100 copies, it was called Morning Glory on the Vine and was intended as a holiday gift for friends. The book contained handwritten lyrics and poems, accompanied by more than thirty full-colour illustrations and paintings. Published by Canongate in a facsimile edition this autumn, this new edition will contain the book’s complete original content, plus a new introduction written by Joni herself and a number of her additional paintings, made at the time of the book’s creation, that were not included in the 1971 edition. Not as good as a new album, perhaps, but exciting stuff nonetheless. website

Musician, producer and arranger Ben Walker has been called ‘one of the best acoustic guitarists in the world’ and justly so. A BBC Folk Award winner and with six critically acclaimed albums as a duo with singer-songwriter Josienne Clarke and more than fifty as a producer of other artists, Ben has developed a repertoire that mixes virtuosic playing with a gently whimsical history lesson, in which he shares some lost treasures of our folk heritage. Always worth catching live, Ben is out and about on tour over the next few months (sometimes with Rob Harbron). You can catch him at the likes of the Red Lion Folk club in Birmingham, the Green Note in that there London, and festivals in Sidmouth, Broadstairs and Bermondsey. website

The rightly revered Topic Records is 80 this year and the globally respected British folk music label, home to such iconic artists as Anne Briggs, Peggy Seeger, June Tabor, Ewan MacColl, and many others, isn’t resting on its reputation. Topic Records Presents, a series of concerts and events at Cecil Sharp House, home to the English Folk Dance & Song Society, for example. From 5 June 2019 to 5 January 2020, CSH will host Topic Records: Folk In Focus – an exhibition of iconic photographs from the label archive focusing on the seminal artists who’ve helped shape contemporary folk music, including era-defining shots of Anne Briggs, Shirley & Dolly Collins, The Watersons, Nic Jones, June Tabor, Martin Simpson, Eliza and Martin Carthy, Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl amongst others. There is also a series of reissues, starting with Martin Simpson’s Prodigal Son, and a number of new albums, including Eliza Carthy’s first ‘solo’ album of traditional music in 14 years, Restitute, a compilation of the cream of British folk artists, Vision And Revision: The first 80 years of Topic Records, and An Introduction to Nic Jones, which not only compiles his classic songs, but also includes two tracks not previously released. It’s going to be quite a year for Topic. website

Reg Meuross, who has released 13 albums over 28 years, can list Pete Townshend, Townes Van Zandt and Tom Waits amongst his many fans. Some of his classic albums have been unavailable for a while, but he has now reissued a back catalogue of six albums: The Goodbye Hat (1996), Short Stories (2004), Still (2006), Dragonfly (2008), All This Longing (2010) and Leaves & Feathers (2013). There are new designs for all the albums, which bring this ‘retro’ collection together as a set. The albums can be bought at any of Reg’s many gigs or from website

As you may have seen in the last issue of Shire Folk, Hannah Elizabeth has left the trio Said the Maiden website and formed a duo with Griff Jameson, formerly of Fred’s House. We are pleased to hear that Minnie Birch is going to be the new ‘Maiden’. Minnie is also a member of one of Jess Distill’s other projects, namely The Company of Players.

Richard Thompson comes over to the UK in August to play a few gig and, festivals, and being a big fan, will probably watch a bit of cricket. As usual he joins up with his Fairport Convention mates for the Cropedy Convention on Friday 8 August. You can also see him at the following festivals: Cambridge, Sidmouth, Belladrum Tartan Heart, Green Man, FolkEast and Moseley.

A few highlights at Nettlebed Village Club (see advert on inside front cover) in the coming months include the Cape Breton Celtic Band Coig in May, Jon Boden doing a very rare solo gig in June and in July Show of Hands performing their only show this summer apart from Abbotsbury. This gig is a fundraising show for upgrading the stage lighting at The Village Club to LED’s but the show is over half sold already without being advertised anywhere except from the stage at the club.

Here’s an unusual event for you outdoor types. Moonrakers are playing a ‘bring a picnic’ concert in the Amphitheatre at Waterperry Gardens OX33 1LA at 5pm on 15 June. Fabulous venue – drinks available – indulge yourselves!

American banjo player Clarke Buehling, who is internationally known for his expertise and knowledge of 19th Century American banjos and Old Time music has been booked to play at Oxford Folk Club on Friday 7 June. This replaces the Open Night that was planned for that evening.

As part of the annual May Day celebrations in Oxford on 1 May, the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers will be performing ‘The Dance of the Heads’ outside the Anchor Inn in Jericho at 6am (yes that is correct!). The dance is be performed in honour of the sculptor Michael Black, who sadly died aged 90 on 14 February. In 1973, Michael completed replacing the stone heads that surround the Sheldonian Theatre and the dance was then composed and performed. Eynsham Morris and Cry Havoc will also be dancing outside the Anchor Inn.

Finally, Banbury Folk Club moved location on 27 February to the The Church House, 2/3 North Bar Street, Banbury OX16 0TB. They will still be meeting each Wednesday at 8 p.m. For all upcoming events visit website


Keston Cobblers


Maz O'Connor


Kim Edgar


Shire Folk Album of 2018

Moore, Moss Rutter