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The Crack Magazine

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For Those About To Folk…

…we salute you! The Hartlepool Folk Festival returns from 30 September-2 October with a full weekend of dance, stories, family fun, workshops, food, drink and, of course, the best line-up of folk talent you’ll find anywhere in the UK this year.

Now in its 7th year this magnificent festival has always attracted the great and the good including folk royalty such as Peggy Seeger who commented after her last appearance at the festival: “What an inspiring event, put on with a superb mixture of love and professionalism. It was a genuine pleasure to be involved.” Peggy knows a good thing when she sees it and although she’s not appearing this year, I’m sure she would approve of the line-up, which is packing real talent.

Among the headliners are the extraordinary Edward II (pictured) who conjure up a unique blend of the rhythms of the Caribbean with traditional songs from the British isles. With their blazing horns, fabulous harmonies and fiery melodeon melodies, they’re a band that are a fantastic live proposition and should not be missed.

After a hiatus of 14 years, the tour de force that is Flook returned with ‘Ancora’ – their latest album – in 2019, wowing critics all over again (Songlines frothed: “Nothing short of transcendent. No other band sound like Flook and the new material has pushed them to new, exhilarating heights.”) With the flutes of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, the guitar of Ed Boyd and the bodhran of John Joe Kelly, this iconic band weave and spin traditionally rooted tunes into an enthralling sound – with agile but tight rhythms.

Folk, of course, is a genre that can be stretched into all manner of directions and Urban Folk Quartet stretch it more than most. Yes, they play fiddle-led music that draws heavily from Celtic dance forms and traditional songs, but that’s just a launchpad for them to embrace funk grooves, middle-eastern melodies, afrobeat and north Indian rhythms.

A former electrician, who decided to become a musician after seeing Christy Moore perform on TV, Dublin-born traditional singer and bouzouki player Daoirí Farrell has been described by some of the biggest names in Irish folk music as one of the most important singers to come out of Ireland in recent years. He launched his solo career in 2016 and has since won two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and played at some of the biggest festivals around the world.

From deep roots in their hometown’s vibrant music, song and dance scene, to smashing concert appearances in the UK and abroad, Sheffield-based Melrose Quartet have attracted a reputation for making music that truly connects with people. In concert, they perform a diverse repertoire that includes carousing chorus songs, lively dance tunes, ancient stories and modern pieces, all written in celebration of everything from weddings and birthdays to issues that affect all of our 21st century lives. In short: this is music for everybody.

Ríoghnach Connolly is the current BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year – one of the highest accolades in the biz – and she is also a renowned flautist. Folk Radio said that she is “delightfully undefinable … irrepressible, inimitable” and it’s true! She is unencumbered by the need to stick to one stylistic path, instead weaving influences from folk, soul, hip-hop, jazz and blues together to create an eclectic and intricate sound.

We don’t have space here to list the full line-up (it’s huge – check the website below for all the goodies) but we’d like to flag up Banter (a three-piece rooted in English traditional music but incorporating influences of pop, jazz, soul and big band sounds), Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones (a powerful new duo from these Yorkshire folk singers and musicians), Hannah James and Toby Kuhn (their combination of accordion and cello allows for a huge palette of sounds and textures, which lift James’s pure voice and deeply honest songwriting) and The English Fiddle Ensemble (which encompass four of England’s finest traditional fiddle players: Bryony Griffith, Jim Boyle, Ross Grant and Rosi).

The daytime festival village is situated at The National Museum of the Royal Navy (your ticket gives you access to the full NMRN experience). In addition to a variety of smaller-scale spaces for workshops, talks and intimate concerts, there will be two comfortable function rooms for mid-scale concerts. There will also be concerts and events in the Captain’s Cabin and on the deck of the HMS Trincomalee. After dark, focus shifts to the Historic Headland, where the Borough Hall will host large-scale evening concerts. And this year – on Saturday and Sunday – the Family Folk Festival will run from 11am-5pm and take place in the public space around the Borough Hall.

Details on all the above – and much more – can be gleaned from the website, below.

Hartlepool Folk Festival, 30 September-2 October. There are a range of ticket options. Check website for details: hartlepoolfolkfest.co.uk

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