With a career in Irish music spanning 35 years, Altan has achieved legendary status in a genre that has equally been shaped by the band’s influence and genius. Audiences from Ireland to Japan to Australia to Europe have embraced their heartwarming, dynamic live performances and their exquisitely produced, award-winning recordings.
We are delighted to present the glorious force of nature that is Rioghnach Connolly, the BBC's Folk Singer of the Year. Rioghnach has one of the most remarkable voices you will ever hear, whether tackling a big, bluesy stomper with her band Honeyfeet or delivering a delicate, flawless ballad with her duo The Breath. Her family features numerous accomplished musicians, and as a unique offering for Hartlepool they will join her on Sunday for a concert of musical traditions from their native Armagh.
The North Sea Suite
Our special commission for 2020 is a revival of The North Sea Suite. First staged in 1986, it blended folk and brass instruments, original and traditional music, and numerous well-loved songs to explore the impact of the sea on the lives of the people who live here on the North East coast. Originally conceived by Johnny Handle and performed by some of the region's finest musicians and singers, we are delighted to present the Suite at Hartlepool with some of the original participants, plus a few new faces, all of whom will be announced very soon.
Rachel is a powerful and emotive singer from Whitley Bay who steeped in the traditional music of the North East of England. A former winner of the English Folk Dance & Song Society's Graeme Miles Bursary, she also graduated from the Newcastle University Folk Music degree.
TOM MOORE & ARCHIE MOSS
Widely regarded as two of the best players and innovators in traditional folk amongst a precociously gifted generation, Moore & Moss’ finely-crafted arrangements wield a rare potency. The distinct pulse and intuition of trad-music haunts their playing as they continue to quietly reconsider English instrumental music, listening and responding to the world around them as much as their musical ancestors.
What happened to seaton snook?
Seaton Snook was an English village on the County Durham coastline. Adjacent to Seaton Carew in Hartlepool, it was once a thriving community of fishermen, blacksmiths, teachers, preachers, seacoalers, murderers, lovers, musicians and magicians…Then, in 1968, it vanished.
Sonic journalist Peter Falconer will share his research into this strange, forgotten place, which has been the subject of his PhD: an extraordinary combination of myth-making, hauntology, musicology and recovered memory.
Cohen has been a musician since the age of 6, took to squeezeboxes in his teens, and has since developed into a fine player of both the melodeon and anglo concertina. Cohen is also a well-regarded singer, and in 2014 won Bromyard Folk Festival's Future of Young Folk Award. He's been to the festival previously with his band Granny's Attic, and we're pleased to welcome him back in his own right.
It’s been 12 years since her remarkable debut album Wild And Undaunted marked Lisa Knapp as one of the brightest and most innovative stars of a newly invigorated British folk movement. Working with partner and producer Gerry Diver, she forged a new, inventive path through old songs that is uniquely and spellbindingly hers. She possesses one of the most compelling voices in folk, and is a hypnotic live performer.
Martin Simpson is one of the world's premier acoustic guitarists and a powerful songwriter with a rich, characterful voice. His playing, which has helped define the English acoustic guitar sound, is idiosyncratic, instantly recognisable, and revered among guitar fans. His body of work is diverse, encompassing all types of traditional and acoustic music, and he has toured with everyone from June Tabor to Steve Miller.
Urban Folk Quartet
Fiddle-led music that draws heavily on Celtic dance forms and traditional song, but from there UFQ is unlike any folk band you have ever heard. Their approach is to embrace any and every influence, from funk grooves to middle-eastern melodies, afrobeat to north Indian rhythms. Featuring Joe Broughton, Paloma Trigás, Tom Chapman and Dan Walsh, UFQ are one of the most popular and sophisticated bands on the festival scene.
Smart, sassy former Emmerdale star Ursula last joined us in 2018 for the Bishoprick Garland, and you absolutely loved her imaginative retelling of the lore and legends of County Durham. One of the country's finest storytellers, she'll bring new tales to delight audiences young and old.
Rattle on the Stovepipe
Rattle on the Stovepipe are Dave Arthur (banjo, guitar, melodeon), Pete Cooper (fiddle) and Dan Stewart (banjo, guitar, fiddle), who play Anglo-Appalachian songs, ballads, and dance tunes. Pete Cooper is one of the leading fiddle teachers in the UK, and is Director of the London Fiddle School. Dan Stewart is a banjo, guitar and fiddle teacher from Sussex, widely recognised as one of the top Old Time banjo players in the UK. Dave Arthur is a musician, writer and storyteller, who was a prolific presenter for BBC radio and television on folksong and folklore.
Sounds magazine marked out Martin Stephenson as “one of the finest and grossly underrated singer-songwriters this country has given birth to”. Few who bought his 80s albums with The Daintees – especially Boat To Bolivia and Gladsome Humour & Blue – would disagree with that bold assertion. Durham native Stephenson broke up the band in 1992, since recording a series of well-received solo and collaborative albums. We're delighted to welcome him to Hartlepool for what we expect to be one of his trademark sets full of warmth, hilarity and gorgeous songs.
Sara Grey & Kieron Means
Sara Grey and her son, Kieron Means, play authentic American traditional music. Old-time ballads, cowboy songs and Primitive Methodist hymns are all delivered with warmth and understated passion. Sara's unique frailing banjo style and Kieron's blues-inflected guitar are in perfect harmony, and this instinctive family symbiosis is what sets them apart.
Hearken to the Witches Rune 50th anniversary
Dave & Toni Arthur's iconic pagan wyrd-folk record is 50 years old in 2020, and we've decided to celebrate it in all its Wickerman glory. Joining us will be Dave Arthur himself and other surprise guests who will re-create some of the album's creepiest offerings, ably compered by Radio Tees' own master of folk horror, Bob Fischer.
Taffy is an absolute treasure. With a repertoire of more than 300 stories, collected mainly from traditional oral sources, he has performed in numerous countries over four continents. Awarded the title of Britain's first Storytelling Laureate, his legendary status is well established. Whether telling a story chosen from his iconic Tale Coat, or cooking up a performance (literally!) on HMS Trincomalee, he is a firm favourite with audiences of all ages.
Le Vent Du Nord
All the way from Canada, the award-winning and highly acclaimed Le Vent du Nord are a leading force in Quebecois music. The group’s vast repertoire draws on both traditional and original sources, while underpinning its hard-driving music with the region's signature foot percussion. Featuring button accordion, guitar, fiddle and the earthy, rough-hewn drone of the hurdy gurdy, which lends soul to even the most buoyant dance tunes.
Jim Moray &
A fantastic new duo. Jim Moray is amongst England’s finest interpreters of traditional song. A five-time BBC Folk Award winner, his music has been featured in Grey’s Anatomy, Dr Who spin-off Class, and he has presented documentaries on traditional music for BBC Radio 3. Tom Moore has lent his blistering fiddle-playing to acts including Moore Moss Rutter, Nick Hart, John Dipper, False Lights and Maz O’Connor.
The English Fiddle Ensemble
Four of England's finest traditional fiddle players, Bryony Griffith, Jim Boyle, Ross Grant and Rosie Butler-Hall, have joined forces to create The English Fiddle Ensemble. With a passion for traditional English dance and its music, their combined repertoire is vast and includes rarely-played and unusual regional versions of tunes alongside more familiar session favourites.
Feel the bite and lift of four fiddles resonating to create joyous harmonies and striking rhythms.
Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley
Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley have been bringing their unique sound to audiences across Europe and America since the early 1990s, when a chance meeting at a music session created one of folk music’s most enduring partnerships. Known for their soul stirring songs, exhilarating tunes and a love of the craic, Chris (concertina) and Denny (guitar and vocals) ensure that no two concerts are ever the same.
Founder members of the band Last Night’s Fun, which received international acclaim and a loyal fan base over 11 years together, they have now returned to their roots as a duo.
Born into the great line of Kouyate Griot in Southern Senegal, Kadialy’s mesmerising kora playing and singing style have been appreciated in many prestigious venues as both a soloist and in various ensembles.
Since his arrival in the UK Kadialy has been teaching the Kora at SOAS University of London and been involved in countless musical projects both as a collaborator and a session musician.
There really is no-one else like Keith Donnelly. He tells the most fantastic stories. Some of them happen to have tunes and guitar accompaniment [songs!] Most of them are true [at least that’s what he says!] Some of them he makes up [at least that’s what he says!]
A delightful performer and compere, we look forward to welcoming him to the festival.
Sam Baxter is a folk singer and multi-instrumentalist working with both traditional material and his own compositions. Although drawing inspiration from all over Europe, Sam’s main focus is on the traditional music and stories of England and Ireland. Folk singing for Sam is ultimately an act of storytelling, his main interest revolving around how old stories can be used to explore modern narratives, using the tales of the past as a lens with which to view modern society.
Screening: Blackbird (2013)
Young ballad singer, Ruadhan, despairs as the fabric of his Scottish hometown erodes. There are no fish in the sea, no jobs and a steady exodus to the city. Life as he loves it is slipping away and Ruadhan's idol, town bard Alec, has little stomach to fight the change. Featuring legendary performers Norman Maclean and Sheila Stewart, Blackbird brings Scotland's most loved folk heroes to the big screen.