Girvan Folk Festival 2020 – 1st – 3rd, May
PLANNING for the 2020 Festival has now started but most of the information on the website still refers to 2019. The style and content for 2020 will be similar so please use this information from 2019 to help decide if Girvan is the place to be – for YOU!
GUESTS IN 2019 INCLUDED: Bob Fox – Cathal McConnell – Jock Tamson’s Ideal Band – James Patterson & John Dipper – Fiona Ross with Brian Miller – Rosie Stewart – The McKeaney Sisters – Fiona Heywood, Jim Byrne and Peter Campbell – Kathryn Nicoll & Karen Marshalsay – Dave Goulder – Dick Gaughan – Colum Sands – Bob Blair – Sandra Kerr – Scott Gardiner – Mike Vass – Gary West – Ollie Rigg – Hamish Denholm – Ali & Maggie Macrae – Heather Yule – The Barrstools – Artie Trezise – Susie Kelly – Artie’s Tartan Tales – Jock’s Jocks – The Bobby Robb Tribute Concert … and more
Girvan’s Guest List for 2019 was typical of ‘Girvan’ and promised – and delivered – lots of great musical experiences from people firmly rooted in the tradition. Many people see Girvan as a ‘meeting place’; a chance to see old friends and to rub shoulders with traditional musicians from all ‘airts and pairts’ and within our guests, and visitors, there were lots of opportunities for people to share in performance for some unique experiences.
The guest list for Girvan 2020 is at an early stage but we don’t think you will be disappointed when we are able to release our plans. Hopefully a look back at our 2019 Festival will give you a good idea of how the weekend in 2020 will be – and hopefully will tempt you to start planning to attend.
A founder member of Boys of the Lough – and a member of the group to this day. Expect pure-drop music and inimitable craic.
One of the folk scene’s best-loved living legends, Fermanagh-born singer, flautist and whistle player Cathal McConnell is a veritable walking encyclopaedia of traditional lore, as highlighted by his mammoth 2011 book/recording project I Have Travelled This Country, comprising no fewer than 123 of his favourite songs. From his earliest day he has collected and shared songs of a diverse nature and continues to entertain and share his love of music and song, whether it be at the Carnegie Hall or amongst friends in a remote pub session in Ireland. A founder member of Boys of the Lough – and a member of the group to this day. Expect pure-drop music and inimitable craic.
The Cathal McConnell Trio
Cathal now also plays with fiddler Kathryn Nicoll and harper Karen Marshalsay as The Cathal McConnell Trio. Cathal McConnell (flute, whistles, song). Karen Marshalsay (Scottish harp). Kathryn Nicoll (fiddle, viola)
Bob’s relationship with Girvan Festival goes back many years. His is one of the great voices of the folk revival.
Bob Fox has been one of the most popular performers of the folk revival for many years and relationship with Girvan Festival goes back almost to its very beginning. His is one of the great voices of the folk revival. For the last few years Bob has been in the spotlight in the National Theatre’s production, Warhorse.
Bob was enjoying great popularity as a solo artist and having much fun touring as a duo with Billy. The new Pitmen Poets were all set to take the scene by storm when a meeting with John Tams changed his life completely! Bob was doing a solo gig at The Spanker Inn, Nether Heage (Tam’s home village) 1st July 2011 and John arrived at the gig late and they chatted on long after the gig was over during which time John suggested that Bob would be an ideal ‘Songman’ in the National Theatre’s production of WarHorse in the West End. Three months later Bob was rehearsing in London with the new cast and travelling up and down to the North to fulfill Pitmen Poets gigs. He opened in the New London Theatre as “Songman” in October 2011! Bob’s time in Warhorse has now come to an end and he continues to perform at clubs and festivals – with his typical repertoire of mainly traditional songs, plus a few tales and songs from his Warhorse experience.
JOCK TAMSON’S IDEAL BAND
Jock Tamson’s Ideal Band needs a bit of explanation. The phrase ‘We are all Jock Tamson’s Bairns’ is well known in Scotland. This is interpreted in a metaphorical sense as a statement of egalitarian sentiments equivalent to “we’re all the same under the skin” or “we are all God’s children”. There is a Girvan link in that Jock Thomson was a Minister from Dailly in 1800. He later moved to Duddingston near Edinburgh and became the most famous minister of the local Kirk, holding the post from 1808 to 1840. One version attributing the origin of the adage to Thomson is that his first wife died after they had five children, he then married a widow who already had five children, and this second marriage produced another four children. When his wife then made introductions to visitors and tried to explain which family the various children belonged to, Thomson would interrupt her with the statement that “They’re a’ Jock Thomson’s bairns”. In folk music circles there is an obvious similarity in name to the much loved and missed folk group, Jock Tamson’s Bairns – but Girvan’s ‘Ideal Band’ will bring together musicians and singers from our extensive guest list as part of our ‘Kist of Riches’ concert. It will be a unique gathering.
JAMES PATTERSON & JOHN DIPPER
James Patterson’s singing is legendary on the folk scene; John Dipper is a respected performer, composer, teacher and instrument maker who grew up steeped in the traditions of Southern England.
James Patterson and John Dipper have played together over many years, including a period in the highly regarded band Patterson Jordan Dipper. James Patterson’s singing is legendary on the folk scene; John Dipper is a respected and established performer, composer, teacher and instrument maker who grew up steeped in the traditions of Southern England.
As Patterson Jordan Dipper they started playing together in the summer of 2000 and performed at many festivals around the country including; Sidmouth, Cheltenham, Chippenham, Dartmoor and Whitby Folk Week. Throughout that period and since, they have each worked on a variety of projects. In recent years James Patterson reunited with Dave Bordewey, Mick Ryan and Paul Downes to reform the hugely popular 1980’s group Crows. This brought together two of the finest male voices in the English folk tradition, Mick Ryan and James Patterson together with masterly musicianship with James on guitar, Paul on guitar, mandocello, mandolin and banjo and Dave on fiddle and mandola.
John Dipper has played fiddle for as long as he can remember, performing in various ensembles, with Chris Wood and Robert Harbron in the English Acoustic Collective, is part of Martyn Wyndham-Read’s No-Mans Band, various dance and ceilidh bands and playing for Morris on his way to being part of Patterson Jordan Dipper.
Rosie Stewart is a singer and ambassador for traditional Ulster singing. With a style that is entirely her own. In 2004 she received a TG4 award for Best Traditional Singer.
Rosie Stewart is a singer and ambassador for traditional Ulster singing. With a style that is entirely her own, she picks and chooses her repertoire from songs that might be 200 or 20 years old. Born Rosie McKeaney in the townland of Cashel in the parish of Garrison, Co Fermanagh, Rosie has music and song in her veins. ‘I think you absorb the art of traditional singing through listening. I had been listening to my grandfather, my father and my mother since I was a baby.’ Her mother, Lena Fox, was a well known singer and her grandfather, Edward Keaney was a talented singer and fiddle player.
THE McKEANY SISTERS
Like the other local singing families, the Gallaghers, the Timoneys, the Burnses and the Joneses, the McKeaneys were sought after performers at private house parties, pub sessions, ceilis, concerts and parochial nights.
Anyone who has heard Rosie Stewart will be thrilled to know that they will be able to meet other members of Rosie’s family at Girvan. In Rosie’s own words ‘I have six sisters and each one of them sings with a similar voice to mine though my voice is the deepest, probably because I smoke!’ Like the other local singing families, the Gallaghers, the Timoneys, the Burnses and the Joneses, the McKeaneys were sought after performers at private house parties, pub sessions, ceilis, concerts and parochial nights. Hearing them at Girvan will be an experience not to be missed!
It was in the 1980s that Fiona truly embraced the Scots song tradition, serving her apprenticeship in the folk clubs and memorable singing sessions of the time. Fiona then joined the group Handsel with Scottish folk scene stalwarts Brian Miller, Gavin Livingstone and fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson.
Fiona grew up in Partick, in the west end of Glasgow, also spending time at her step-family home in North Tolsta on the Isle of Lewis during her teenage years. The youngest of a busy household of five children, she inherited a love of Scottish music from her father and began singing popular Scottish songs from a young age. It was in the 1980s that Fiona truly embraced the Scots song tradition, immersing herself in Edinburgh’s vibrant folk scene and serving her apprenticeship in the folk clubs and memorable singing sessions of the time. Fiona then joined the group Handsel with Scottish folk scene stalwarts Brian Miller, Gavin Livingstone and fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson, performing at traditional music festivals around the country. Since moving to Melbourne in 2009, Fiona has continued to pursue her passion for Scots song. In addition to her busy schedule of concerts, workshops and talks, she is currently completing a PhD through the University of Melbourne, working with traditional singers in Scotland and overseas to explore and document the importance of a singing style and tradition that is now rapidly changing. Fiona is President of the Melbourne Burns Club. Her knowledge of Burns and of the Scots song tradition has resulted in her becoming an unofficial ‘Scots cultural ambassador’ in Australia, flying the flag for Scots song in festivals and concerts throughout Australia. In 2018 Fiona presented the premiere of The Jean Redpath Story at The National Festival, Australia.
Brian Miller is one of the stalwarts of the Scottish Folk scene coming to prominence initially as a member of The Laggan, and still a member of The Stars Band with Arthur Johnstone and Charlie Soane. Brian has worked with Fiona Ross in the past as members of the folk group Handsel. He will be accompanying Fiona Ross at Girvan as well as contributing in his own right.
FIONA HEYWOOD, JIM BYRNE & PETER CAMPBELL
Fiona Heywood and Jim Byrne are now married and settled in Ardara, Donegal, where they are very much part of a thriving musical community. They play regularly with Peter Campbell, the youngest fiddle player of a well-known family of Donegal fiddlers.
Fiona Heywood and Jim Byrne first met each other at a Girvan Festival related event and are now married and settled in Ardara, Donegal where they are very much part of a thriving musical community. They play regularly with Peter Campbell, the youngest fiddle player of a well-known family of Donegal fiddlers. Like many people in Donegal, Peter’s father, Jimmy Campbell, left to work first in Scotland (including working on the famous ‘Mickey Dam’ and the hydro schemes) and then in England, where Peter grew up. During all the time he was in Scotland and England, Jimmy kept up his interest in the music. Some of his regular playing partners were other Irish exiles who worked in London, such as Brendan McGlinchey, Brian Rooney and another mighty Donegal fiddle player, Danny Meehan. Peter, of course, was familiar with the music at home and in Glenties when the family came back to Donegal on holidays. Peter’s father, Jimmy Campbell is keen to come to Girvan along with Fiona, Jim and Peter, so the Donegal fiddle connection may well expand on this trip. Jimmy is a real character ‘full of music’ mischief and stories’. Expect something special!
Fiona Heywood: Fiona Heywood was born and raised in Ayrshire. Her parents were heavily involved in the traditional music scene in the area and she grew up surrounded by many great musicians and singers. Her mother, Heather Heywood, is regarded as one of the foremost traditional singers in Scotland, a real tradition bearer, and has recorded and toured extensively. With such a pedigree, it is no wonder that Fiona developed a love for traditional and contemporary song, and this is evident in her handling of material passed down through her mother, as well as songs she has collected from other sources.
Jim Byrne: Jim Byrne hails from Belfast, and from an early age has honed his skills as an innovative and intuitive guitar player. He has been an integral part of the thriving Belfast session scene and toured extensively as the singer and guitar player with the Belfast based band, Craobh Rua, one of the most in-demand Irish groups in folk circles in Europe and America. Currently living in Donegal, Jim is very much in demand as an accompanist throughout the county and further afield. He accompanies songs with an insightful and sensitive touch, being aware of exactly what each song needs and how best to enhance it. Jim is also a fine singer, and has a wealth of songs, mostly from the Irish tradition.
Peter Campbell: Peter Campbell, the son of Jimmy Campbell, was born and raised in England but through his father was immersed in Irish music as some of his regular playing partners were other Irish exiles who worked in London, such as Brendan McGlinchey, Brian Rooney and another mighty Donegal fiddle player, Danny Meehan. Peter has now returned to his family’s home place and lives in Glenties. Peter is much in demand as a solo fiddle player and Peter and his father Jimmy are also in great demand as duet players – and with local dance teachers Connie Mc Kelvey and Ann Conaghan with whom they travel widely with to deliver dance workshops and performances.
Dave is a master song writer, almost everyone will be aware of his song The January Man which is one of the classic songs of the folk revival.
When Dave Goulder climbed down from the footplate of a class 8f for the last time in 1961, British Railways lost a mediocre fireman but the music world gained a highly individual writer and performer. From his new base in the hills of North West Scotland he was able to view the age of steam with compassion and humour, while at the same time renewing his acquaintance with the natural world of changing seasons he knew as a boy growing up in a village of the Notts/Derby border. Dave is a master song writer, almost everyone will be aware of his song The January Man which is one of the classic songs of the folk revival. There is much more of course, including a song The Pinwherry Dip which is set very close to Girvan.
Dave is actively involved in music, mostly on his home patch with the Rosehall Ceilidh Band. He has provided music for radio, TV and film, plus commissioned songs for a variety of singers. Recently completed projects include a book of ‘steam’ songs, stories and pictures and his plans to become a master craftsman on the Jew’s Harp have turned to reality.
A member of the internationally renowned Sands Family from County Down, Colum Sands is an exceptional songwriter with a depth that few can match. Immersed in rural traditions in Ireland, his writing is very much in the tradition of Irish storytellers who spun yarns, believable because they were rooted in real life.
Colum Sands is an exceptional songwriter with a depth that few can match. Immersed in rural traditions in Ireland, his writing is very much in the tradition of Irish storytellers who spun yarns, believable because they were rooted in real life, yet surreal because there was always a twist or a different point of view and almost inevitably a touch of humour which often amplified a serious point. Colum’s performance style is a mix of musicality, great songs and humour which endears him to any audience. A member of the internationally renowned Sands Family from County Down, Colum established his reputation as a songwriter with the release of his first solo album, Unapproved Road in 1981. Songs like Whatever you say, say nothing, and Almost every Circumstance were soon in the repertoire of artists from Billy Connolly to Maddy Prior and June Tabor. On his travels around the world he soon discovered that many of his songs had arrived before him, carried by other singers and in recordings by fellow performers like Andy Irvine, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, Roy Bailey, Mick Hanley, Gerard van Maasakkers, Rosemary Woods, Iain McIntosh and Enda Kenny. His first book, Between the Earth and the Sky was published in 2000 and its pages, like Colum’s stage performances, contain a combination of songs and stories which, to quote one critic, “…view the world with balanced, non-tribalistic humanity, breaking down all kinds of barriers and leaving behind an optimism and appreciation of the power of the human spirit over adversity.”
Dick Gaughan is a legendary figure within the folk revival in Scotland. Many people will now be aware that Dick had some health issues in the last couple of years which have prevented him from working at a professional level. But – the good news – Dick has been performing over the last year, singing his classic song Childhood’s End as part of the Far, Far from Ypres WW1 related show. Dick’s agreement to come to Girvan has been in his words ‘subject to circumstance’. We look forward to Dick contributing to the songwriting part of the festival with both words of wisdom and the odd song or two. Beyond that, we don’t know, but we look forward to his presence.
In the late 1980s, Gary began to play a prominent role in the folk music scene, joining Ceolbeg in 1988, and becoming a founder member of the Scottish ‘supergroup’ Clan Alba in 1991, playing alongside such luminaries as Dick Gaughan and Brian McNeil.
From Pitlochry, in Perthshire, Gary West learned his piping with the acclaimed Vale of Atholl Pipe Band with whom he played for 18 years winning both the Scottish and European Championships. In the late 1980s, he began to play a prominent role in the folk music scene, joining Ceolbeg in 1988, and becoming a founder member of the Scottish ‘supergroup’ Clan Alba in 1991, playing alongside such luminaries as Dick Gaughan and Brian McNeil. His first solo album, The Islay Ball, was released in 2001 on the Greentrax label. Gary is a full time lecturer in the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
Scott is best known for singing the bothy ballads and songs of the north-east, having a particular love for his local Angus folk songs.
Scott is one of Scotland’s top traditional singers and has been performing at concerts and festivals across the country since his schooldays. Brought up on a farm near Forfar, he is best known for singing the bothy ballads and songs of the north-east, having a particular love for his local Angus folk songs.
Sandra Kerr has had a long and distinguished career in folk music, beginning with her training in the acclaimed Critic’s Group (1963-72), under the tutelage of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger.
Sandra Kerr has had a long and distinguished career in folk music, beginning with her training in the acclaimed Critic’s Group (1963-72), under the tutelage of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. Here she received a strong grounding in the folk arts, including song, instrumental music, folk and agit-prop theatre. She developed her song-writing skills here, and did much research, becoming familiar with all the works of the great folklorists such as Sharp, Child, Bronson and so on. This research resulted in some ground-breaking recordings including Sweet Thames Flow Softly, A Merry Progress to London and The Female Frolic, possibly the first album to explore the folk repertoire in its relation to women’s experience.
In the late 70s and 80s she worked mostly in the media, where her writing and presenting skills were much in demand. She co-wrote and researched all the music for the much-loved TV series Bagpuss, currently enjoying a revival of cult proportions. She also acted in the films, finding her true vocation as a bossy rag doll and several mice…. The rest of the decade was spent researching material for, writing and presenting a whole range of programmes for BBC Children’s Radio, including The Music Box and The Listening Corner.
The last decade or so has seen a slightly different emphasis in her work for, though she has continued to perform and record, she has become one of the most sought-after workshop leaders in the country. She offers a whole range of training programmes from voice production to traditional singing style, concertina workshops, training for teachers in the use of song and dance in early years education, and more.
It is something of an understatement to say that Bob has a passion for traditional song. Whilst living in England in the 1960s and 70s, Bob was a member of Ewan MacColl’s ‘London Critics Group’.
It is something of an understatement to say that Bob has a passion for traditional song. Bob Blair is a singer especially noted for his interpretation of Scottish lyrical songs and traditional ballads. He plays concertina and guitar, but generally prefers the beauty of unaccompanied singing. He has a deep understanding of traditional singing styles and has lectured widely at Universities, Colleges and workshops at numerous festivals. Originally from Fife and now living in Glasgow, Bob was a member of Stramash, a group of singers who cared intensely about Scotland’s traditional song heritage. His interest though, is not just an academic one, he is without doubt one of Scotland’s finest traditional singers – one of that rare breed who can do justice to the incredible range of ballads and songs passed down through the generations. Bob’s repertoire is wide, often including relatively unknown versions of traditional songs. Whilst living in England in the 1960s and 70s, Bob was a member of Ewan MacColl’s “London Critics Group” and helped start The Grimsby Folksong Club. He has featured in a number of radio and television productions including The Song Carriers and Ewan MacColl’s award winning ‘Radio Ballads’.
Mike Vass is one of the most creative forces on the Scottish music scene as a musician, composer, producer and arranger. As well as solo projects he is a member of Malinky, the internationally respected champions of traditional Scots song.
Mike Vass is one of the most creative forces on the Scottish music scene. As a musician, composer, producer and arranger Vass has amassed a body of work that encompasses early appearances as a livewire young fiddler, collaborations with many of the leading voices among today’s Scots and Gaelic tradition bearers, delivering multi-media performances, overseeing critically acclaimed recordings, and scoring for prestigious ensembles.
In 2008 Mike joined Malinky, the internationally respected champions of traditional Scots song. He played fiddle and tenor guitar on their Flower and Iron album, toured regularly with the band until 2010 and following their five – year hiatus, he returned to record Far Better Days and play further concerts with them in 2015 and in 2018 he was part of a new Malinky recording which is shortly due for release.
Ollie Rigg hails from a rich highland piping background collecting prizes in the Open Highland Games circuits as a teenager. Ollie’s main focus is now on the Tin Whistle and Uilleann Pipes.
Ollie Rigg hails from a rich highland piping background. Learning from aged 9 in Dumfries and Galloway, Ollie collected prizes in the Open Highland Games circuits as a teenager. While studying in Glasgow, he played with the Scottish Power Pipe Band from 2011-2013, during which time the band was consistently ranked in the top three bands in the World Championships. He has taught both large groups and provided 1-on-1 tuition at the College of Piping in Glasgow, where his attention was switched from competitive drive to playful and constructive learning. Although still playing highland and border pipes to a high standard, Ollie’s main focus is now mastering the Tin Whistle and Uilleann Pipes. This has generated greater musical diversity and capability in his tunes while maintaining a high technical ability. A regular on the Edinburgh session scene, Ollie also enjoys playing any of his wind instruments with various ceilidh bands.
Heather is a long established accredited member of the Scottish Storytelling Directory and has travelled all over Scotland and abroad, including Iceland, Norway, Poland and North America, performing, teaching and leading workshops.
Heather Yule grew up surrounded by storytelling, music, theatre and literature. When she was seven years old her mother, Dr Barbara McDermitt, began her PhD on folk narrative at Edinburgh University. Over the following years Heather was very fortunate to be taken by her mother on numerous recording trips. These included visiting the Gaelic tradition bearer Nan MacKinnon on the island of Vatersay in the Outer Hebrides; the master storytellers from the Scottish Traveller tradition, such as Stanley Robertson, Duncan Williamson and Betsy Whyte; and the Appalachian storyteller Ray Hicks in the USA. As a teenager, Heather began learning the clarsach (Scottish traditional harp) and later started to develop her own unique way of combining traditional storytelling with this instrument. Heather is a long established accredited member of the Scottish Storytelling Directory and has travelled all over Scotland and abroad, including Iceland, Norway, Poland and North America, performing, teaching and leading workshops.
Hamish is a member of The Barrstools and a noted player of bagpipes of various varieties.
ALY & MAGGIE MACRAE
Aly and Maggie Macrea are mother and son. Maggie is a fine singer and best known to most Girvan regulars as the Artistic Director of the festival for over twenty years. It would have been inconceivable that Aly would not have grown up with a love of folk music and he was recently placed 1st in the Border Ballad Competition at Newcastleton Festival.
Aly and Maggie Macrea are mother and son. Maggie is a fine singer and best known to most Girvan regulars as the Artistic Director of the festival for over twenty years. Her whole family have been steeped in traditional music and have played together for many years as members of The Tattiehowkers Ceilidh Band. It would have been inconceivable that Aly would not have grown up with a love of folk music and he was recently placed 1st in the Border Ballad Competition at Newcastleton Festival. Other aspects of his musical upbringing include experiencing some of the great communicators and showmen of the folk revival which perhaps explains his professional work in Theatre. Alasdair is an actor, sound designer, musician, musical director and composer. He trained in Theatre Arts at Langside College, Glasgow and has now won several awards for his work.
Susie Kelly was a member of Stravaig, a group with a huge commitment to traditional song, and no much of her individual effort is directed towards teaching and encouraging people to sing. For many years Susie has led workshops at Girvan to encourage children’s singing, work which we are confident will bear fruit over time.
Taking liberal inspiration from everything from the likes of Woody Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen, Fred Morrison to Skippinish and the Dubliners to We Banjo 3, The Barrstools blend of musicianship and craic has quickly become a music festival mainstay.
The Barrstools are a local 6 piece band with their roots, as the name suggests, lying in the Village of Barr in South Ayrshire. Originally the founding members of Dave Sherry and Quentin “Cutty” Fyfe shared vocal duties along with their guitar, banjo and whistle. The subsequent additions of accordionist Stewart Robertson and multi-instrumental piper Hamish Denham,and latterly the rhythm section in the form of percussionist Kevin Borland and the double bass of Harry Sheddon, provides the Barrstools with their unique take on drinking songs from pubs across the Atlantic and closer to home, alongside traditional tunes with modern twists. Taking liberal inspiration from everything from the likes of Woody Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen, Fred Morrison to Skippinish and the Dubliners to We Banjo 3, The Barrstools blend of musicianship and craic has quickly become a music festival mainstay.
ARTIE’S TARTAN TALES
Artie Trezise brings his Artie’s Tartan Tales show to Girvan – the festival where some of the ideas for The Singing Kettle first formed through Cilla & Artie’s meeting at Giran with Major Mustard’s Travelling Show.