AFO Conference 2017 Hot topics, guest speakers and networking opportunities galore!

AFO LogoThe Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) Conference is the place for everything festivals and events.  Over 250 delegates, both professionals and volunteers, will be gathering to discuss the hot topics affecting our industry today.  This year’s dates are 10-12 November 2017 at Ettington Chase Conference Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon. See for full details and to book.

Steve Heap, General Secretary of AFO says “We are pleased to announce that BBC Breakfast’s Mike Bushell will be joining us to talk about his experiences of all kinds of festivals.”

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Hands Up For Trad’s landmark awards recognise over 25 years of Scottish music and culture in Aberdeenshire

The latest recipients of the Hands up for Trad’s Landmark Awards have been revealed – as Aberdeen based Scottish Culture & Traditions Association (SCaT) and Aberdeen folk band, Old Blind Dogs, both took home the coveted award.

The Landmark Awards are given to individuals, groups and organisations for their sustained contributions to Scottish culture over a significant period of time.

Continue reading “Hands Up For Trad’s landmark awards recognise over 25 years of Scottish music and culture in Aberdeenshire”

Fairport Convention: pioneering folkrock band’s fiftieth anniversary on 27 May 2017

Fairport Convention: pioneering folkrock band’s
fiftieth anniversary on 27 May 2017

When Fairport Convention, the legendary band which originated British folk-rock, takes the stage on Saturday 27 May 2017 it will be fifty years to the day since their first-ever gig.

The birthday concert takes place at the Union Chapel in Islington just a few miles from the Golders Green venue where Fairport started out.

Formed by Ashley Hutchings in 1967, Fairport was a crucial part of the ‘summer of love’ and played alongside Pink Floyd and Hendrix among others. One of the only touring bands with an unbroken history stretching back five decades, Fairport has been performing and recording more or less constantly since its inception.

Acknowledged as one of the most influential UK bands in popular music, Fairport nurtured the careers of Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick among others.

The band saw many changes of personnel during its early years but Fairport Convention’s current line-up has been stable since 1998. Simon Nicol, lead singer and guitarist, is the only founding member still with Fairport; bass player Dave Pegg has been in the band since 1970.

So far this year Fairport has staged a major UK tour, released a new studio album, enjoyed extensive magazine coverage, and been the subject of an hour-long Radio 2 documentary produced and presented by Bob Harris.

In August the anniversary will culminate at the band’s own music festival at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, where past members will join the current line-up for a reunion performance. In the autumn there are plans for a Sky Arts television documentary about the band and its history.

The Association of Festival Organisers launches AFO Conference 2017

The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) invites anyone working in the festival and events industry, either as a professional or volunteer, to join them for the 31st AFO Conference on 10-12 November 2017 at Ettington Chase Conference Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Steve Heap, General Secretary of AFO says “We are excited to launch AFO Conference 2017.  We have some great speakers and sessions in the pipeline.  Delegates can expect regular Conference highlights such as the popular round table discussions and the famous Colin Irwin Interview, whose past interviewees have included Andy Kershaw, Tom Robinson, Oysterband’s John Jones and Ian Telfer amongst others.  This year’s interview promises to be just as insightful and entertaining.  Keep an eye on our website for details.”

The Conference agenda will also include hot topics, key note speakers and more intimate breakout sessions.

AFO Conference is open to all.  Steve says, “Whether you have been in the festival and event business for years or are just starting out, AFO Conference is an invaluable opportunity to share ideas, support each other and learn something new.”

Bob Rushton from Derby Live summed up the inclusive feel to AFO Conference “Brain buzzing from AFO Conference.  Some great sessions, chats, music, links and all round sense of “all being in it together”!”

Since its formation in 1986, when a small group of like-minded festival organisers got together to chat and share ideas, AFO Conference has grown into a key date in the festival and events calendar, now attracting over 250 delegates.

Chris Johnson, of Shambala Festival and Kambe Events says “AFO Conference has real integrity as an industry meeting and gathering”.

From Friday evening to late lunch on Sunday, the session rooms and stages will be buzzing with headline speakers, presentations, discussions, ‘how to do that’ sessions, panel debates and that all important time for networking.

The Trade & Agent Market is in the heart of the networking space offering agents and suppliers the perfect opportunity to advertise their wares and generate new business.  Two Showcase concerts will feature the best up and coming artists on the festival scene, a chance for festival programmers to snap up these great acts and include them in their 2018 festival bill.

Pip Martin, from the agency Midnight Mango praised AFO Conference as “The most useful trade event I have attended all year.  Focused, informative, well organised and enjoyable, what more can you ask for?”

Delegate Passes are now on sale at the early bird rate of £110 for AFO members, £135 for non-members (until 30 September 2017).  Trade Stands are £300 for AFO members and £500 for non-members.  Book via the AFO website at

Celtic Connections Competition Winner “An Dhá” to play Brighton Fringe

Fiddle & Cello duo An Dhá

Winner of the Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Competition, Fiddle & Cello duo An Dhá, are bringing their unique blend of Celtic music and Jazz to the Brighton Fringe.

Recently described as ‘very impressive’ by BBC Radio Scotland’s Bruce MacGregor, An Dhá are taking the Folk world by storm. After winning the London Fiddle Convention Competition in 2016 they did not expect to also win the prestigious Danny Kyle Competition earlier this year and join the ranks of past winners such as Rura, Breabach and The Chair.

Jaya Hanley, An Dhá’s Fiddle Player, said: “Winning the Danny Kyle Competition was an incredible experience. It is such an honour to be following in the footsteps of some of the Folk music greats; it is so exciting to be on the cutting edge of contemporary Celtic music. The cherry on top is to be able to play beautiful music with my fiancée.’

After several popular performances in the fringe festival last year with their ‘Highly Recommended’ (Fringe Review) show Urban Folk Music An Dhá’s new show Supertigers will explore what it means to play traditional Celtic music and infuse it with Jazz. An Dhá will be playing four shows at the Brighton Komedia and three shows at the Brighton Buddhist Centre during the festival.

Traditional music power couple Jaya Hanley and Sarah James started exploring folk music together in more depth on the Isle of Skye in 2013. An Dhá means ‘The Two’ in Gaelic.

An Dhá: Supertigers
By An Dhá
Komedia Studio
7th May 17:00, 16th & 24th May 19:00, 21st May 13:30
Brighton Buddhist Centre
14th May 15:00, 19th & 20th May 19:00
£12(£9) Under 16s £5 [1hr 30m]

To book tickets visit or call 01273 917272.
For Komedia tickets please visit or call 0845 293 8480

Track Dogs – New Single – ‘To The End’

The single “To The End” deals with the issue of bullying in schools and also the harassment and bullying of the elderly and the vulnerable.

“We wanted to lend our voice to the already important issue of bullying.”

The song also addresses the subject matter through its anti-war and anti-abuse sentiments.

The video for To The End utilizes strong imagery to convey its message along with the simple yet direct lyrics from the song.

To The End is the opening song taken from Track Dog’s forthcoming CD entitled “Serenity Sessions” and was the final track to be recorded for the album.

Most of the tracks on the album display the bands four-part harmonies and multi-instrument arrangements whereas “To The End” features the band’s classic line up of cajón, guitar, bass, trumpet and lead vocals in a scaled down ‘less is more’ style of presentation.

Words and Music by Garrett Wall/Robbie K. Jones/Howard Brown/Dave Mooney (Cop. Con IMRO/SGAE 2015) Catalogue Number MGR0616 – ISRC Number ES86A1500022 – Release Date 6th Jan 2017

Track Dogs are a Madrid-based acoustic-folk band with members from Ireland, England and the USA.

These particular dogs started life in the autumn of 2006 as The Garrett Wall Band. The line-up from the start was simple but effective; guitar, bass, trumpet and cajón. They wanted a clean sound that would work as easily in someone’s living room as it would on the world’s stages.

They cut their “live” teeth playing twenty six shows in seven days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and released their debut album “Sky Pointing” shortly after. Tours in Ireland and Spain followed and the relative media in both countries started to take note. They followed this up with “Hands & Imperfections” in 2009.

When the time came to release their third studio album they realized a name change was vital. It was important the band be considered for what it was; a band. Not wanting to be considered a singer songwriter plus backing musicians any longer they opted (after an exhaustive search) for the name Track Dogs which comes from the maintenance teams who work the New York subway. These close-knit teams work while the trains are circulating and thus need to look our for each other at all times. What better name for a group that musically did just that!

Thus the simply titled “Track Dogs” was released in 2011 and from this moment things began to change for the band. The use of harmonies became a signature sound for them and they also expanded the line-up to include banjo & ukulele. Hailing from Ireland, the UK and the USA, the four expats set up their own label, Mondegreen Records, to handle all releases and the licensing of their music, understanding the importance of control over their recordings.

In 2013 the band was picked to perform as part of the Sounds From Spain platform at SXSW in Austin, Texas. In the same year they were also selected for Girando Por Salas (GPS), an important incentive for touring bands in Spain. With the release of their fourth album “All Roads”, the group’s unique sound was even more rounded and defined.

With their new album “Serenity Sessions” (Feb 2017 UK) named after  the studio where they had recorded the bulk of their albums, the band have finally reached a point where the energy and power of their live sound is properly reflected in their recordings.

With the addition of a richer production to their sound, and collaborations with artists such as El Twanguero this new body of work reflects the perfect mix of styles which defines what Track Dogs are all about.

Folk’s finest resurrect Bellamy’s greatest legacy


2017 UK tour featuring The Young’uns, Nancy Kerr, Paul Sartin, Faustus, Greg Russell, Rachael McShane, Matthew Crampton

Some of the UK’s finest folk stars are to unite in a 40th anniversary revival of Peter Bellamy’s most revered work, The Transports.

The Young’uns, BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Group (2016 and 2015) will join forces with fellow Folk Awards winners Nancy Kerr (Folk Singer of the Year 2015) and Greg Russell (Young Folk Award and Horizon Award).

They will be joined by ex Bellowhead cellist Rachael McShane and celebrated trio Faustus (Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose).
Sartin, another former member of the esteemed and much-missed Bellowhead, is also Musical Director of the project while author, storyteller and folk singer Matthew Crampton will be the narrator and Tim Dalling (The New Rope String Band) is Creative Director.
The collective will take to the road in January/February 2017 in a 12-date tour of the groundbreaking ballad opera which includes a performance at the UK’s biggest winter music festival – Glasgow’s Celtic Connections (Jan 25).


Supported by Arts Council England and Shrewsbury Folk Festival, the new show promises to be a highlight on the 2017 folk music calendar fusing together moving, inspirational music and spellbinding storytelling within a vital historical and contemporary tapestry.

The 40th anniversary show will also be seen next August in an exclusive festival performance at Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

Rarely can Bellamy’s famed folk opera – a tale of 18th century exile and migration – have been more pertinent, set against the current tide of forced migration.

Bellamy, a unique singer, musician and composer, tragically took his own life in 1991 at the age of just 47, but left a treasure trove of work of which The Transports is seen as his greatest triumph.

Complementing the tour will be the accompanying Parallel Lives project which aims to link the show to refugee support groups in the tour towns.

The Transports was written after Bellamy read a story in his local Norfolk newspaper about the first transport ship to Australia. It is based on the remarkable true tale of convicts Henry Cabell and Susannah Holmes. Imprisoned for theft prior to being transported the pair fall in love and have a son but are refused permission to marry. As Susannah awaits transportation to Australia at the quayside her son is refused passage but a guard, taking pity on her, travels with the infant to London to appeal to Lord Sydney, Home Secretary. Sydney orders that Cabell and Holmes be reunited, allowed to marry and transported together with their son as a family.

The folk opera was released on Free Reed Records in 1977 featuring some of the biggest names from the Seventies folk revival – The Watersons, Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, A.L Lloyd, June Tabor, Cyril Tawney and Dave Swarbrick – and was named The Guardian’s Folk Album of the Year. It was first performed at Norwich Castle and has enjoyed several revivals since then including one marking its 25th anniversary.

While Paul Sartin will unveil new musical arrangements (as well as performing), storyteller Matthew Crampton will create fresh narrative elements to tell more fully the extraordinary story behind The Transports.

Says Paul: “This is perhaps Peter Bellamy’s greatest legacy – an immensely powerful, beautiful and haunting collection of songs and texts crafted in a traditional English idiom. Unique in its conception, it is unified by a narrative which speaks with immediacy and passion and demands both musical and human responses.”

Matthew has recently toured a show based on his latest book Human Cargo: Stories and Songs of Emigration, Slavery and Transportation.  He says: “Mass migration is a defining dilemma of today. There’s seldom been a more vital moment to revisit The Transports – it’s not just a great musical experience but a sharp reminder of folk music’s power in portraying the way the world works.”

“In our accompanying Parallel Lives project we will work with organisations supporting refugees in Britain, gathering stories of those trafficked or transported from Britain in the past alongside the stories of those arriving in the country and showing how the ebb and flow of migration has helped shape our country.”

The Transports tour will open at Cambridge Junction on January 24, with a finale in Sussex at the Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham by Sea. In Derby there will be both a matinee and an evening performance.

Award-winning record producer Andy Bell will be the sound engineer for the production with Emma Thompson creating the lighting.


Henry Cabell: SEAN COONEY (The Young’uns)

Susannah Holmes: RACHAEL MCSHANE (Bellowhead)

The Father: PAUL SARTIN (Faustus/Belshazzar’s Feast/Bellowhead)

The Mother: NANCY KERR



Abe Carman: DAVID EAGLE (The Young’uns)

The Shantyman: SAUL ROSE (Faustus/Waterson: Carthy/Whapweasel)

The Jailer: BENJI KIRKPATRICK (Faustus/Bellowhead)

The Coachman: MICHAEL HUGHES (The Young’uns)




24 CAMBRIDGE Junction 01223 511511

25 GLASGOW Celtic Connections

26 GATESHEAD Sage Gateshead 0191 443 4661

27 BUXTON Pavilion Arts Centre 01298 72190

28 BURY The Met 0161 761 2216

29 DERBY Guildhall + Matinee 01773 853428

30 EXETER Phoenix 01392 667080

31 WAVENDON The Stables 01908 280800


1 CRAWLEY The Hawth 01293 553636

2 LONDON Cecil Sharp House

3 SHOREHAM-ON-SEA  Ropetackle@The Shoreham Centre, Sussex 01273 464440

Sunshine success at Cropredy 2016

Fairport looks forward to fiftieth year in 2017


Festival-goers attending Fairport’s Cropredy Convention in Oxfordshire enjoyed three days of open air music. Blessed with good weather, the near-capacity crowd was entertained by a very diverse line-up ranging from chart-toppers Madness to folkrock favourites Steeleye Span, from prog-metal Headspace to French nine-piece ska groupBabylon Circus.

Young relatively unknown acts proved popular including Coco and The Butterfields, Wille and The Bandits, and Maia. Two duos. Pierce Brothers and Sound Of The Sirens, also made a very big impression on the crowd.

Fairport book-ended the show with a short introductory set on Thursday and a two-and-a-half hour show on the Saturday night. Their closing set featured the youngest performer at the festival, 11-year-old Toby Lee, who played blistering blues guitar on one of their songs.

Next year’s Cropredy will be a truly landmark event. It will take place on Thursday 10, Friday 11, and Saturday 12 August 2017. The festival will have been running for nearly forty years but host band Fairport Convention will be celebrating its golden anniversary – the group’s very first gig was on 27 May 1967. As part of the anniversary celebration, Cropredy will feature a host of guests from Fairport’s past but will also look towards the band’s future

Allan Yn Y Fan announce crowdfunding campaign to back release of “NEWiD”


Leading Welsh band Allan Yn Y Fan announced today the launch of their first crowd-funding campaign to back the promotion of the band’s forthcoming album “NEWiD” ( Welsh for change / new identity – English) which will be released on Steam Pie Records Friday 16th September (SPCD1018S).

The band have already invested in the costs of recording, designing and producing the album – their first as a sextet – and are now asking for support to ensure that the new album reaches out to the widest possible audience.

Band spokesman Geoff Cripps said : “This album is a landmark album for the band representing as it does the first recording of the new six-piece line-up, as well as being the band’s sixth album release in our 20 years as a band. To be sure that the music is marketed effectively we need to employ specialist PR people and record pluggers.”

Linda Simmonds added :- “Those people who do come on board to back our campaign will find that we have lined up a number of rewards – some exclusive offers ranging from commissioning a new tune, Skype lessons with a member of the band, to hosting a house concert, or by purchasing a pre-release signed copy of ‘NEWiD’.”
The target the band has set is £2000 and the Crowdfunder campaign can be accessed here :-

Allan Yn Y Fan will be touring in support of the new album in Germany & Belgium between 8th & 18th September followed by their first tour of Wales since 2012 commencing at the Lyric Carmarthen on Friday 23rd September.

Cambridge Folk Festival sells out for 23rd year running

cambridge folk festival 2016

Cambridge Live, organisers of the Cambridge Folk Festival, have confirmed that the 2016 event has now completely sold out, continuing a 23 year tradition.

Now in its 52nd year, the Cambridge Folk Festival remains one of the most enduring and popular folk festivals in the world, bringing an eclectic mix of outstanding artists from around the world to Cambridge. Each year over 14,000 people attend the Festival at its beautiful location in the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall. Tickets for the event went on sale in December 2015 with the first names announced in February 2016.

Cambridge Live has advised customers without a ticket not to travel to the event as no tickets will be available for purchase at the gate over the Festival weekend.  However non ticket holders still wishing to get a flavour of the event can listen to BBC Radio 2, who will be broadcasting a Festival round up on The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe between 7–8pm on Wednesday 3 August. In addition, Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis will be presenting highlights for Sky Arts for future broadcast on the channel.

This year sees the Festival underline some of its core values. It has always championed musicians, be they world renowned headliners or up and coming young artists, and the new Sessions Café provides another space for acoustic sessions within an Indian-styled tent offering great food and drinks, free Wi-Fi and late night opening.

Cambridge is collaborating with Sligo Live, Ireland’s premier folk, roots and indie music festival, in hosting ‘open sessions’, led by six of Ireland’s  finest, young traditional musicians, during the afternoons and after main stage performances. This focus on inclusion is enhanced by the many, varied workshops taking place over the weekend, from singing, songwriting and playing to arts and crafts. The new lower-priced Youth tickets are aimed at encouraging young people to participate.

The themes of social justice, fairness and tolerance which are always close to the Festival’s heart are explored in a programme peppered with artists renowned for their strong views. There are also special talks and performances including a talk from members of ‘Songs of Separation’ explaining the personal, political and social themes behind the project and ‘Conversation, Music and Social Conscience’, a songwriting workshop from O’Hooley & Tiddow exploring how their music approaches these themes.

Pushing forward with its environmental and ethical goals, the Festival is now an associate of A Greener Festival having been one of the few events awarded Outstanding for its environmental performance in the Greener Festival Awards in previous years. Plus the Festival is involved with Attitude is Everything, an organisation which improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working in partnership with audiences, artists and the music industry.
Neil Jones, Operations Director for Cambridge Live, said, “We’re pleased to announce that once again the Cambridge Folk Festival is a total sell out. In an ever competitive market place is fantastic to have such support from our loyal audiences who we look forward to welcoming to this year’s event”.