Sunday, 12 December 2010


Down here in ‘Tales’ things are not so much Christmassy, as ‘Folky’. Having a whole glorious weekend alone while the children spend time chez papa, for once, the tv remote is mine mine and only mine. And over the last couple of days, there has been some pretty interesting stuff on about folk music and dance over on BBC Four.

Now, having grown up in the North of Scotland with parents who were very much into folk-music, ‘Tales’ has vaults full of cringe-inducing memories which have lain untouched and suppressed for years. But lately, they have started to trickle out, and actually, and I never thought I’d say this, they aren’t really as awful as the teenaged part of my brain remembers. I’ve found myself re-discovering folk music.

A few months ago, I bought Eliza Carthy’s album ‘Gift’, which features her mother, Norma Waterson, a renowned musician in her own right. (I didn’t know this, so apologies to everyone rolling their eyes and going well, yeah, duh…) The album is a collection of songs which have literally been passed from generation to generation, so from Norma to Eliza. I bought it after being intrigued by a review in the newspaper, and was blown away, it is such a beautiful record. So it turns out I do quite like folk music.

Lounging around with the injured dog-of-small-brain, I watched a brilliant programme on Friday. It was presented by Rachel and Becky Unthank, singers from Northumberland, and examined weird and wonderful folk dancing around England. And boy, there are there some bizarre traditions, such as the Britannia Coco-nut Dancers from Bacup - I’ve never, ever seen anything like that, and I used to live in Thaxted in Essex where every year there is a huge gathering of all sorts of Morris traditions. Strange traditions, but hurrah for the dedicated, and somewhat eccentric people keeping these things alive. Oh, how I used to sneer at Morris Dancers when I lived even further south…

After the dance documentary, there was christmas folk music session recorded at the Shoreditch Town Hall. If you can catch it on BBC Iplayer, its well worth a visit. The headline act was a band called ‘Bellowhead’. Apparently they are real crowd pleasers at festivals, which isn’t hard to imagine; they are fantastic, energetic, quirky and talented. Other performers included Rachel and Becky Unthank, but one person in particular stood out for me. Lisa Knapp sang such the most hauntingly beautiful version of ‘The Coventry Carol’, I’ve ever heard. I’ve watched it a few times over, and it still moves me to tears. Have a peek at her website. Again, with my ingrained aversion to folk-music, I’d never heard of her, but I’ve just downloaded her album, and its wonderful.

So never mind books and writing, ‘Tales’ is hankering over wanting to play music. And, after years of denial, I can now happily admit ‘I used to play an accordion.’ I did, once upon a very long time ago, but luckily for everyone, I wouldn’t be able to remember how to play after all this time. And trust me, that is probably a very good thing!

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