The quality acts just keep on coming!

Four times nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and double winners of the Spiral Earth Awards, our November headliners MEGSON draw heavily on their Teesside heritage to create a truly unique brand of folk music.

The husband and wife duo bring an infectious mix of heavenly vocals, lush harmonies and driving rhythmic guitars. Comprising Debs Hanna (vocals, whistle, piano accordion) and Stu Hanna (guitar, mandola, banjo), Megson have gained fame on the British folk scene, not only for their arresting & intelligent songwriting, but for their exquisite musicianship and northern humour. As fRoots Magazine puts it “if you don’t like the music here then you have a problem”.

Summer 2016 saw the release of their much anticipated new studio album Good Times Will Come Again, gaining them much critical acclaim. “One of the most original political folk sets of the year. Ewan MacColl would have been impressed,” said The Guardian. “Relevant, thought-provoking songs that would make Woody Guthrie proud,” said Acoustic Magazine; while folk broadcasting legend Mike Harding described it as “one of the top albums of the year!”.

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be KIRSTY MERRYN, one of the most arresting and unconventional singer songwriters on the UK folk roots scene, with a style uniquely her own.

Kirsty launched her debut album She & I at London’s Union Chapel in November last year, whilst supporting folk superband Show of Hands on their 22-night Cathedrals tour. Beguiling and mercurial, Kirsty’s music consists of emphatic piano-based songs with sharply observed lyrics, packaged with panache in elegant, beautifully balanced settings and delivered in crystal clear, assured vocals. Her album tells some of the diverse stories of inspirational women in history, from Emma Hamilton to Annie Edson Taylor, and has received extensive air play including the Mike Harding Folk Show, the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, the BBC 3 World Music show, as well as many regional BBC channels.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 16th November 2018, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. They are priced at £12 each in advance (£10 for members), or £14 on the door. There will be a full bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and also locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will be a raffle with prizes including CDs, gift boxes of beer and sweet treats. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware.

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We are thrilled to reveal our rather brilliant (if we do say so ourselves!) programme for Spring 2019.

We’ve got something for everyone on the third Friday of every month between January and April. We’ve ticked every box in the broad church that is the folk genre, right from astute observational song-writing right through to traditional English folk songs and tunes.

Kicking off the programme on Friday 18th January, and back by popular demand, is GAVIN OSBORN. Gavin went down a storm when he opened for Grace Petrie back in November 2017, and we’ve listened to you, our regulars, who were desperate to hear more than the 25 minutes he gave us. Known for his storytelling shows with comedian Daniel Kitson, and now with five studio albums under his belt, Gavin is a regular on the festival scene and is also familiar to listeners of BBC Radio 4. KATHERINE PRIDDY will provide the support slot at 8.00pm.

Our February event, on Friday 15th, will be headlined by ALDEN, PATTERSON & DASHWOOD, one of the most exciting bands to emerge on the scene in recent years. The Norwich based trio weave rich vocal harmonies, fiddle, dobro and guitar around beautifully written original songs and melodies. Their music takes influence from folk traditions from both sides of the Atlantic with uplifting instrumentals and self-penned songs depicting tales of young travellers, sleepy seas and their affection for home. Opening for the trio will be MOLLY-ANNE.

Making a triumphant and long-overdue return on Friday 15th March will be multiple Folk Award-nominated duo O’HOOLEY & TIDOW. Belinda and Heidi first played at the club in 2015 to a sell-out audience, who demanded that we book them again… we’ve never had more requests for an act to return! With a personal invite from Billy Bragg to play Glastonbury, sessions on BBC 6 Music and BBC Radio 2, five star reviews and a feature in The Guardian, the songwriting, voice and piano partnership of Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow is regarded as “one of British folk music’s mightiest combinations” (Mojo Magazine). DFC Favourite MIKE WEAVER will be the support act.

Rounding off the programme on Friday 19th April are THE ASKEW SISTERS. Hazel is a familiar face to the DFC faithful, having featured as part of Lady Maisery, but now she returns in duo form with her sister Emily. The pair’s live performances brim with the depth and connection not only of two sisters, but also of two musicians who have been immersed in folk music all their lives. In April they release their long awaited fourth album, a collection of songs about enclosure, place and power. Opening the evening's entertainment will be NICK HART.

Each concert takes place at Frenchay Village Hall, starting at 8.00pm with the support act. The headline act will start at around 8.40pm. Doors open at 7.30pm. 

Tickets for all of these events are on-sale now HERE, and will be in-stock at MELANIE'S KITCHEN very soon. We have again added a Season Ticket, where you can buy tickets for all four events in one go and avoid those pesky booking fees!

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Downend Folk Club is back at Downend School and breaking rules.

It can’t be right to drink beer in a school hall, can it? There's more whooping and clapping than is acceptable in your ordinary assembly too. We're even gently chastised for the absence of blazers and ties. Rules are already broken. If we were getting a school report we'd certainly have to “try harder". What teachers never seem to work out though is how much brilliant stuff happens when the rule book is chucked in the air.

This evening, BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning LUCY WARD knows all about the value of breaking rules and the amazing results that can happen. Her latest album Pretty Warnings takes all of those well established folk tropes and throws them about all over the place. If Picasso said that you can only break the rules once you’ve learned them “like a pro” then Lucy Ward and her band are the living, folky embodiment of that. Turning a “romantic” night visiting song into something darker and more twisted on Cold Caller, and then shyly offering up a happy, positive acoustic love song to her recently born son with Sunshine Child. This is not exactly what we expect.

Even that most un-folk thing, rock shapes, are thrown during those moments that she relinquishes her acoustic guitar. There's anger and prog-tinged thrashing. It's all a tiny bit bewildering. None more so than the trad tune that ends the first half of her set. Marching Through The Green Grass is an old Ward favourite but it’s had a muscular T-Rex style make over. It's all military drumming and glam rock handclaps. Where ever she has decided to take us it's nowhere near your run-of-the-mill folk gig.

Like all the best rule breakers though Lucy Ward and her band always touch base, so we never lose that feeling that everything is OK. On the brilliantly lefty Creatures and Demons she lashes out at the right wing press and their hate filled rhetoric. She nods towards the old guard too with a spookily hypnotic version of The Fair and Tender Ladies, a trad tune lifted from a Peter Bellamy EP. She might lead us away from folk but she always allows us to see the path back again.

The path is glimpsed again when The Cruel Mother is re-spun as Mari Vach. Rather than condemning murder however (very folk this), Ward gives us sympathy, empathy and understanding. And so more rules are smashed to bits. With Maria Martin those bits are slowly, sensually danced upon. It's slinky and, whisper it, funky too. Yet it still has proper Northern folk credentials. Something with significantly fewer folk roots is an utterly superb version of the Elvis groover A Little Less Conversation; Lucy Ward proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that she could be one hell of a soul belter. There's not a folk law left undamaged.

If all of this rule breaking seems a little edgy then the support act JACK HOPKINSON plays it very straight indeed. The closest he comes to breaking a rule is that he plays country in a folk club. A beautiful type of country it is too. If there's an opposite to the big hat, sexist nonsense that spills from certain American states then this is it. It’s gentle, thoughtful and very lovely; delivered with an assurance that forces you to overlook the “travelling on a lost highway" cliches.

With so many rules broken detention is surely our only option. See you for that in November. Wear a blazer. And a tie.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Alan Cole