Kathryn Roberts limps on to the stage. Injured. Leaning awkwardly on two crutches.  She sits behind a piano. Before a note has played her husband, Sean Lakeman, mutters “It’s like playing with a Marvel superhero”. She shoots him a glance, grins and then proves that she is, indeed, superhuman.


KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN are the reigning BBC Folk Awards duo of the year. If there is any justice in the world they’ll pick up the same award this year too. She is a spiral haired folk goddess. He is the brother of that other famous folky Lakeman. Sean, though, is less inclined toward stamping and ferocious violin thrashing.  He errs toward genius guitar playing instead. Within seconds of the two of them taking the stage something is blindingly obvious. These two are proper rock stars. Roberts possessing more charisma whilst sitting down than most singers will ever have. Lakeman throwing guitar god shapes.

 Photo: Alan Cole

Dispensing with a traditional Scottish ballad to start with we see how the evening will unfold. Lakeman will bring the wry humour and guitar playing. Roberts will do everything else.  Effortlessly. Beautifully. As early as the second song she is forcing comparisons with the great Sandy Denny. She does so, largely, by covering ‘Solo’, from ‘Like an Old Fashioned Waltz’, but also by being in possession of a heart stoppingly pure folk voice. When she sings all of the awards are entirely justified. When she sings the world gets just a tiny bit better. When she sings the audience gape, sigh and then applaud wildly. It’s not just the singing though. Kathryn Roberts also plays that piano.  And a flute. And she tells stories.  And writes songs about oddly interesting things. As Ange Hardy, another folk singing friend of Downend, recently said “when I grow up I want to be Kathryn Roberts”. She’s not alone.

Much of their set was taken up with songs from their gorgeous third album ‘Tomorrow Will Follow Today’.  Highlights came thick as Devon cream but ’52 Hertz’, a song about a lonely whale singing out of key, was delightful as was the album’s title track. When a song is inspired by Terry Pratchett, is billed as “West Dartmoor protest blues” and deals with political ugliness and austerity you know that it’s going to be good. Oh, and it was. The Roberts voice transcending folk traditions and reaching out to something soulful. It’s a proper Downend Folk Club “moment”.  

The song of the night, however, came at the end of the first set.  ‘A Song to Live By’ is an anthem for a difficult world. Written for one of their children it urges you to “be the one with the brightest smile”.  In these dark times that’s not a bad plea, is it?

The whole evening began in fine style. OLLIE KING is a melodeon player from the very top drawer. When Andy Cutting, no less, describes you as “one of the finest young melodeon players in England” you know you have this squeezebox thing sorted. His set veered through folk and classical canons and was a delight. 

Roberts and Lakeman are a dynamic duo, a mini Justice League; they are folk superheroes and they were just super. Man. 


- Gavin McNamara

We are thrilled to reveal our Summer 2017 lineup.

The programme kicks off with a visit from one of the hottest properties on the UK folk scene at the moment, as the winner of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016 Horizon Award winner SAM KELLY headlines our May event. Sam will be bringing some of his band The Lost Boys; Jamie Francis and Evan Carson and Graham Coe will join Sam at Christ Church Downend on Friday 19th May, when the evening’s entertainment will feature local up-and-coming talent SUSIE DOBSON.

June sees the welcome return of one of the most popular acts to grace the Downend Folk Club. INDIA ELECTRIC CO., a duo made up of Cole Stacey and Joseph O’Keefe, last visited in September 2014, and such was the response from the sell-out crowd that we thought it was about time we had them back. JACK COOKSON will be providing support at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 16th June.

There won’t be an August gig this year, so the Summer programme is completed by another returning duo as GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR visit Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 21st July. The duo, who have won or been nominated for a plethora of Folk Awards over the last few years, were amongst our first clutch of guests but many of our regulars are yet to see them, so now’s your chance! Support on the night will come from LEON GORMLEY.

Tickets for all of the events are priced at £12 each up until a week before each gig (usual price £14), and are on-sale RIGHT NOW HERE. Once again, we’ll be offering the Season Ticket, so you can buy tickets for all three events with one easy click… and now, if you do so, you’ll save even more money as we’ve priced this at just £33, which works out at just £11 for each gig; an absolute bargain, we’re sure you’ll agree! This offer is available until Friday 12th May.

Members should login and visit the Members Only section of the website for details of Members’ tickets.

We’re absolutely thrilled with this lineup, and we hope you will be too. Do let us know what you think… and, most importantly, get your tickets now!

The best folk duo in the country are in town this month as our Spring programme continues in style!

KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN have long established themselves as one of the UK folk scene’s most rewardingly enduring partnerships. Twice recent winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Duo – 2016 & 2013 – the couple’s intimacy and strength of passion on stage have won them many fans and an enviable reputation as “Songwriters par excellence” (fRoots),  whose greatly varied original songs cover such subjects as wicked mermaids, Norwegian legends, and a lonely whale.

Building upward from their last two highly praised albums 'Tomorrow Will Follow Today' & 'Hidden People', fans of folk and acoustic music can only wonder where this leading couple will choose to turn next.

With a story that includes over 20 years of music making with the likes of Seth Lakeman, Cara Dillon, Levellers, Kate Rusby and Show of Hands, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman have consolidated themselves as pillars of modern British folk.

Vice-Chairman Alan Cole said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have Kathryn and Sean at our folk club. They have been at the top of my list since we started and I was beginning to think that it would never happen! But we’ve got there in the end. They are such an amazing duo, and it will be a pleasure to see them perform in Downend.”

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be melodeon player OLLIE KING, whose new album 'Gambit' has just been released.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 17 February 2017, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. We are anticipating a sell-out, so do book soon! There will be a full bar, stocking Severn Cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks, locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based brewery GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO. and, for the first time, chocolate goodies from NAUGHTY BROWNIE, the brainchild of Downend entrepreneur Laura Lovelock (who's dad just happens to be our fabulous sound engineer Richard!). You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket as part of the our drive to be more ecologicaly aware.

There is a Facebook event where you can keep up with all the latest news about the evening HERE.