Downend Folk Club’s Summer programme kicks off this month with a visit from one of the most well-loved and respected figures of today’s contemporary roots and folk scene.

During the past decade, JIM CAUSLEY has been nominated no less than six times for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award; last year he was nominated as “Singer of the Year” at the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards; won the Spiral Earth Singer of the Year award in 2014; presented his own folk music show on BBC Radio Devon; and in 2015 he worked with BBC TV historian Dr Sam Willis to create the music for his show 'Highwaymen, Outlaws and Villains' and was asked to perform his song about Dartmoor tin mining 'Pride of the Moor' on BBC TV's Countryfile - Dartmoor Special.


Cornish filmmaker Jane Darke made a specially commissioned biographical film about the life of Charles Causley this year (2017) which aired on BBC4 TV on 1st October as part of the Centenary celebrations. The soundtrack to the film was composed entirely by Jim and featured music from his 2013 album ‘Cyprus Well’.

A prolific collaborator, Jim is hugely admired for his work with iconic groups The Devil’s Interval and Mawkin:Causley as well as playing, touring and recording alongside Waterson:Carthy, John McCusker, Eddie Reader, Graham Coxson, Shirley Collins, Michael Morpurgo, Show of Hands, Kate Rusby, David Rotheray of Beautiful South fame and many more. He was described by Mojo Magazine as “the finest singer of his generation” and they put Forgotten Kingdom in their Top Ten Folk Albums of 2016 list. West Country father of folk Geoff Lakeman described Causley as possessing “A voice in a million” in a recent interview in the Western Morning News, some accolade indeed!

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be singer/songwriter HANNAH WOOF. At only 18 years old, Hannah has already been played on BBC Radio 1, performed to sell out crowds and released an “Enthralling” debut EP Sleepless Nights.

Growing up in Warwickshire, Hannah began writing and singing songs from an early age. As well as singing 60s and 70s classics, her own songs showed a maturity beyond her years. She took these songs into the retirement homes of the area to delight audiences, growing in confidence all the time. She is currently writing material for her next release, due in 2018, and gigging around the country to captivated audiences.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 21st September 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 Severn 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 don't do shows in August... but this one was too good not to get involved in! We have partnered with BRISTOL FOLK HOUSE to bring one of the hottest international acts to Bristol as part of their Summer tour!

Meet THE FITZGERALDS - a family group consisting of fiddling and step dancing sensations Tom, Kerry & Julie Fitzgerald. These siblings, from Canada’s renowned Ottawa Valley, have come a long way from their small town roots. Featuring 3-time Canadian Grandmaster Fiddle Champions and Ontario Open Step Dance Champions, this unique act features high-energy fiddling and mind-blowing step dancing. Joining the siblings on guitar, lead vocals, and onstage antics is Nate Douglas (guitarist for Cape Breton’s Natalie MacMaster in 2013). It is the rare combination of exceptional musicianship, incomparable step dancing, audience interaction, evident love of performing, and genuine sibling connection that resonates with audiences of all ages and sets this group apart.

The Fitzgeralds were raised in a musical household, and toured internationally with their family band “Everything Fitz”. Growing up in the Ottawa Valley, they were immersed in the rich tradition of Canadian Old Time fiddling and step dancing that evolved with the arrival of Irish, Scottish and French immigrants. Over time, they have developed their art form to include various styles of fiddle music including Celtic, jazz, bluegrass, French-Canadian, and pop. They have also explored other forms of dance including tap and Irish. The siblings continue to push boundaries by fusing traditional and modern styles of fiddle and dance to create their own unique sound and style. Their creativity and passion for experimentation has led them to compose original tunes and arrangements, resulting in a groovy and catchy new sound and look that appeals to all ages.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Bristol Folk House on Friday 31st July 2018, are available from the venue or online HERE. Members tickets are on-sale now in the Members Only area, using the username and password that you were given when you signed up for membership. They are priced at £15 each in advance (£13 for members), or £17 on the door. There will be a full bar in the cafe area. 

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Some things are worth the wait.

It’s been a long time coming, has the visit of HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE to Downend Folk Club. This balmy, showery Summer’s evening is the third time that the duo have been booked to appear; both previous times have had to be rearranged for various reasons before they were even announced. Even this one was briefly in danger of not happening, as Hannah and Ben hit serious Summer holiday traffic on the M25 and, at one point, it seemed unlikely they’d make it.

But make it they did, and worth the wait it was. And then some. “We’re going to have a party,” Hannah tells a nicely full Frenchay Village Hall. “A very quiet, restrained party.” She meant it as a joke, but in actual fact, it’s a great description of what was to come."

The pair, and their myriad guitars, dobros and dulcimers, huddle together around a single microphone, reminiscent of many of the finest bluegrass acts of years gone by. Yet the sound they make, whilst tinged with the merest hint of Americana, is far from bluegrass. It’s a thing of soaring beauty, as their two contrasting voices twist and entwine together in stunning harmonies, and their gentle, sensitive musicianship lifts the whole thing to a magical level.

A review in a well-known folk music magazine, in describing Hannah and Ben as “spellbinding”, said of the pair that they were clearly “born to sing and play together”, and that sense of the meeting of two musicians destined to be a duo is tangible throughout two halves of evocative soundscapes. Hannah’s voice, clear as a bell and at times almost operatic, soars to the rafters, and is complimented perfectly by Ben’s gravelly tones. They wind their way through some traditional songs, including the stand-out I’ll Weave My Love A Garland, while their version of Woody Guthrie’s Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key is simply breathtaking.

It would be easy to lose oneself in all of this, and one frequently does... but Hannah and Ben also have a warm and engaging manner on-stage, and a lively, quirky sense of humour that means that there are as many laughs as their are gasps at the beauty. Their CDs don’t have their names on them, and neither do the t-shirts. “It’s a marketing nightmare”, says Ben. But it doesn’t stop the crowds forming a long, orderly queue to spend their money at the end. One regular summed it up: “An exceptional night, even by Downend Folk Club standards!”

Opening the evening’s entertainment was Exeter-based singer-songwriter BEN MORGAN-BROWN, who delivered the perfect support slot. Bringing to mind luminaries such as John Martyn, Nick Drake and Bert Jansch (whom Ben later said was an inspiration in his musical journey; no surprise there!), his songs were well-crafted and delivered with a crystal clear, gently lulling voice, and a dexterity on the guitar as good as anyone seen at the club before. One to watch, and he, too, proved popular with the gathered faithful.

But it was to Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage that the evening rightly belonged. It was a long time coming, but it was so, so worth the wait.

Words: Ant Miles
Photo: Chris Dobson