We are thrilled to reveal our brilliant programme for Autumn/Winter 2019. We honestly believe that this might just be our best lineup yet as we continue with our promise to bring the very best folk, roots and acoustic music to South Gloucestershire. 

And we've also got exciting news about where you can get tickets, which will even save you a bit of money! Read on...

Kicking off the official programme will be MIDNIGHT SKYRACER on Friday 20th September as we make a welcome return to DOWNEND SCHOOL. An IBMA Momentum Award nominated bluegrass band, Midnight Skyracer have been tearing up the UK bluegrass and folk scene since their inception just over two years ago. Their all star lineup and exciting live performances have sent them racing skywards at an astounding pace right from the start, with Leanne Thorose’s powerhouse vocals and driving mandolin; Tabitha Agnew’s sweet voice and virtuosic banjo playing; Eleanor Wilkie’s rock solid bass grooves; Laura Carrivick’s flair, being equally adept on both fiddle and dobro; and twin sister Charlotte’s agility on the guitar, with both sisters filling in the vocal harmonies. The evening's entertainment will kick-off with a set from highly-rated folk/country singer-songwriter CHARLIE LIMM.

Back at our FRENCHAY VILLAGE HALL HQ, our October event, on Friday 18th, will feature GEORGIA LEWIS, whose exciting rise to prominence was recognised with a nomination for the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards last year. In 2015 Georgia released her self-titled 5-track EP, and since then she has performed at festivals and folk clubs and received air-play on national and internet radio stations. In 2017 Georgia released her debut album The Bird Who Sings Freedom, recorded in her parent's kitchen, featuring five musicians Georgia plays whistles, accordion, piano, guitar, sings and has been seen tapping out various traditional dancing styles. She will be joined on stage at Downend by a full six-piece band (it'll be a squeeze, but we'll manage thanks to the new stage!), and support on the night will come from another rising star, ROSIE HODGSON.

Friday 15th November will see a performance from TALISK at DOWNEND SCHOOL. In their five years, the Scottish firebrands have stacked up several major awards for their explosively energetic yet artfully woven sound, including 2018’s Belhaven Bursary for Innovation & 2017’s Folk Band of the Year both at the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, and a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award. Mohsen Amini – the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ Musician of the Year 2018, Hayley Keenan and Graeme Armstrong seamlessly meld concertina, fiddle and guitar to produce a multi-layered, enthralling signature that has effortlessly captivated audiences from the USA to Australia, and throughout the UK. The release of their hotly anticipated second album, Beyond (in October 2018) was met with a five-star ‘Top of the World’ review in Songlines, praising the band as “incredibly infectious and endearing… fresh, invigorating, accomplished and playfully frisky.” CALUM GILLIGAN will open the evening with his infectious mix of traditional and self-penned songs.

Last year's Christmas concert will live long in the memory, and our 2019 festive event will be no different as we welcome folk superstar JACKIE OATES to CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 20th December. Jackie first performed at the club with Mike Cosgrave as long ago as July 2015, so when we heard that she was doing a Christmas Tour with a full band lineup, our minds were made up instantly! Jackie's is a name synonymous with the reinvigoration of English folk music, beguiling audiences with a delicate balance of tradition and reinvention. Her mellifluous voice and imaginatively plaintive fiddle style has won her several BBC Folk Awards during a 10-year recording career that began as a member of the nascent Unthanks and has continued with six acclaimed solo albums. To quote the illustrious Mojo magazine, Jackie Oates enthrals. She will get everyone in the Christmas spirit by performing a selection of Christmas and winter carols and songs as well as songs from her new album The Joy of Living. Opening the evening with some equally festive songs will be the acoustic bass-wielding THOM ASHWORTH.

Each concert starts at 8.00pm, with the doors at each venue opening 7.30pm. Tickets are on-sale now HERE. We're offering the Season Ticket option again, which means you can buy tickets for all four gigs in one go and avoid those pesky booking fees. You can also get tickets from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend.

If you login to buy tickets for the Autumn/Winter 2019 Programme, you'll notice a few changes. That's because we've agreed a link-up with Bristol-based ticketing and promotions company HEADFIRST BRISTOL, which we're very pleased to announce.

The main difference you'll notice straight away is that booking fees are significantly lower than the old system with WeGotTickets... generally 65p rather than £1.00... quite a saving over time. But we're also pleased about this because Headfirst is a local company, started by one man in his spare room, which very much fits with our ethos of supporting local businesses.

You may find that you need to create an account, and we hope that this won't put you off... it's been done for all the right reasons and we hope that you'll back our decision to move our ticketing to this great initiative. Of course, you can still avoid ALL booking fees by buying a season ticket online, or by heading to MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend... but if you're an online buyer, we're certain that this will suit you down to the ground!

For any further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We’ve met KITTY MACFARLANE before, here at Downend Folk Club.

We first encountered her some three years ago, when she opened for Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith as an early-twenty-something. She’d just released her first EP and her potential was clear to see. Then she came back in January 2018 to open for her friend Blair Dunlop. She’s also sat in the audience a fair few times since she relocated to Bristol.

Yes, we’ve met before.

But the Kitty Macfarlane we see before us tonight is a different proposition altogether. This is a mature, considered and thoughtful performance of some truly beautifully-crafted songs from an artist whose development has been mirrored by an astronomical rise in her profile since the release of her debut album, Namer of Clouds, late last year.

 

It’s mostly from that record that this evening’s songs are taken. The theme of nature and wildlife is almost ever-present in Kitty’s two enchanting sets; there are tales of mythical giants falling in love and then falling over to form the Avon Gorge (Avona & The Giant); beachcombing (Wrecking Days); elderly Italian ladies spinning fine material from sea-creatures (Sea Silk); and, of course, a song about Kitty’s favourite animal, accompanied by many facts and the appearance of temporary eel tattoos (yes, you read that right!) on the merch desk (Glass Eel).

There are a plethora of acoustic guitar wielding singer-songwriters out there, so to get noticed takes something special. Since we last saw her, Kitty has added the clever use of recorded “found sound” to her set. Her voice is crystal-clear… you really can hear every. single. word... precise and yet natural. She soars to the heights of the Frenchay Village Hall rafters, and in the next breath, gathers in the near-capacity audience with hushed, almost whispered tones. Her guitar playing is sensitive and skilled. These things set her apart on their own. But it’s the songwriting that really grabs you. Kitty writes songs about things that matter. The afformentioned Glass Eel isn’t really about eels, you see… it’s about freedom of movement and the urge to travel. These are songs that both make you sing (for months afterwards) and make you think (possibly for even longer). And she can tell a tale and write a catchy tune, too, as songs like Dawn & Dark and Man, Friendship prove beyond all doubt. There are even a couple of traditional numbers for the dyed-in-the-wool folkies (Morgan’s Pantry, Frozen Charlotte).

Downend Folk Club’s long-stated dual aims are to bring the best of the country’s emerging folk, roots and acoustic music to South Gloucestershire, and also to give opportunities to young musicians just starting out, and the evening’s opening act LOUIS CAMPBELL definitely falls into that category. With his deft and impressive finger-style guitar playing (he’s currently under the tutelage of a certain Martin Simpson, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised) and an interesting and varied singing style, including a more than acceptable falsetto, this is definitely a young man to watch. Are You Wearing Socks Over There? is the highlight of a hugely promising set.

But, on her third visit, this is Kitty’s night. When we see artists on a regular basis, it’s occasionally easy to fail to spot just how far they’ve come. She left us in no doubt this evening. If October’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards don’t feature the name Kitty Macfarlane, then there’s precious little justice in the world.

Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Jo Elkington

Our stunning Summer programme continues this month with the return of a familiar face who is now one of the hottest properties on the UK folk scene and beyond. 

KITTY MACFARLANE has twice played support slots at the club in the past, but now it’s her time to step into the spotlight... something she’s been doing on a national level since the release of her debut album last Autumn.

Kitty is a songwriter and guitarist, originally from Somerset but now based right here in Bristol, whose music is rich with visual imagery and written with an eco-eye. Her trademark lies in remarkably mature songwriting, a marked empathy with the environment and a strong sense of place. Carried by a clear voice "controlled yet wild" (Folk Radio), her lyrics touch on intervention and rewilding, climate change and migration, woman’s age-old relationship with textiles and the land, and the changing face of the natural world. From the starling murmurations on the Somerset Levels to the lowly eel's epic transatlantic migration, the coasts and estuaries of the South West and the small part we ourselves play in a much bigger picture, her songs are bound by the underlying theme of mankind's relationship with the wild. Cerebral and topical, honest and immediate, these are not throwaway lyrics or everyday melodies but thought-provoking and evocative compositions with wonderfully crafted soundscapes. 

Her debut album Namer Of Clouds was one of The Guardian's Best Folk Albums of 2018, and has seen airplay across BBC Radio 2, 3, 4 and 6 Music. Last year she was invited to guest- present two episodes of BBC Radio 4's Tweet of the Day and Kitty performed live in session on BBC Radio 2 at the beginning of 2019. 

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be LOUIS CAMPBELL, a 19-year old guitarist and singer- songwriter from Bath. After two years in the National Youth Folk Ensemble he is now studying at the Royal Northern College of Music with Martin Simpson and Craig Ogden and he was also lucky enough to be one of three recipients of the first Alan Surtees Trust grants for young folk musicians. Louis blends guitar influences from all over with a particular interest in the English fingerstyle tradition, bluegrass flatpicking, jazz and minimalism, and is keen to not only reflect his traditional folk background in his songwriting but modern influences ranging everywhere from Bon Iver to Radiohead and This is The Kit. He has had the opportunities to share a stage with the likes of Martin Carthy and John Doyle and has played at many festivals and venues across the country. 

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 21st June 2019, 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 our drive to be more environmentally aware. 

Most of our events sell out, so please do buy your tickets in advance. 

For further information, please visit the club’s website, find us on FACEBOOK, TWITTER or INSTAGRAM, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.