Folk happenings this week...

There's only one folk happening this week in Manchester - For Folk's Sake on Thursday with Jim Causley!

I'm incredibly excited - as you might have gathered - as I'm a BIG fan of Jim. And then it turns out that Daniel Land, of psych shoegazers Daniel Land And The Modern Painters (and who travelled with Air Cav to Holland last year), grew up with Jim in Devon! I won't pretend that I wasn't starstruck... Hopefully I'll be able to conceal it on Thursday. Daniel Land will also be playing at the gig, with a helping hand from Jayn Hanna of The Steals. And to top it all off, my good friend, Christopher Knowles, will be back for a return visit. I'm looking forward to hearing some of his new material. (Kro Bar, Thursday 2nd September, £5 / £3, doors 7.30pm)

OK, so I lied. There are, of course, other folky happenings this week in Manchester. Bella Hardy, of whom I've gushed about here many a time, will be playing FOR FREE at the Bridgewater Hall on Friday. The only catch? It's at lunchtime, so be prepared to suck up to your boss to let you out...

And have a look at the latest copy of EDS, the magazine from the English Folk Dance and Song Society. (Though the latest copy hadn't been updated online at the time of writing - it should have a picture of Fay Hield on the cover.) There are a couple of reviews by me - Alasdair Roberts and Jack McNeill and Charlie Heys' new ones - and a great one about Twelfth Day's Northern Quarter: 'There can be no doubting their outstanding musicianship and the quality of their singing voices or the considerable hard work that has been put into these arrangements...'

See you on Thursday!

Where's me fashion knowledge?

As people who know me in the flesh will be able to testify, I know very little about fashion. However, I've found myself unexpectedly contacting some of the biggest (read - most daunting, scary ladies with exquisite quadruple-barrelled names) fashion houses in the land in order to let them know about the very latest in bespoke fashion, Wheres Me Jumper. (Yes, the lack of apostrophe is intentional - it's all about url speak, you know)

Wheres Me Jumper encourages customers to design their own jumper which will be forever immortalised in wool, handknitted in Manchester. Beki's had some very exciting commissions to date, including one from Bloc Party drummer, Matt Tong, which are showcased on her website

Unsurprisingly, fashionistas (OK, that word probably really irritates the REAL fashion set, but hey, I never get to use that word) have gone mad for WMJ, with coverage being generated on blogs and via social media. Watch this space...

Morris: A Life With Bells On

Morris is all too familiar with being the butt of jokes. But here, in Morris: A Life With Bells On, the jokes are very much welcomed, embraced and perpetuated.

In the style of the mockumentary, we meet Derecq Twist, one of the most revered dancers in the country and Squire of Millsham Morris. The narrator swiftly becomes attached to this man of simple pleasures: Morris, cider, tractor mechanics and cribbage. The Twist family are well known as a Morris dynasty, and we are soon introduced to the vigorous training regime in which Derecq and his fellow dancers are subject to. No wonder Millsham Morris are held in such high regard.

Training with basketball players and finely tuning their bells and weighted hankies are just part and parcel of their drills, where their commitment to Morris presides over day jobs and love lives.

But Derecq is also a boundary-pusher, much to The Morris Circle’s dismay, and he is not content with dancing the ‘prescribed dances’. His attempts to bring his dance into the twenty-first century soon bring about his side’s downfall.

Derecq finds himself on the other side of the Atlantic, reduced to dancing ‘the devil’s dance’.

Morris: A Life With Bells On knows Morris inside out. The writers, producers and possibly even the actors hold Morris dear, enjoying and revelling in its quirks. However, and more importantly, it understands perceptions of the dance, and its position in modern day Britain – and the oft-publicised challenges it faces longterm.

And the film tackles it with abandon, offering no solution but affection and hilarity.

It's my birthday so I have an announcement!

(One other than I'm now a quarter-of-a-century old... bleurgh.)

Anyway, For Folk's Sake will be curating our own stage at the very wonderful Postcards From Manchester festival on Saturday 18th September at the Deaf Institute. Organised by a collective of some of the finest promoters in the city, Postcards brings together local and national indiepop bands all under one roof.

Now, I'm certainly not au fait with indiepop, apart from the jangly slices I witness at some of the nights I frequent in Manchester, so I'm really looking forward to putting sounds to some of the names I hear my friends raving about. And bringing some folk-influenced music to the proceedings, of course.

Representing the folk world will be:


Samson and Delilah


Glass Ankle

And I'm told that our stage - the basement! whoop! - will also host an array of stalls with more indie merchandise than you can shake a stick at. Nice!

Get your tickets here, read more about it here and come along!

On The Fiddle

I don't know if you know, but as well as writing about folk music, putting on folk music and holding down a full time job, I also play the violin. I mainly play with Air Cav, a Manchester-based indie / psychedelic band, but over the years have had the fortune to play with lots of interesting musicians. I've recently had the pleasure of contributing some sounds to Junkboy's latest album, Koyo, which received 4 stars in Mojo. I'm not at all surprised as the album's really gorgeous, saturated with intricate melodies but not so over-the-top that it feels like arrangement and orchestration and nothing else. You know what I mean.

And the violin has crept into my latest round of book proposals. Now, I'm always thinking up book proposals - I could write a list of my ideas I've had since I was a small child - but I rarely get on with either proposing the book in question or writing the thing. But I was thinking - would a book about the violin, more importantly playing the violin, make a good book? I've interviewed loads and loads of violinists - mainly folk fiddle players - over the years, many for the inimitable FiddleOn magazine.

And I love the idea of collating some of these themes that come up time and time again into a book: why the violin attracted them in the first place, how they learnt, when they learnt, classical learning vs self-taught, etc, etc. I'd hope it'd be a nice, fat compendium focused on giving fiddle players the recognition they deserve whilst simultaneously exploring more about the role of the violin in folk and popular music. (I've recently interviewed Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre, and I'd kill to interview The National's violinist... I'd definitely have to branch out more to that side of the spectrum)

Anyway, the bottom line is - would anyone, save the fiddle massive, want to read such a book? Would it make for interesting reading? Or is this a case of my rather nice interests fuelling my book proposal list again?

Announcing our autumn and winter programme!

Bit weeny, that, isn't it? OK, here's the full run down:

Thursday September 2nd - Jim Causley, Christopher Knowles, Daniel Land and Jayn Hannah (The Steals)

Thursday October 7th - Harp And A Monkey, The Minnikins, Johnny5thWheel&thecowards

Wednesday 20th October - special 2nd birthday show with The Shee and We Are Willow Part Two

Thursday 11th November - Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts, The Daydream Club

Thursday December 2nd - A Very Ceilidh Christmas with Monster Ceilidh Band, Jack McNeill and Charlie Heys, and Marry Another

Aint she a cracker? We've got local musicians, musicians from Devon, Birmingham, Newcastle, Yorkshire, Canada, London, established acts, emerging acts, people we've never met before... we're very chuffed! And all will take place at our new home, upstairs in Kro Bar, opposite the University of Manchester.

Except for some very exciting news... FFS has been asked to curate a stage at the marvellous Postcards From Manchester festival on Saturday September 18th. We'll let you know all the details as soon as we do(!), but for now, here's a link to their facebook presence.

FFS autumn programme, London last week... and more

I'll be announcing the For Folk's Sake autumn programme and our new venue very, very shortly... so keep your eyes peeled! We've got some incredibly exciting artists coming over to Manchester from all over the place, and we're very excited indeed. Especially as we'll soon have our brand spanking new PA system courtesy of the Arts Council!

Thank you to all who came to For Folk's Sake's London debut last week, hosted by the indescribable Magpie's Nest crew. You've heard me whitter on about them already, but they really are worthy of such praise! We had a packed room upstairs at the Queen's Head and Ottersgear, Rebecca Sharp, Eliza And The Bear and Mama Rosin entertained delightfully. Let's hope they invite us back some time! hint hint wink wink.

And stepping away from folk for a second, I've recently had the pleasure of a phone conversation with Chuck from Crocodiles, as documented here at the The Quietus.

There's also a really exciting new initiative in Manchester: Manchester Scene Wipe. These guys produce high quality impromptu videos of visiting and local bands and artists. A great resource for all music lovers, really. To celebrate their 100th video, they're putting on their favourite acts at the Deaf Institute next Thursday (12th August) so do pop down and witness Cats In Paris, Denis Jones, Brown Brogues and With That Knife, plus a DJ set from the people responsible for the best night out in town, Underachievers.