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May Edition


By the time the May edition goes out, together with this month's Northern Sky Vaults radio show, I will probably be on my way to the Wath Festival, which takes place each May Day bank holiday weekend. Over the years I've become personally involved with the festival in various guises; either sitting on the committee for a while, performing a couple of times on the big stage, doing my 'roving reporter' duties, taking photographs both on and off stage, helping to judge the Young Performer's Competition and for the last few years, serving as the MC on the main stage, the face of the festival if you like. The event has been going for over 40 years and is divided into two festivals running alongside one another. Firstly, a community festival involving local schools, dance displays including Wath Morris, samba bands, stalls and side shows, together with the traditional bun-throwing ceremony, which involves the reading of Thomas Tuke's will in the town square, followed by a march up the hill towards the parish church, whereupon 40 dozen 'penny loaves' are chucked off the steeple to the crowds below. A spectacle to behold. Then there's the concerts that take place at Montgomery Hall, which this year includes appearances by Show of Hands, Edward II, Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra, Joe Topping, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker and many more.

In the week leading up to the festival, we saw some ritual back-slapping at the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, which once again took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Northern Sky contributor Phil Carter was at the awards, whilst I sat in front of the PC at home with a glass of wine watching the results unfold. As always I was thrilled to see many of the artists we have recently covered in these pages getting up on stage to receive awards, including Rhiannon Giddens (Folk Singer of the Year), Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman (Best Duo), The Young’uns (Best Group), The Unthanks (Best Album), Sam Kelly (Horizon Award), Andy Cutting (Musician of the Year), The Rheingans Sisters (Best Original Track), Sam Lee (Best Traditional Track) along with some special awards, Joan Armatrading and Norma Waterson (Lifetime Achievement Award), John McCusker (Good Tradition Award). Sandy Denny was also inducted into the Hall of Fame, a place the singer and brilliant songwriter justly deserves. The only award winner who hasn't so far featured in these pages is Brighde Chaimbeul, who received the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. But there's plenty of time now for that to happen soon. Congratulations to everyone who took part.

April wasn't the busiest of months in terms of concerts, gigs and festivals, but I did have the pleasure of meeting up with Mississippi singer Bronwynne Brent in Doncaster just before her show at the Roots Music Club in the town, which is reviewed in the May edition. Martin Stephenson also played at the Heeley Institute in Sheffield and was on top form throughout his two-hour set, a review of which can also be found in the reviews section.

As always, the letterbox has been flapping away as CDs fell onto the doormat, whilst Dropbox catered for another influx of digital goodies. New CD reviews include M.A.K.U. Soundsystem, Bellowhead, Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar, Nikki Talley, Saint Sister, Will Pound and Eddy Jay, Gerry McNeice, Pilgrims' Way and Kitty Macfarlane, to name but a few, all of which have been reviewed for the May edition.

Finally, there's some interesting Northern Sky Choice events coming up, which we shall be covering over the next few weeks including Courtney Pine, Teddy Thompson, Kronos Quartet and Shepley Spring Festival, so lots to look forward to next month.

Thanks for popping by and I hope to see you at Wath and Shepley festivals.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky