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Folk legend Peggy Seeger sets tone for week-long Whitby Festival
THOUSANDS of singers, musicians, dancers and fans of folk music are set to descend on Whitby later in the month for this year’s Whitby Folk Week, which runs from Saturday, August 18, until Friday, August 24.
The week-long festival, which is now in its 47th year, is regarded as one of the best in the country, having taken on the trappings of a tradition in its own right.
Whitby Folk Week celebrates the traditional music, dance and song of the British Isles with more than 600 events in 30-plus venues, featuring workshops, concerts, singarounds, dancing, musicians’ sessions, street entertainment, ceilidhs and children’s events, plus a large craft fair and extensive ‘fringe’ events that blossom spontaneously.
The line-up always features a huge variety of artists, and this year the festival welcomes legendary American folk singer and activist Peggy Seeger, who appears in concert on Thursday, August 23.
Half-sister of folk revivalist Pete Seeger and sister of Mike Seeger, daughter of Ruth Crawford Seeger and partner of Ewan MacColl, who wrote First Time Ever I Saw Your Face for her, Peggy is considered to be one of North America’s finest female folk singers.
A multi-instrumentalist, Peggy is known for her excellent renditions of Anglo-American folksongs and for her activist songwriting, especially in the fields of feminism and ecology.
Her best-known pieces are Gonna Be An Engineer and The Ballad Of Springhill, the latter of which is rapidly becoming regarded as a traditional song.
The MacColl-Seeger work was prodigious in its scope. From 1959 onwards, they encouraged and set standards for the burgeoning UK folk revival; they scoured the USA and UK field recordings and anthologies for little-known traditional songs, trained other singers and involved them in political-musical documentary theatre and instigated the revolutionary Radio Ballad form.
Other artists appearing at Whitby Folk Week include Stradivarius, The Wilson Family, Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies, The Spiers Family, Grace Notes, Johnny Handle and Chris Hendry, Roaring Forties and many more. As well as the usual packed programme of events taking place throughout the festival, this year’s Whitby Folk Week is hosting a number of special shows, including Bagpuss The Stage Show featuring Sandra Kerr, John Faulkner, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, plus the big marmalade cat himself.
It was Sandra and John who did the music, songs and voices for the BBC series.
Other events include The Life And Songs Of Geordie Ridley, who composed the Blaydon Races 150 years ago; The Homecoming, a celebration of Australian bush poetry and song, brought back by performers to their ‘home’ country; and Purple Acres, a journey through the Cleveland Hills and North York Moors with The Ironopolis Singers and songwriter Graeme Miles.
Meanwhile, the themed ceilidh is based on pirates and hosted by York band Blackbeard’s Teaparty.
“Once again the festival will be the largest in the UK for storytelling with storyteller laureate Taffy Thomas, Xanthe Gresham Ruthie Boycott Garnett, Ursula Holden Gill, Tom Goodale, Bob Pegg, Guto Dafis, Roisin Murray and Nell Phoenix,” said Barry Evans, one of the organisers of Whitby Folk Week.
“We also have performance poets from the UK and from Australia.
“This year we are also pleased to welcome back after many years the man who started Whitby as a folk festival, Tony Foxworthy,” he added.
For more details about Whitby Folk Week and to book tickets, visit www.whitbyfolk.co.uk