The first ever Hartlepool Folk Festival will bring together some of the most established names in folk, including Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick, Vin Garbutt, Chris Wood, Dick Gaughan, Alistair Anderson. Teesside’s favourite harmony singers, The Wilsons, fresh from their performances in Sting’s The Last Ship in New York and Gateshead, and their own 40th Anniversary concert at The Sage, will give several performances in their role as the festival’s Patrons. There are also a host of up-and-coming names, such as Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker and Talisk, both winners at the BBC Folk Awards 2015.
The festival will feature special events that celebrate the area and the wider region, such as Sea:Coal, a project in which nationally-acclaimed songwriters will take inspiration from the new Durham Coastal Path from Hartlepool to Seaham. Featuring Jackie Oates, Ed Pickford, Kate Young, Findlay Napier and Chumbawamba’s Boff Whalley, the songs they produce will be performed during the festival. This project is produced in partnership with Durham Heritage Coast. Come All Ye Bold Miners, a concert commemorating the end of the Miners’ Strike, brings together the legendary Dick Gaughan, Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band, and a host of North East singers including Johnny Handle and Bert Draycott. One Night in Birtley, hosted by Brian and Doreen Henderson, celebrates the legacy of Birtley Folk Club, which closed its doors in December after 52 years. It features special guests including Bob Davenport and The Wilsons.
Other events have been programmed because they are particularly appropriate to Hartlepool. Alistair Anderson’s A Lindisfarne Gospel, a suite for Northumbrian pipes, harp and cello, will be performed in St Hilda’s Church, with its ancient connections to Lindisfarne. Under Her Skin, by Debs Newbold and Laurel Swift, is a magical retelling of the story of the selkie – just right for Hartlepool, with its local colonies of seals.
Programmed events will take place in the Borough Hall, St Mary’s Church, St Hilda’s Church, the Duke of Cleveland, and various Headland pubs. There will be plenty of free sessions and singarounds in the pubs, plus guest spots from local folk clubs and Hartlepool’s renowned PinDrop nights. A food festival/market in the Town Square will feature buskers and morris dancers, and will make the festival ideal for day visitors.
There will be workshops, talks, screenings, and lots of opportunities for local people to get involved, including a programme of events especially for families and younger visitors. Jackie Oates, whose music is featured at the Lush chain of shops and spas (she even has a product named after her!), is doing a special session on lullabies aimed at little ones and their grownups. It will be free for local people to attend. A screening of Still the Enemy Within, supported by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, will also be free for local residents.