Bunch of Fives: Matthew Bannister (Folk on Foot podcast). | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Folk on Foot is an award winning podcast that brings together host, Matthew Bannister’s three passions – folk music, walking and telling stories in sound. It features many of the UK’s top folk artists who have walked, talked, played and sung in spectacular locations as part of the podcast. In the recently released third season, The Unthanks chat whilst strolling along the beach at Low Newton by the Sea and have a sing song in local pub the Old Ship in Seahouses. Here, Matthew gives us his top five fish ‘n’ chip shops that he has come across on his travels.

You might think that wandering the country meeting up with our finest folk musicians to walk, talk and listen to them play and sing in the glorious landscapes that have inspired their music is an easy job.  Far from it. The producer’s paranoid about wind noise drowning out the music; the film-maker’s terrified about water getting into their equipment and I find it incredibly challenging keeping up the pretence of being intelligent during a conversation that can last four or five hours.  So at the end of it all we are knackered and ravenous. As we often record by the sea there is only one solution: fish and chips. We’ve eaten Britain’s national dish the length and breadth of the country. So here’s a Bunch of Five of the best battered meals we’ve had while on the road with Folk on Foot:

The Rio Fish n Chip Shop, Brixham, Devon – Sunburnt and dehydrated after recording with the great guitarist, singer and songwriter John Smith in fierce mid-day sunshine on the top of the cliffs, we clambered back down in search of sustenance. I spotted a fish n chip shop beside the harbour, but John knew better. He plunged into a narrow back street, insisting that only the Rio would do.   And he was right. Although the space was small, there was a big, friendly welcome as we stashed guitar and recording equipment on the next table, slurped down vital pints of ice cold lemonade and then fell on fresh fish in crisp, airy batter with fat chips and mushy peas. .As John’s song nearly goes: “Saved My Life.” Best for: a hidden gem.

Trenchers, Whitby -En route to meet Eliza Carthy and her first family of folk at their home in Robin Hood’s Bay, we stopped in Whitby, seduced by  this fish n chip palace, with mirrored walls and ornate cornicing, serving large numbers of hungry diners with efficiency and charm. And when they handed us the dessert menu it would have been very rude not to indulge in their enormous ice cream sundaes, wouldn’t it? Best for: number of calories consumed. 

Wetherspoons, Hartlepool Needs must. After four hours tramping round the historic Hartlepool headland with the Young’uns, we stumbled into the pub where they used to run a folk club. “Food’s off,” said the barmaid. “And we haven’t any crisps”. Pausing only to record a song in the back bar, we high-tailed it back into town and hit the Wetherspoons, our stomachs rumbling. Within seconds of placing our order at the bar, the fish n chips were on our table.  Best for: fast, cheap and cheerful.

The Ship Inn, Low Newton By the Sea Rachel Unthank told us this was her favourite spot for a walk and we could see why. Sweeping views over the rolling sea to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance, a wide, inviting sandy beach and a picturesque square of whitewashed cottages. But what’s this? In one corner stands The Ship Inn with a fine selection of real ales and, be still my beating heart, the best crab sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. Not fish n chips to be sure, but just what you need after twenty-three verses of “The Flower of Northumberland.” Best on: brown bread.

The Kinlochbervie Hotel, KinlochbervieThe most northerly port on the west coast of Scotland, just round the corner from the astonishing remote beauty of Sandwood Bay where, four miles from the nearest road, a white sand beach unfurls, bridging the view from the Am Buachaille sea stack  to the left and looming Cape Wrath on the right. Waiting to walk there with the fiddle player and composer Duncan Chisholm we ordered the obligatory fish n chips in the hotel dining room. Apart from the fact that the portions were generous, I can’t tell you much about them. I was too distracted by the glorious sight of the sun sinking lower and lower into the sea across the harbour, spreading its red cloak across the sky. When I looked back at my plate, the fish n chips had disappeared. Best for: the view. 

Folk on Foot is available on all good podcast apps or at www.folkonfoot.com

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