Focus: Peg Powler | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Who are you and where are you from?
I’m Sara Dennis, a musician and writer, originally from Guisborough, forever from Teesside!

What is it you do?
I write songs, sing and play ukulele and harmonium in folk and blues band, Peg Powler. I also perform as part of Bob Beagrie’s Project Lono, a spoken word and music collaboration. I write poetry and prose, curate Folklines and deliver music, folklore and local history sessions throughout Teesside.

How long have you been doing it?
I know it is cliché, but I have been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. My father and grandfather were musicians and music teachers, so it was just something that felt very natural to me and I was lucky to have the opportunity to study music from being a small child. Then following a big life change around 2010, I started to sing and write songs, performing at folk clubs, poetry events and festivals. We formed Peg Powler in 2015, releasing our album, Northern Lines, in 2016 and our new EP, Two Midnights in a Jug, in April 2022.

What inspires you?
I love social histories, especially those ‘forgotten histories; particularly those from a feminist perspective. Also, folklore and urban myths, historic events, alternative fairy tales and unsolved mysteries. I’m a real book nerd and was a librarian for a number of years. Curating the Middlesbrough Literary Festival, booking artists and musicians to perform, coaxed me back into the world of music performance. Libraries have been a huge influence to me and so many people in a variety of ways. Long may they continue to be at the heart of our communities.

I enjoy discovering music from the past, things I may have missed, mainly music from before my time. Songs with timeless themes and messages in their lyrics, accounts of affairs that were current at the time they were written, that are now historical and often cyclical, written for us to learn from. And when the themes of these old songs are still relevant, we have to keep singing them, because those messages aren’t always getting through.

Tell us about your music.
I tend to err on the dark side when it comes to writing, and I love singing murder ballads. They’re such passionate songs, often telling tales of severe injustice, and sweet revenge. And they are usually songs to be belted out and I love a good belter!

I’ve written and/or sang about women from history such as American poet, Emily Dickinson and Co. Durham poisoner, Mary Ann Cotton; women from Folklore – Peg Powler, Katie Cruel, Pretty Polly and songs from my own experience, in particular my battle song: A Ballad of Swords and Shields. Fellow artist and friend, Kev Howard refers to me as Dark Angel of the Voice Box. I just like singing sad tales wrapped up in pretty tunes.

I have released two solo albums – Time and Tide (2010), Driftwood (2012) – and with Peg Powler, Northern Lines (2016) and Two Midnights in a Jug (2022).

What have you got coming up in the future?
Peg Powler’s new EP, Two Midnights in a Jug was released at the end of April so we are getting ready to roll out our new material over the summer months at gigs and festivals.

My Pegs bandmate, Ian Bartholomew and I are working hard to get our Folklines event back up and running following the pandemic and a few related false starts.Folklines is a contemporary folk music and spoken word event held in central Middlesbrough championing local artists and bringing artists from around the word to perform on our happy little platform.

Where can people find out more about you?
You can listen to our music on Spotify and other digital streaming stores and follow us on the socials.

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