MIXTAPE: Joan Crump – Hartlepool Folk Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words: Joan Crump, director of Hartlepool Folk Festival

I’m incredibly excited that we’re about to deliver the fifth Hartlepool Folk Festival, which takes place across the town from Friday 18th-Sunday 20th October. As the festival’s Director, it’s been both a privilege and a huge labour of love to bring this gorgeous, eclectic event to Teesside. We try to create something that feels rooted in tradition, but which can take off anywhere – from creating the first-ever ska ceilidh in 2017 to introducing drag to the folk scene this year, we really strive to deliver the unexpected. The music I’m passionate about is predominantly folk, but it takes some eccentric detours along the way…

Eliza Carthy – Good Morning Mr Walker
Eliza is one of the greatest talents the English folk scene has ever produced. I could have easily filled this Mixtape with songs she and her family have made. This is one of the first songs I remember getting excited about in English folk music. I love its roots in the singing of legendary Trinidadian calypso singer Mighty Sparrow, but I also love the glorious energy Eliza brings to a song that’s basically about having to get drunk enough to marry someone who’s butt-ugly but filthy rich.

Thomas McCarthy – Clasped to the Pig
Thomas is a complete anomaly: a traveller singer with a virtually unique repertoire of songs, sung in a very ornamented, traditional style. Listening to him is like hearing a voice from another generation – but we have him now, and we’re incredibly lucky. He’s one of my very favourite singers in the world. This is another song about getting drunk, but this time having to share your bed with a pig.

Robb Johnson – The Wrong Monkey
Robb visited the festival a few years ago and one morning wrote this song – we were speechless when he sang it that night. It’s about politics and football and a town that’s been used and abandoned by too many people with their own ugly agendas. “No one ever died of a broken Hartlepool…” We’ve invited Robb back this year to write songs for Your Affectionate Son, our commissioned show about Hartlepool in the First World War.

Ru Paul – Sissy That Walk
I have been a massive fan of drag for decades; my prom date has spent most of the years since dressed as Judy Garland. I cannot wait to welcome Newcastle’s reigning Drag Idol queen, Choriza May, to her first-ever folk festival for a super-special event – details are a bit of a secret, but It Will. Be. Everything. This song by Mama Ru contains one of my mantras: “If they ain’t paying your bills, pay them bitches no mind.”

Rowan Rheingans – Sorrow
This song is from Rowan’s one-woman show Dispatches On The Red Dress, which recently won huge acclaim for its run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, including a Fringe First Award. Rowan is one of the most innovative, interesting musicians on the folk scene today, and her show is a beautiful exploration of a dark period in her family’s history, when they lived under the Nazis in Germany. It is the most moving and powerful piece of theatre I have seen in ages, and this song, sparse though it is, captures so much. “We better make some room for sorrow – or we will sing a darker song tomorrow…”

The Wilsons – The Miner’s Lifeguard
One of the most iconic moments for me at Durham Big Meeting is when the Harton banner stops in front of the County Hotel and its carriers and marchers sing this song. It was the first English mining song I ever heard, about 30 years ago, on a Billy Bragg video called Which Side Are You On – little did I know the significance it would one day hold. Our festival Patrons, the Wilsons, sing an amazing version: their family harmonies and powerful voices are spectacular. That’s the sound of Teesside to me.

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