NEWS: Ouseburn Folk Festival @ The Cumberland Arms | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Cri du Canard by Elly Lucas

Although The Cumberland Arms’ big anniversary fortnight is sadly over, there’s scarcely any let-up in their activities. September means Ouseburn Folk Festival, run alongside but separately from the pub by Isiobel Stewart and Jo Hodson. I asked Stewart to tell me a little bit about the festival’s origins and ethos.

We started the festival in 2019, when there really wasn’t anything quite like it happening in the area. Its intention was to show a side to folk that wasn’t just Old White Men. That folk is everything, and now. It’s a collective lived experience. And should be accessible, not just to those who can afford a ticket to The Sage! And It’s more diverse than just the traditions and cultures that are typically represented at folk festivals in the UK.” That diversity was reflected in the 2019 incarnation, a gig at The Old Coal Yard which had Pentecostal Party, Richard Dawson & Nev Clay, Afework Nigussie, Mary Hampton and Yama Warashi. But funding and lockdown scuppered the festival in 2020 and 2021. “So then we really wanted to have a something this year. To mark that the festival is still there, still possible.”, explains Stewart. “Ouseburn Folk is a separate thing to the Cumberland, it just happens to be organised by me and Jo. And as we also had the 20-year stuff to organise this year it unfortunately does not have the depth of diversity or funding we would have hoped for. But It’s a great programme, with a mixture of free and ticketed events, things for people to join in with, have a go. The line-up is mostly local artists, with the bonus of Ana Silvera, who is touring at the moment. It’s hopefully a good starting block to see how the festival can grow.”

There’s even an Ouseburn Folk Festival Mission Statement, written back in 2019:

Ouseburn Folk

Music Dance Art Community

A festival in the Ouseburn Valley and the surrounding area to showcase and promote folk music and traditions from different cultures of the North-East of England and beyond. Working with and for the community, we are wanting to break down barriers and engage people in styles of music, dance, art and craft that they may not have thought was for them.”

This year it’s taking place over four days, things kicking off with a show from the aforementioned and much lauded folk-bluegrass artist Ana Silvera, promoting her album The Fabulist. Support comes from the magnificent Yakka Doon, with her ‘oak-aged heartcraft from the pit-scarred heathland of County Durham’.

Friday begins with a family ceilidh hosted by Ruth Brown and Nathan Armstrong. It starts at 5.30pm, runs for an hour and is completely free. That’s followed by a terrace performance from Colibri Cobra, a local collective playing various forms of traditional music from Colombia and Brazil.

On Saturday, there’s a Singing For Children session at midday, with Becky Graham, before an evening line-up including local folk collective Pons Aeulius, new trio Cri du Canard, who work with the French folk dance repertoire, and Heather Ferrier, the Stockport born but Newcastle-based accordionist and clog dancer.

And finally, Sunday sees the Autumn iteration of The Season Of Song series from Will and Rosie. There will be harmony singing workshops in the afternoon to prepare for a concert that evening, followed by a singaround.

Ouseburn Folk Festival takes place at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle from Thursday 15th until Sunday 18th September.

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