A year ago, the festival Jazz Britannia was such a success that the Barbican along with BBC Four are bringing to us this year, a 3 day festival which celebrates the evolution of British folk music from the end of the Second World War right up to its modern day revival. From the 2nd to 4th February ‘06, the Barbican holds a series of live events encompassing three themed concerts, free music, films and talks. Tying in with the event is BBC Four’s very special three-part documentary series of the same title that engages with the disparate and sometimes argumentative elements of the contemporary folk scene.
To kick off on Thursday 2nd February, Which Side Are You On? is a night that features two of the biggest names in folk music of the British Isles and will be hosted by the force that is, Billy Bragg. The monumental Scottish firebrand singer-songwriter Dick Gaughan, will take to the Barbican Hall stage alongside Martin Carthy, a mainstay of the English folk scene.
Daughters of Albion on Friday 3rd February brings together some of England’s finest female folk artists and singer-songwriters in a themed concert to sing songs of experience. The set list places ancient folk ballads alongside West Country trip hop and 21st Century R’n’B. All performances will be accompanied by an ensemble featuring ex-Pogue and master multi-instrumentalist David Coulter, guitarist Neil MacColl and Van Morrison’s drummer Liam Bradley, all arranged by MD Kate St John. Artists include June Tabor, Sheila Chandra and Norma Waterson.
The final night, Into The Mystic celebrates the current resurgence of interest in the psychedelic, mystical, neo-folk of the late 1960s and early 1070s. It explores how this renewed interest has been reflected on a new generation of artists today. It will feature artists from pioneer bands such as Pentangle, The Incredible String Band, Donovan and Vashti Bunyan.
Meanwhile, the BBC 4 series will be divided into three one hour episodes which chronicles how the music was coerced into a revolutionary soundtrack by the Left in the 50s, how the hippie generation bent it into progressive folk-rock in the 60s and 70s only for punks like The Pogues and Billy Bragg to bring things back to basics in the 80s and 90s. The story of folk will be told by a stellar cast of musicians, live performances and archive footage and the debates that arise in its argumentative world will be discussed.