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Archived News July 2018

Summer’s well and truly here - blue sky and a heatwave across Britain as I write. Another couple of fiddle classes in London, a couple more gigs, and I’m off to teach at Danish player Harald Haugaard’s 10th international fiddle school in Germany - see WORKSHOPS for details. I’ll be at Whitby folk week 18-24 August and Sweet Sunny South festival 7-9 September, with Rattle on the Stovepipe - see GIGS. So, a busy summer, but I’m also hoping to find a Greek beach for a week. 

Dave, Pete and Dan, photo Craig Prentice
Dave, Pete and Dan, photo Craig Prentice


Dave Arthur, Dan Stewart and I enjoyed our recent folk club performances - from London to Llantrisant, and Stansted Abbotts, Hertfordshire to Dartford, Kent. Thanks, all, for coming out. Ee, though, it’s a strange old life as a jobbing fiddler. We also entertained petrol heads in vintage 1940s flying jackets at Goodwood motor racing track earlier in the year - during the Beast from the East weather event, in fact. And then one balmy evening last week, by contrast, we played at Laredo, a reconstructed 1840s U.S. western town a few miles south of the M25, the audience entirely in authentic (and probably hot and itchy) period costume.

Dave and Dan at Laredo, photo by Pete
Dave and Dan at Laredo, photo by Pete

Anyway, specially for you, Rattle on the Stovepipe sang and played a few numbers in Dave’s back garden in May (visually upstaged, it must be admitted, by a rhododendron in full bloom) and Craig Prentice kindly filmed us: Elk River Blues, Lakes of Pontchartrain, Bonnie Prince Charlie and this one, Black Bottom Blues.

Pete, Dave, Ian Kearey, Shirley Collins and Pip Barnes in Denmark
Pete, Dave, Ian Kearey, Shirley Collins
and Pip Barnes in Denmark

Dave and I have also been out and about with Shirley Collins, starting with a brilliant weekend of concerts in Belfast and Dublin at the start of the year. Shirley’s revival has proceeded from strength to strength. All in the Downs, the second volume of her autobiography, came out in April, published by Strange Attractor, and it’s a great read, highly recommended. 

And meanwhile Rob Curry and Tim Plester’s film The Ballad of Shirley Collins (2017) has been widely shown and admired, both in this country and abroad. We had an exciting trip to Copenhagen for the last night of a documentary film festival in March - the first half a screening of The Ballad, the second a live performance from Shirley and the Lodestar band. Before flying home, some of us explored the Christiania district, a surviving urban hippie outpost of the 1970s, which made me nostalgic for the Brixton squatting community of my youth… 

Last month we played at the Supersonic festival in Birmingham, which mainly featured a brain-frying variety of nihilist punk and psychedelic techno bands, generally quite noisy. In our closing concert one enthusiastic section of the crowd, mainly young women, began a chant of ‘Shir-ley, Shir-ley’ after only her second murder ballad! I don’t have a clip of that, but here’s a song (and fiddle tune) from the Green Man festival last summer, The Rich Irish Lady/ Jeff Sturgeon.

You may also enjoy this short film from The Dome, Brighton, at the end of last year’s tour - password: dome

As always, my fiddle classes at the London Fiddle School have been great fun. For the Summer term we’ve studied Irish Traditional fiddle music in the intermediate class. Spring term was all about American Old Time music, forty five enthusiastic fiddlers (no shit!) rocking Cecil Sharp House with Candy Girl, the Mississippi Sawyer, Little Rabbit, Elzick’s Farewell and other Appalachian mountain tunes. By good fortune my old friend and Old Time music guru John Herrmann happened to be on tour in the UK with his band Bigfoot, and dropped in to join us at Cecil Sharp House and share his knowledge…  

John Herrmann and Pete at Cecil Sharp House, photos Sue Lee

John Herrmann and Pete at Cecil Sharp House, photos Sue Lee
John Herrmann and Pete at Cecil Sharp House,
photos Sue Lee

Looking ahead to the autumn, the Fiddle School class will be studying European Fiddle Traditions - which technically could still include British material, I suppose, pre-Brexit, though it probably won’t - see WORKSHOPS for details. I’ll also run my new course, Fiddle Playing: the Inside Story, using yoga-based exercises to encourage the free movement and subtle strength you need for tuneful, rhythmic playing. 

The School’s annual end-of-term Fiddle Party, to which you are all invited, will take place this year on 7 December at Cecil Sharp House. It’ll be a somewhat poignant occasion for me, marking my temporary farewell to the London Fiddle School. Yes, you heard it here first: I’m taking a sabbatical in 2019, an eight-month break from teaching classes and individual lessons! I want to focus on a couple of writing projects and some career development, learning music-related technical skills. I’ll also still be gigging. In my absence the wonderful Laurel Swift will teach my Cecil Sharp House classes during the spring of 2019, and the equally amazing Tom Moore will take over for next summer’s classes. 

Talking of Tom Moore, here’s a video of Tom, Chris Haigh, Ben Somers, Richard Bolton and me at the London Fiddle Convention earlier this year, kicking off our set with ‘Number 3’, a tune I wrote three years ago -

See you later,



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