Can it really be 10 years? Back in 2014, Ant Miles and a team of like-minded individuals decided to put on a few folk concerts in Downend. By their own admission, they didn’t really know what they were doing, but muddled through, made it work, and 10 years later it has grown into a monthly fixture on the calendars of music lovers from Downend and beyond.

10 years deserves a special event to celebrate, so our 10th Anniversary Celebration will take place over the weekend of 19-21 July this year. We've assembled a lineup of the very best folk, roots and acoustic music artists, including many who have played a big role in our story over the last decade, and have teamed up with our regular venue, CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND, for some community-focused events.

The weekend will kick-off with a ceilidh and ploughman’s supper on Friday 19 July, with Bristol favourites THE MOLECATCHERS providing the music for the dancing at an event brought to you in partnership with CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND.

On Saturday 20 July, there is a full day of the very best music. The day will start with a performance from KATIE GRACE HARRIS, in a gig which will simultaneously be the second in the new Live at Lunchtime series; concerts which are designed to be accessible to families, providing a relaxed atmosphere and shorter sets. Under-18s will go free for this part of the day, which is also individually ticketed, and there will be activity sheets and free squash for younger children. Some noise from children is expected and encouraged!

Attention then turns to the Saturday afternoon concert. JIM MORAY has been patron of the club since the beginning and he will headline the gig, where he will be joined on the bill by JANICE BURNS & JON DORAN, who went down a storm when they performed in Downend in November 2022... and wouldn’t be a 10th Anniversary Celebration without ROAD NOT TAKEN, the four-piece that was formed out of Downend Folk & Roots, and have been tempted out of their current hiatus to open the Saturday afternoon concert.

The celebrations continue on Saturday evening. LADY MAISERY headlined back in November 2016, and returned triumphantly in December 2018 with their Christmas show Awake Arise. Both concerts are among the favourites with our regulars, so inviting them back to headline the 10th Anniversary Celebration was a no-brainer... it’s been far too long! The trio will be joined on the bill by Downend Folk & Roots newcomers BRYONY GRIFFITH & ALICE JONES, while local favourites GAVIN OSBORN & THE COMMENT SECTION will open the evening. Gavin has played both support and headline slots over the years.

In addition, there will be events taking place in the Parish Hall throughout the afternoon, including crafts and games, with tea, coffee and cake on-sale. Our bar will be operating throughout Friday and Saturday, offering the usual range of hot drinks, soft drinks, wine, cider and locally-brewed real ales from HOP UNION BREWERY, as well as sweet treats from Radstock-based THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY.

This might look a bit like a mini-festival, and in some ways, it is, but Downend Folk & Roots also pride themselves on being part of the community, so Sunday will be a bit different. We have teamed up with CHRIST CHRUCH DOWNEND for this, and the day will kick-off at Lincombe Barn Park & Woods, where we'll spend 90 minutes weeding, clearing paths, cleaning railings and generally giving this beautiful local resource a bit of a spruce up. It’s then back to the church for a soup, bread and cake lunch (all complimentary), before enjoying a closing concert, which will feature the fantastic Bristol-based folk choir HEARTWOOD CHORUS and a very special guest headliner. BRIGHT SEASON were the first ever headliners back in 2024 and stopped playing together shortly afterwards, but they’ve agreed to reform for a one-off performance... you won’t want to miss this! The afternoon will conclude with a short set in the Sunshine (hopefully) from the Bristol-based, all-female and impossibly cool Cotswold Morris side HEAPS MORRIS. And all of Sunday is FREE, but you must reserve your place for catering reasons.

All events will take place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND unless otherwise stated, and seats are unreserved for everything. You can buy a Weekend Ticket for £55 per person, or you can just get a Saturday Ticket for £45 per person (the ceilidh is not included). You can also buy tickets individually for the ceilidh, Live at Lunchtime and both Saturday afternoon and evening concerts, if you can’t make it for the whole weekend.

Come and join the celebrations... it's a weekend that promises to live long in the memory! For further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or find us on FACEBOOKX or INSTAGRAM.

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NANCY KERR & JAMES FAGAN have been doing this for a while. Next year will be their 30th anniversary as both a musical and personal partnership and, over that time, they have become, probably, the best folk duo in the country. This evening, they are extraordinary.
 
As late evening sunlight floods through the church windows and the gentle buzz of a full folk club revels in a pleasant June warmth, Kerr wonders, "Did you all just get together one day and decide that, if there was a perfect folk club, it would be this one?". The two of them beam and then make this space sing.
 
Fol The Day-O was originally written for The Full English project and it is a celebration of everything that is good and pastoral. It is the rural world blowing down city streets and, in Kerr's hands, it is as deep and green and lush as an English meadow. Her voice is glorious, high but shot through with passionate inflections, it has the natural rhythms of the finest of storytellers. As Fagan lends guitar and then vocal harmonies, their connection is instinctive, indestructible.
 
 
There are not too many voices that you could listen to forever, but Kerr’s is one of them. Barbara Allen is about as trad as things come (Samuel Pepys mentioned it in his diaries) but Kerr lovingly breathes new life into it. You can imagine her voice drifting up past the gas lamps in 19th century London, strong and defiant, a voice that can sing for its supper and break your heart. Her version is rooted in the Romany tradition but calls to travellers of all kinds, spanning continents, spanning years. 
 
Towards the end of the first half of the evening Kerr shows that she is a brilliant songwriter as well as a fantastic singer. There are three songs, all of which she has written, that are amongst the best that this folk club has ever heard. I Am The Fox is sung by Fagan and thrums with the pulse of nature, it freewheels like an excitable fox-cub on a dew-dappled summer's morning. Fiddle and guitar cavorting about, unabashed. 
 
For Broadside it is Kerr that sings her own song. The tale of the meeting between Queen Elizabeth I and the pirate Grace O'Malley was originally written for The Elizabethan Sessions, and is a feminist sea shanty. It is one of those songs that could have been written centuries ago, everything is spot on. It's no exercise in facsimile though; it hums with vitality, Kerr relishing the strong female characters that she unleashes.
 
It is Gingerbread, taken from 2016's Instar album, that is entirely tear-duct-bothering though. As Kerr and Fagan meet on the chorus there is a gentle warmth, a delicious sense of the personal that threatens to overwhelm. Fiddle and guitar helping to swell hearts and comfort souls. Once again, getting lost in Kerr's voice is the easiest thing.
 
 
As much as it is sometimes impossible to wrench your attention away from Kerr, Fagan is just as brilliant. His Australian heritage is mined for The Diamantina Drover and The Outside Track. Both are sung with a poet’s grace, his eight-stringed bouzouki glistening as stories of leaving and returning, love and loss tumble from him. There is a barely restrained fury on The Herald of Free Enterprise, Robb Johnson’s contemporary tale of tragedy, as Fagan sides with the people (of course) and rails against greed. All the while Kerr's violin broods behind him.
 
The combination of fiddle and guitar is most striking on the sets of tunes that they play. Australian Waltzes capture the haphazard totter of a gin-laced tea dance; elegant one minute, ferocious the next. Kitchen Dance is sandwiched between tunes from Croatia and Macedonia and is full of Eastern European dash. Fagan's bouzouki absolutely flying, a dizzy joy. Kerr's fiddle swoops over Fagan's folk-rock strum on Nancy Taylor's/The Pearl Wedding and is little more than a wonderful celebration. Thirty years of playing together has made these two indescribably tight.
 
The final highlight of an evening packed with them is Dark Honey, a song about urban bees making honey from cola. Kerr describes her songs like this: "The first two listens you think 'ooh, nature', the third is 'ooh, Marxism'" and, somehow, Dark Honey sums that up. Her voice is the sweetness that soothes the stings.

 
Support for the evening comes from DAVID MITCHELL, a virtuoso on the classical guitar. A short set of purely instrumental tunes showed off an incredible talent. Folk legend, Ralph McTell, has been heard to wish that he could play like Mitchell and it's easy to see why. Supremely technical and wonderfully fluid, he plays traditional folk tunes and classical pieces with equal ease. Beautiful stuff.
 
If Downend has the perfect folk club then Kerr and Fagan are the perfect band for it. Simply one of the finest gigs that this place has seen.


- Words: Gavin McNamara

- Photos: Barry Savell

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"I never fail to be amazed at the quality of artists that Downend Folk & Roots is able to attract", enthused one local music lover on social media recently. That sentiment could surely never be truer than it is this month, as genuine folk royalty NANCY KERR & JAMES FAGAN headline our June concert.

They are a duo that team behind the scenes have been keen to book ever since the early days, an astonishing ten years ago, but the dates have never quite aligned... until now!

Nancy & James are one of the best-known and most experienced folk duos on the British circuit today. Outstanding musicianship, a lifelong grounding in traditional singing and instrumental playing, acclaimed original compositions but most noticeably a visceral chemistry between these two make them a perennial favourite at festivals, venues and clubs across the country.


They met in December 1995, and formed the duo and life partnership that has become the backbone of their professional career in music ever since. They won the inaugural Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2000, and were also the first ever recipients of the Best Duo Award, which they won in 2003, and again in 2011.


The duo have toured internationally, most notably in the British Isles, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. They have thousands of fans and despite now having two children, they continue to work and tour constantly from their home base in Sheffield. Their duo shows are now special and sought-after events... so it’s great to have them coming to South Gloucestershire!


Opening the evening will be DAVID MITCHELL, who describes his guitar playing as “folk-classical fingerstyle”, combining these genres to create a beautiful and unique take on some well known pieces as well as performing his own original compositions.



As well as being a talented musician, David is also a skilled luthier, usually playing a lovely nylon- stringed Classical Guitar that he crafted himself. David also plays other stringed instruments as well as whistles and recorders.


Upon hearing David perform at Lyme Folk Weekend, Ralph McTell was heard to say, “I wish I could play the guitar like that.”


Tickets for the concert, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 21 June 2024, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £14 each in advance or £16 on the door. Doors open at 7.00pm and the music starts around 7.45pm.

There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and real ale from locally-based HOP UNION BREWERY. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own glass/ mug/tankard, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the drive to be more environmentally aware; there is a 50p discount for those that do. There will also be sweet treats available at the bar courtesy of Radstock-based THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY, as well as a prize draw, which helps to fund the support artists for each concert. 

For further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or find us on FACEBOOKX or INSTAGRAM.

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