2024 marks 10 years of Downend Folk & Roots (formerly Downend Folk Club) and we wanted to do something really special to mark the occasion. So here it is! This is by far the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done so we hope you’ll like it!
We are thrilled to reveal details of our 10th Anniversary Celebration, which 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.
The weekend will kick-off with a ceilidh and ploughman’s supper on Friday 19 July. We’ll be joined by THE MOLECATCHERS for the event, which is presented in partnership with our friends at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND, our regular venue.
The day will start with a performance from KATIE GRACE HARRIS, in a gig which will simultaneously be the second in our 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 for younger children as well as a breakout room where you can still listen to the concert. Some noise from children is expected and encouraged!
We then move on to our Saturday afternoon concert. Our patron since the beginning, JIM MORAY, will headline the gig, and he will be joined by the brilliant JANICE BURNS & JON DORAN, who went down a storm when they performed for us in November 2022. And we couldn’t really have a 10th Anniversary Celebration without ROAD NOT TAKEN, the four-piece that was formed out of Downend Folk & Roots, and we’ve managed to tempt them out of their current hiatus to open the Saturday afternoon concert.
We continue the celebrations on Saturday evening. LADY MAISERY headlined our November 2016 concert, 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 our 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, and we just know you’re going to love them, while local favourites GAVIN OSBORN & THE COMMENT SECTION will open the evening. Gavin has played both support and headline slots over the years.
This might look a bit like a mini-festival (and in some ways, it is!), but we’re doing something a bit different on the Sunday, again in partnership with CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND. The whole day is free admission, and will begin with a short service in the church, before we head out for some "community action" together. Watch this space for details, but we thought it was in keeping with the ethos of Downend Folk & Roots to do something to serve the village that is our home. We’ll then head 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, who will be revealed soon. You won’t want to miss it… and it’s FREE! There will also be a Celtic service at 6.30pm in the church.
All events will take place at our CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND home, 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). As mentioned, Sunday is free and you don’t have to book, but it will help us we have an idea of numbers, so if you can, let us know that you’re coming. 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.
There will be food options on the Saturday (details TBC) while 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 our friends at THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY.
We do hope that you’ll join us to celebrate this landmark in our history. Please see the ticketing page for details of timings (which are subject to change but won’t change much).
For much of this evening you'd swear that a river bubbled and burbled through Downend. A river over which fresh water drifted and pulsed, coursed and spun. A river where birds swooped, creatures slithered and folk tales were told. A river over which the sun shone.
Both KITTY MACFARLANE and DETTA KENZIE are from the West Country and both use their glorious, pure voices to hymn our part of the world, the rivers, hills and animals that we all know. It was, somehow, fitting that all of nature's wonders were praised in a church, fitting that we were reminded of fresh spring bursts just as the year swings around.
Downend Folk & Roots celebrates ten years of showcasing beautiful music in 2024 and it seems only right and proper that Bristol based Kitty Macfarlane should help kick off this momentous year. She's been here, very nearly, from the beginning, playing support slots, headlining, sitting in the audience, lending love and light. She doesn't play live all that often anymore so this one was always going to be a treat.
The West Country weaves through Macfarlane's songs, as vital and intrinsic as nature itself. She conjures the romanticism, the rolling, soft beauty as well as anyone. She is absolutely masterful at setting a scene, of painting the landscape that she clearly loves so much. She is, in many ways, the musical equivalent of an artist like the Cornish painter Hannah Woodman, another person who can create a vivid image with the flick of a wrist.
Morgan's Pantry, taken from the Namer of Clouds album, is sublime. As minimal as a clear winter's day, it is just Macfarlane's voice and some muted electronics. The sounds of the sea twine, gently, with a vocal rope of gold, her voice is as strong and tender as the ocean itself. She says that it is an old song that should be sung with caution, lest the sea spirits be summoned. By the end those spirits are crammed into every nook and cranny of this already packed space.
Bristol’s folklore is skilfully mined for Avona, a tale of the giants, Goram and Vincent, and the woman over whom they fight. Any Bristolian knows this story backwards yet, in Macfarlane’s hands, it becomes full of poetic love and yearning. It ebbs and flows like the tides, swelling and calming as the story unfolds. Should Bristol require a new folk song (that isn’t Goodnight Irene) then this one fits the bill.
As much as Macfarlane’s originals are captivating, it is the covers that show off her remarkable voice. The Snow it Melts the Soonest has the golden glow of an English field at sunrise. If The Detectorists is a televisual distillation of Englishness, so Macfarlane’s voice is the aural equivalent. She shows it again on the Anne Briggs song, Go Your Way, where her voice takes on a calmness that is utterly heartbreaking. On Tim Buckley's Song to The Siren, she strips the song back to a feather-like fragility, it is a rainbow cast in the mist of a waterfall. It is wonderful.
Macfarlane’s love of nature is no secret and there are two songs that show this better than any other. Glass Eel is all busy skies and racing oceans, it is the sound of ancient travels and massed migration. There’s rhythm and endless motion, a curious questing that makes the song glitter and shine. Sea Silk drifts in on a sampled voice, Italian, hardworking, honest. It is the story of silk weaving and feminine craft, of skills passed down through generations. An acoustic guitar carefully washes the words, the sun spun from salt water, a blinding dazzle seemingly produced from the air itself.
Detta Kenzie is a Devon based singer songwriter with the most extraordinary voice. Her control is staggering, whether executing the torch-y velvet-curtain swoosh of An English Selki or the swirling, spinning headrush of Surfer Boy, a pitch perfect poise ripples through her five-song set.
She starts with the folk standard He's Young but He's Growing. There are any number of versions of this but it is Cara Dillon's that springs immediately to mind. Kenzie shares with Dillon an ability to fully inhabit the song, to wring from it every last emotion. It is a stunning way to start the evening.
From there Kenzie shows us that she's a very fine song writer too. An English Selki takes a well-worn tale and infuses it with European charm. There's the merest hint of chanson, a smokey, Gallic flavour that is as deep as it is delicious. Whistman's Wood, taken from a forthcoming EP, has a hint of Willow's Song from The Wicker Man to it. It is stuffed with images from the natural world and is as warm, comforting and familiar as a moss-y blanket. She is a singer of siren songs with a voice likely to lure the unsuspecting onto the rocks.
On a January night, when it's easy to get lost in the darkness, Detta Kenzie and Kitty Macfarlane were able to remind us that we will see the sunshine again soon.
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Barry Savell
We begin our tenth anniversary year with a rare solo performance from one of the finest singer-songwriters on the folk scene.
KITTY MACFARLANE is a songwriter and guitarist from Somerset, nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2019 for the Horizon Award, and voted FATEA Female Artist of the Year. Carried by a clear voice "controlled yet wild" (Folk Radio), her lyrics touch on intervention and rewilding, climate change and migration, woman’s age-old relationship with textiles and the land, and the changing face of the natural world.
From the starling murmurations on the Somerset Levels to the lowly eel's epic transatlantic migration, the coasts and estuaries of the South West and the small part we ourselves play in a much bigger picture, her songs are bound by the underlying theme of mankind's relationship with the wild.
Her debut album Namer Of Clouds was one of The Guardian's Best Folk Albums of 2018 and nominated for fRoots Album Of The Year, with airplay across BBC Radio 2, 3, 4 and 6 Music.
Away from the stage she has written and presented programmes for BBC Radio 3 (The Essay), Radio 4 (Open Country, Tweet of the Day), guested on the Folk on Foot podcast and performed live in session on BBC Radio 2.
Opening the evening will be DETTA KENZIE, a Devon based folk singer creating original songs alongside reworking ancient Celtic music. A deep connection to the natural world is ever present in Detta's work. References to Teignmouth, Shaldon, Dawlish, Dartmoor and the wider landscape of England’s beautiful Southwest bring a local strength to her creations.
Once a Secondary English Teacher, Detta’s love of language and storytelling underpins her original music..Collaborating with Dawlish based guitarist and producer Gaz Chatterton, Detta is able to create music which explores the diversity of the English landscape and its ability to both mould and reflect human experience.
Tickets for the concert, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 19 January 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.
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