Manchester Folk Festival Now On Sale!

Back in November we announced the first 6 artists for Manchester Folk Festival 21st – 23rd October 2021 and now we’re pleased to announce who will be joining Spiers & Boden, Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening, Jesca Hoop, John Bramwell & The Full Harmonic Convergence, The Gigspanner Big Band and O’Hooley & Tidow on this year’s line-up.

Thursday night sees shows in our festival hub venue, HOME, from , ‘the finest instrumental duo on the traditional scene’ (The Guardian) and Bellowhead frontmen, Spiers & Boden as part of their much anticipated comeback tour after eight years away, Manchester’s very own Kabantu – the award-winning Manchester collective whose music bridge countries and cultures, and Lady Nade whose star continues to rise after her ‘Best Song’ nomination at this year’s UK Americana Awards whilst John Bramwell & The Full Harmonic Convergence – bring songs from his solo repertoire as well as some I am Kloot fan favourites to the 02 Ritz.

The Breath perform on Friday 22nd Oct at HOME

On Friday, as well as Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening and Jesca Hoop we’re thrilled to welcome The Breath – Manchester based Stuart McCallum and Ríoghnach Connolly bring us their contemporary take on alt-folk and are joined by special guests Hannah James and Toby Kuhn whose combination of accordion, cello and voice is described as ‘soulful, original and conversational’. And if ‘foot stomping’ is your thing then don’t miss Sheelanagig (also Friday at HOME) who’ll be putting their groove into traditional and original European Folk music.

Why not make Saturday a day of it? Start off in the afternoon with the previously mentioned Gigspanner Big Band or choose the critically acclaimed folk song interpreter and conservationist Sam Lee, who plays at a venue new to the festival this year – The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). Then on Saturday evening at HOME see an early show from Banter whose music is rooted in English traditional folk music but incorporate influences of pop, jazz, soul and big band.  And later on choose BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning duo, O’Hooley & Tidow or The English Fiddle Ensemble – a brand new band featuring four of England’s finest traditional fiddle players; Bryony Griffith, Jim Boyle, Ross Grant and Rosie Butler-Hall. Also on Saturday night, over at RNCM The Futureheads bring us their hotly anticipated acoustic /a cappella show.

The Futureheads bring their acoustic / a cappella show to MFF on Sat 23rd Oct

With 15% off when you buy 4 Manchester Folk Festival tickets* it’s worth making a day of it.

And for those who want to stay up extra late, new this year is the ‘Festival Club’. Taking place in the first-floor restaurant at HOME from 11pm – 1am each night (Thurs, Fri, Sat) the Festival Club brings you 3 of the best emerging folk artists. Tickets for the Festival club are very limited and can only be booked in conjunction with another purchase for a Manchester Folk Festival ticket that day. Artists featuring in our very first Festival Club include: Good Habits, The Brothers Gillespie, Chris Elliott and Caitlin Jones, Tom Moore & Archie Moss, Granny’s Attic, Bryony Griffith & Alice Jones, Honey We Three and Ranagri.

Tickets are now on sale for all Manchester Folk Festival shows listed above and bookable via our ‘Whats On’ page here, with more artists to be added soon!

*Buy tickets for 4 separate Manchester Folk Festival events taking place between 21st and 23rd October 2021. Offer is only available on tickets booked through HOME’s box office – here.

First Manchester Folk Festival 2021 Artists Announced

Gigspanner Big Band, Jesca Hoop, John Bramwell & The Full Harmonic Convergence, Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening, O’Hooley & Tidow and Spiers & Boden have all been confirmed to play Manchester Folk Festival on it’s return in 2021.

The festival runs Thursday 21st – Saturday 23rd October 2021. All of the above artists are included in the festival pass ticket available to purchase here. Individual tickets for these shows will be released in early 2021.*

Dates and venues for each artist are TBC*, but as with previous festivals we will have shows in HOME, 02 Ritz and Gorilla.

*with the exception of John Bramwell – tickets for John’s show available here.

Gigspanner Big Band

Gigspanner Big Band:

“With the Gigspanner Big Band, Peter Knight has assembled a group of musicians intent on making some of the most important and exhilarating art ever to sit under the banner of folk music” FRUK

“Amazing…a force to be reckoned with – they storm every stage they walk on” Mike Harding

The Gigspanner Big Band are a unique force in British folk music…

Their high-energy, virtuosic performances appeal equally to traditionalists and to those looking for something more experimental, and they have garnered praise from publications as varied as fRoots, The Telegraph and The Wire, where they were described as ‘melodically folk-rooted yet open and innovative beyond the constraints of genre’

Beginning life as a trio – with legendary Steeleye Span fiddle player Peter Knight being joined by percussionist Sacha Trochet and guitarist Roger Flack – the line-up has been expanded to form the Gigspanner Big Band, with acclaimed multi-instrumental duo Edgelarks (Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin – BBC Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’) and Bellowhead co-founder and melodeon player extraordinaire, John Spiers, joining the fray.

Characterised by riotous inventiveness, technically gifted individual playing and subtle collaborative interaction, this coming together of several of the biggest names on the folk-roots scene, combines a deep knowledge of roots traditions with a ceaselessly boundary pushing approach.

The new six-piece line-up released their debut album, Natural Invention, in 2020.

Jesca Hoop:

California-born but now based in Manchester, Jesca Hoop is what you’d call a musician’s musician. Discovered by Tom Waits and brought on tour by Peter Gabriel to sing in his band, it was a phone call from Elbow’s Guy Garvey that saw her move to the UK. 

Her 2019 album ‘Stonechild’,  produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, This is the Kit), received huge acclaim from fans and critics alike, and it’s easy to see why – her beautiful songs, rooted in the folk tradition are intricately detailed, acoustic-led pieces that teem with ideas.

John Bramwell & The Full Harmonic Convergence

John Bramwell & The Full Harmonic Convergence:

John Bramwell is one of the UK’s most unique and talented singer-song writers and has been performing as a musician for over 30 years.

His 2018 album, ‘Leave Alone the Empty Spaces’ is a stunning showcase of John’s skilful, widely acclaimed song-writing and his unique voice. The first completely new collection of songs by John as a solo artist since he started his adventures away from I am Kloot, the album was inspired by his ‘off the beaten path’ journey through the UK and Europe.

As part of I am Kloot, John released ten albums, receiving a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 2011, for the exquisite, ‘Sky at Night’, produced by Guy Garvey and Craig Potter from Elbow.

The show promises a versatile two-hour set packed with choice cuts from John’s solo repertoire, plus an opportunity to hear some I am Kloot fan favourites.

Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening:

Musicians from Northumberland, Scotland and England invoke the dark, powerful, shamanic sounds of Ancient Northumbria and broadcast them to the modern world.

Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening are; Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian smallpipes, fiddle), Joss Clapp (guitar, vocals), Joe Truswell (drums, programming), Kate Young (fiddle, vocals), Amy Thatcher (accordion, vocals) and Kieran Szifris (octave mandolin).

Their inspiration comes from the wild, dramatic, weather-bitten countryside along Hadrian’s Wall, which seems so quintessentially Northumbrian…and yet, almost 2000 years ago that same landscape was inhabited by people from around the world, worshipping different gods and following different customs.

Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening embrace that global perspective, bringing some of the oldest Northumbrian tunes and songs throbbing to life, intermingling them with new material and binding it all together with contemporary resonance and attitude.

Fresh sounds merge with ancient influences. Expansive sonic textures are created. Dazzling duets from Kathryn’s pipes and Amy’s accordion contrast with the dark and dirty riffs and rhythms of Kieran’s octave mandolin. Intrepid world-traveller Kate adds her fearless explorations and the inventive use of drums and percussion unites the ensemble.

O’Hooley & Tidow:

Performing together for over 10 years, much loved Yorkshire folk duo Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow were propelled into newfound fame when their song ‘Gentleman Jack’ was chosen as the theme tune for Sally Wainwright’s hit BBC1/HBO drama of the same name.

Nominated four times for BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’, Belinda and Heidi’s boundless song writing has been described by The Guardian as ‘exceptional’ and The Independent as ‘defiant, robust, northern, poetical, political folk music for the times we live in.’ From an emotionally charged song about an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, to a joyous celebration of the Leeds cycling champion Beryl Burton, they explore, consider and connect subjects and stories in a distinctive, inventive and memorable way.

Having the originality and skill to invite comparison with the most celebrated harmony duos, from early Simon and Garfunkel to the iconic Kate and Anna McGarrigle, 6 Music’s Tom Robinson says ‘They sing together in the way families do. Normally, you only get that closeness in the voices with family bands like The Coppers or The Watersons.’

‘England’s answer to the McGarrigles.’  * * * * * The Guardian 

‘Brave, beautiful and full of love.’ Martin Simpson

Spiers & Boden

Spiers & Boden:
Described by The Guardian as ‘the finest instrumental duo on the traditional scene’, the multi award-winning duo of John Spiers and Jon Boden rocketed onto the scene in 2001. 

In 2011, after 10 years of successful touring, they headlined their own star-studded show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire celebrating their 10th anniversary.

Using their early success as a duo, they founded the ground-breaking folk big band Bellowhead, which dominated their time for the next few years and in 2014 Spiers & Boden made the difficult choice to rest the duo.  It was a tough decision.  Spiers & Boden had earned a place in the hearts of the folk audience that few could rival and the disbelief at the dissolution of the duo was only matched when in 2016 Bellowhead itself took a final bow.

Since then Jon Boden has carved out a career as both a solo performer and with his own band, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, while continuing to work on his creative trilogy of albums exploring a post-apocalyptic world and his work writing music for theatre.  John Spiers went on to form successful performance collaborations with Peter Knight (Steeleye Span, Feast Of Fiddles) and separately Jackie Oates, and is a member of the recently formed Gigspanner Big Band. 

In late 2019 the idea of reforming Spiers & Boden began to be discussed, quickly followed by plans for new touring in 2021.  A couple of unexpected duo videos in spring 2020 trailed the full public announcement in summer 2020 that Spiers & Boden are back!

Watch The Official Folk Albums Chart Launch Here!

Official Folk Albums Chart Launch – Live from HOME Mcr – Saturday 17th October

Presented by Mark Radcliffe
Performances from VRï, Kris Drever, The Breath and Fay Hield and her band.

Follow Folk on Foot for their monthly Official Folk Albums Charts Show

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Manchester Folk Festival 2021 Passes Now On Sale

The limited-edition festival pass allows you entry* into ALL** Manchester Folk Festival shows from Thursday 21st – Saturday 23rd Oct 2021.

This means you can curate your own festival experience – see an opening act in Gorilla then hot foot it to HOME for the rest of the evening. Make your choices on the night or plan your ultimate Manchester Folk Festival experience across 4 venues within walking distance of our festival hub venue HOME.

Headline artists are soon to be announced; with a full festival line-up featuring over 30 artists to choose from, offering an amazing line-up for our 4th year!

The festival pass ticket price of £75 (plus 10% booking fee) is equivalent to attending approx 3-4 events at Manchester Folk Festival, so if you’re looking to attend the full festival this will definitely save you many pounds!

You’ll receive a special-edition branded lanyard and pass which must be shown to gain entry to the events. We don’t insist you wear it all the time, but we would!

Get your tickets here.

*subject to individual venue capacity, please arrive early to ensure entry.

**due to some shows happening concurrently, it is not possible to see the full duration of every show.

Please note, this ticket allows entry into Manchester Folk Festival branded events only. English Folk Expo industry events are exempt.

Some events in the festival are standing only. For seated events the seating is unreserved.

Folk Chart Launch Artists Announced!

We are really looking forward to launching The Official Folk Albums Chart at 8pm on Saturday 17th October 2020, with a live streamed event from HOME, Manchester. We already announced the event will be hosted by Mark Radcliffe and we can now share the fantastic line-up of artists performing at the event.

Yorkshire-born Fay Hield, a core member of the English folk scene will delight audiences with her compelling classic folk voice and traditional tales of the otherworld of fairies, ghosts and the animal kingdom, while Scottish singer-songwriter-guitarist Kris Drever, a stalwart of the UK folk and roots scene, presents his mix of traditional and contemporary folk. The Breath – Irish singer/flautist Ríoghnach Connolly and guitarist Stuart McCallum will perform a set of impassioned heartfelt songs presented with jaw-dropping vocals and, Welsh chamber-folk trio VRï, bring a joyous celebration of Welsh identity.  

You’ll also be the very first to hear who has made it into the October 2020 top 40, the first ever Official Folk Albums Chart, compiled by The Official Charts Company.

This free event will be live streamed via our Facebook page.

This event is made possible by support from English Folk Expo, Showcase Scotland Expo, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and HOME, Manchester.


Official Charts Company to launch the first Official Folk Albums Chart in celebration of the popularity of folk music

Saturday 17th October – Launch event hosted by Mark Radcliffe

Live-streamed from HOME, Manchester

In recognition of the popularity of the folk music genre, the Official Charts Company announces the first Official Folk Albums Chart. Launched in partnership with English Folk Expo’s Manchester Folk Festival and supported by Showcase Scotland Expo, the first chart will be revealed on 17 October 2020

The monthly chart is compiled using physical and digital album sales, downloads and streams, from UK and Irish musicians releasing folk albums within the past 18 months. The chart is to be released on the first Monday of each month on, and to subscriber mailing lists. A monthly Official Folk Albums Chart playlist will also be available to stream on Spotify.

The very first chart will be unveiled at a special live-streamed event from HOME in Manchester on 17 October, the weekend which would have seen the fourth annual edition of the Manchester Folk Festival. Hosted by BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show presenter, Mark Radcliffe, the event will feature performances from top UK and Irish folk artists, with more details to be announced.

A broad genre taking in everything between acoustic pop and traditional music, folk artists including Laura Marling, Richard Thompson, Cara Dillon, Eliza Carthy, Karine Polwart, Kate Rusby, Seth Lakeman, Eddi Reader, Sam Lee, Tide Lines, Frank Turner, Skerryvore, The Unthanks, Julie Fowlis, The Gloaming, Dougie MacLean (to name a few) have achieved significant profile in recent months. The Official Folk Albums Chart is now set to offer a dedicated platform for this rich genre.

The Official Folk Albums Chart follows the launch of July’s inaugural Official UK Afrobeats Chart which joined a list of genre-specific charts – including Americana, Jazz & Blues and Progressive – all genres characterised by a high percentage of independent releases. Indeed, according to new Official Charts Company analysis, over 90% of the best-selling new folk albums of 2020 are independent releases*, showing the potential for the new chart as a platform for discovery.

The Official Folk Albums Chart aims to do more than recognise the popularity of the genre. Running parallel with the chart are English Folk Expo and Showcase Scotland Expo’s initiatives for providing career development tools for emerging artists in the genre. Both will provide dedicated web pages addressing the need for profile enhancement and chart inclusion.

Kate Rusby’s most recent album made it to #12 in the Official Album Charts this Summer

“I’m absolutely thrilled about the launch of the Official Folk Albums Charts presented by Manchester Folk Festival” says Tom Besford, Chief Executive English Folk Expo.  “As a genre, folk covers thousands of artists at all career stages and it’s really exciting to see this represented for the first time by the Official Charts Company. For many artists, being recognised through chart placement can be an important step in raising their profile and building new audiences. Now more than ever, English Folk Expo and our valued partners including Showcase Scotland Expo are delighted to work with the Official Chart Company to develop initiatives like this to help to promote folk music.”

Martin Talbot, Chief Executive of the Official Charts Company says, “We are delighted to be supporting this fantastic new chart, celebrating all that is great about British and Irish folk music. The emergence of artists such as Laura Marling, Frank Turner and Kate Rusby as stars of the folk scene while also taking their place in the mainstream charts and award categories, illustrates how much love there is for this genre which is simultaneously one of the most ancient and contemporary genres in music.”

David Agnew, Artistic Director, Manchester Folk Festival adds, “in folk music the album is still an occasion, a work of art and a moment to be celebrated. With the current pause in live touring which normally supports new releases, we’re delighted to support the Official Folk Albums Chart in helping to increase audiences for folk artists in the UK and Ireland.”

Musician Frank Turner; “As an artist who has at least one foot in the folk world, I am extremely excited by the news that there is going to be an Official Folk Albums Chart for the UK and Ireland. It’s a genre that quite often doesn’t get the props it deserves from the powers that be and from the mainstream music industry, and at times that’s been incredibly frustrating. So, it’s wonderful to see the UK Official Charts Company giving it its backing. …fingers crossed, at some point down the road I might even see my name in there!“

Musician Kate Rusby adds, “It’s fantastic news that folk music will now have its own officially recognised chart. This will give hundreds of incredible musicians across the UK and Ireland the recognition they deserve.”

Rising star, Jamie Webster says, “I wrote this album to tell a story about working class life, and that’s what I feel folk music does in a nutshell. So, to be included in this year’s Top 10 Official Folk Chart to date is a massive achievement for myself as it means my album has done its job and people relate to the stories I’m telling. Also, with no gigs at the moment it’s a great way for new people to listen to my music.”

“This is an exciting time for folk and trad music”, says Lisa Whytock, Producer of Showcase Scotland Expo, “The charts will help promote the profile of musicians and will see them recognised for the sales achieved and quality of albums recorded. We also believe the charts will help with the exporting of artists, acting as a benchmark of standing amongst audiences in the UK and internationally.”

Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2’s The Folk Show presenter adds, “Some people might say that folk and charts are odd bedfellows, but I don’t think so. Whatever kind of musician you are, you want to be successful, and imagine the thrill, whoever you are, of being number one in the charts! I’m very proud to be involved with the Official Folk Chart and wish everybody involved with it lots of luck…. here we go!”

The UK’s official biggest folk albums of 2020

To offer a taste of what’s to come in the new monthly folk rundown, the Official Charts Company reveals the UK’s biggest folk releases of 2020 so far. From Laura Marling and Jamie Webster to Shirley Collins and Seth Lakeman, it demonstrates the depth and breadth of the music within the folk genre, much of which enjoys mainstream success.

Laura Marling’s Song for Our Daughter scores the biggest folk album of 2020, so far, having amassed 18,000 chart sales since its release in April and peaking at Number 6 on the Official Albums Chart.

Further mainstream Top 40 success came for 26-year-old Liverpudlian Jamie Webster’s album We Get By , which waspreceded by a live EP, Boss.

The Levellers scored their highest chart position in more than two decades in August when they scored a Top 10 placing on the main Official Albums Chart with Peace – the third biggest folk album released in 2020. Additionally, Kate Rusby debuted at Number 12 on the Official Albums Chart with her lockdown covers album Hand Me Down, the fourth biggest folk album of the year so far.

Seth Lakeman lands at Number 5 with A Pilgrim’s Tale, while Shirley Collins makes the cut with her album of brand-new material Heart’s Ease, plus folk-rock icons Fairport Convention make an appearance with their 29th studio album Shuffle and Go.

Official Top 10 biggest folk albums released in 2020 so far


© Official Charts Company. Based on sales and streaming data of albums released by Folk artists in 2020 up to September 11.

*Of the 40 best-selling folk albums released in 2020, 92.5% were self-released or via independent record labels.


To receive a copy of the monthly Official Folk Albums Chart join our mailing list.

The Official Folk Albums Chart is presented by Manchester Folk Festival and produced by English Folk Expo, the Arts Council England’s Sector Support Organisation for folk, roots and acoustic music in England. Founding partners with English Folk Expo include Showcase Scotland Expo and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The Official Folk Albums Chart Launch presented by Manchester Folk Festival and hosted by Mark Radcliffe will be live-streamed from HOME, Manchester, 17 October 2020. Audiences can watch the live-streamed event, free of charge, via our social platforms.

For more information, click here:

Thea Gilmore postponed until October 2021

Unfortunately, due to the current uncertainties around social distancing guidelines for events in theatres and concert halls, our show with Thea Gilmore at The Met, originally meant to take place 07/10/20 has now been postponed until Wednesday 7th October 2021.

Current ticket holders will be able to transfer their tickets to the new date – you will be contacted directly by your point of purchase to arrange.

We hope you can attend the new date and are very much looking forward to welcoming Thea for her first EVER tour performing completely solo.

Following her 4th successive chart album, 2019’s “Small World Turning” (‘the most soulful, confrontational music of her career’ said The Mirror) and a rapturously received performance at the recent BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Thea will perform material from all stages of her career.

Accompanying herself on guitar, keyboard and loop station, Thea will give audiences a chance to hear some of her most special songs exactly the way they entered the world – raw, unadorned, delivered intimately by that long revered, hauntingly beautiful voice. As anyone familiar with her acoustic catalogue will testify, the results are set to be spine tingling and the shows promise to be some of the most affecting and personal of Thea’s career.

In that career of over two decades Thea Gilmore has long secured a place as one of the UKs most gifted and celebrated singer/songwriters. Since first stepping out aged 18 she has released 18 albums, 6 EPs, been lauded by titans (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Gaiman) and collaborated with roots royalty (Billy Bragg, Joan Baez, Waterboys). She recently performed on BBC Radio 2 with Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, contributed songs to the soundtrack of BAFTA winning film “Bait” and continues to explore new musical boundaries. 

Tickets for the new date of Wednesday 6th October 2021 available here.

COVID-19 Audiences Survey

As you know, this year Manchester Folk Festival will not take place as we play our part in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Although this is a challenging time for us all, it is also an opportunity for us to take some time to plan for how we can bring you events again in the future.

We have no past experience to draw upon for a situation like this – so we really need to hear your thoughts on the current situation and how you feel about attending events again at some point.

We have worked with our partners, Indigo to develop a short online survey which is available here. We would be grateful if you would spare us a few minutes to complete it. Your responses are completely anonymous, and will be used to inform our own planning, as well as being added to responses from all over the UK to help produce a national picture.

Indigo will only have access to your responses for analysis purposes, and will not be able to see any of your personal information.

Many thanks for your support in the past, and we look forward to seeing you again in the near future.

Manchester Folk t-shirts now available to buy online!

Every year we get lovely feedback about our festival t-shirts and they always sell out. So we’ve decided to make them available to buy online. Although the festival isn’t able to go ahead in 2020, by purchasing a t-shirt or hoodie you are helping to support the future of the festival (and ensuring you’re a style icon – obviously!).

Folk t-shirt specialists, Mudchutney, will be providing their print-on-demand service which means there’s no waste and no boxes of odd colours and sizes collecting dust and creating trip hazards in our office. So it’s good for the environment and pleases our Health & Safety officer. It does mean shipping times aren’t the speediest though, but patience is a virtue, yes?…..

T-Shirts are priced from £17.99 plus £1.50 P&P.
Hoodies are £23.99 plus £1.99 P&P.
Free delivery on orders over £40.
To view styles or order click here.

The Best of Folk at Home!

Over the past few months some of our favourite musicians have been keeping their spirits (and ours) up with live concerts from their locked down lives.

English Folk Expo have collated the very best of these performances over on their Lockdown Live page – click here to access.

Daoirí Farrell

If you enjoy these performances we urge you to like, follow and subscribe to the musician’s social media channels, mailing lists and streaming platforms and, if you are able to, we would encourage you to find ways to support your favourite musicians during lock-down by buying CDs and merchandise via their websites or contributing to any crowdfunder schemes or tip jars they may have.

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