NEWS: Ouseburn Folk Festival @ The Cumberland Arms | NARC. | Reliably informed


Image: Duck Call by Elly Lucas

Although the great fortnight of The Cumberland Arms is sadly over, there is little respite from their activities. September means Ouseburn Folk Festival, run alongside but separately from the pub by Isiobel Stewart and Jo Hodson. I asked Stewart to tell me a bit about the origins and philosophy of the festival.

We started the festival in 2019, when there was really nothing like it in the region. His intention was to show a side of folk that was not just that of the Old White Men. This people is everything, and now. It is a collective experience. And should be accessible, not just to those who can afford a ticket to The Sage! And it’s more diverse than the traditions and cultures that are usually represented at folk festivals in the UK. This diversity was reflected in the 2019 incarnation, a gig at The Old Coal Yard which featured Pentecostal Party, Richard Dawson & Nev Clay, Afework Nigussie, Mary Hampton and Yama Warashi. But funding and containment have derailed the festival in 2020 and 2021. “So we really wanted to have something this year. To mark that the festival is still there, still possible. says Stewart. “Ouseburn Folk is a separate thing from Cumberland, it happens to be organized by me and Jo. And as we also had the 20 year old material to organize this year, it unfortunately doesn’t have the depth of diversity or funding that we would have hoped for. But it’s a great program, with a mix of free and paid events, things people can attend, try. The lineup is mostly made up of local artists, with the added bonus of Ana Silvera , which is on tour at the moment. This is hopefully a good starting point to see how the festival can grow.

There’s even an Ouseburn Folk Festival mission statement, written in 2019:

Ouseburn Folklore

Music Dance Art Community

A festival in the Ouseburn Valley and surrounding area to showcase and promote folk music and traditions from different cultures in the North East of England and beyond. By working with and for the community, we want to break down barriers and engage people in styles of music, dance, arts and crafts that they might not have thought were for them.

This year it takes place over four days and kicks off with a performance by the aforementioned and much-loved folk-bluegrass artist Ana Silvera, promoting her album The Fabulist. Support comes from the magnificent Yakka Doon, with its ‘heartcraft aged in oak from the moors of County Durham’.

Friday begins with a family ceilidh hosted by Ruth Brown and Nathan Armstrong. It starts at 5:30 p.m., lasts one hour and is completely free. This is followed by a terrace performance by Colibri Cobra, a local collective playing various forms of traditional music from Colombia and Brazil.

On Saturday at noon, a Singing For Children session, with Becky Graham, before an evening with the local folk collective Pons Aeulius, the new trio Cri du Canard, who work with the French folk dance repertoire, and Heather Ferrier, the Stockport accordionist and clog dancer born but based in Newcastle.

And finally, Sunday sees the fall iteration of Will and Rosie’s The Season Of Song series. There will be harmony singing workshops in the afternoon to prepare for a concert that evening, followed by a singaround.

Ouseburn Folk Festival takes place at the Cumberland Arms, Newcastle from Thursday 15e until Sunday 18e September.

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