All roads – and rails – lead to Girvan for the May day holiday weekend as hundreds of folkies descend on the town.
The 45th Girvan Traditional Folk Festival is set for May 3-5 with another fantastic weekend of folk entertainment promised, everything from concerts to pub sessions, dance ceilidhs, workshops, competitions and children’s fun. This year a traditional market and art exhibition will make Girvan the place to be over the Mayday holiday.
The performers for 2019 promise lots of great musical experiences from people firmly rooted in the tradition. This year there are more solo performers – but there is a plan behind this. Girvan is seen as a ‘meeting place’; a chance to see old friends and to rub shoulders with traditional musicians from all ‘airts and pairts’ providing the opportunity for people to share in performances.
The performers include Cathal McConnell, a founder member of Boys of the Lough, who also plays with fiddler Kathryn Nicoll and harper Karen Marshalsay as The Cathal McConnell Trio. Bob Fox has been one of the most popular performers of the folk revival for many years and his relationship with Girvan Festival goes back almost to its very beginning. His is one of the great voices of the folk revival and for the last few years Bob has been part of the National Theatre’s production, Warhorse.
Watch out for the inaugural performance of ‘Jock Tamson’s Ideal Band’ and explore the story behind Jock Tamson - a minister from Dailly in 1800 - and his bairns.
Others include James Patterson and John Dipper, Rosie Stewart, Brian Miller, Dave Goulder, Dick Gaughan, Gary West, Sandra Kerr, Mike Vass, Heather Yule, Aly and Maggie Macrea, The Barrstools and Artie Trezise.
Girvan folk festival has been working in collaboration with the south west Scotland community rail partnership and Scotrail to promote the 2019 festival. Funders include South Ayrshire Council, Foundation Scotland, Carrick Futures, Falck community fund, Kilgallioch community fund, William Grant distillers and Glasgow TMSA.
Check the full programme and the timetable for buses serving the outlying villages for festival events at www.girvanfolkfestival.org.uk .
Jock Tamson’s Ideal Band needs a bit of explanation. The phrase ‘We are all Jock Tamson’s Bairns’ is well known in Scotland and is interpreted in a metaphorical sense as meaning “we’re all the same under the skin” or “we are all God’s children”.
One version attributing the origin of the adage to Tamson is that his first wife died after they had five children, he then married a widow who already had five children, and this second marriage produced another four children. When his wife then made introductions to visitors and tried to explain which family the various children belonged to, Thomson would say “They’re a’ Jock Thomson’s bairns”.
In folk music circles there is an obvious similarity in name to the much loved and missed folk group, Jock Tamson’s Bairns – but Girvan’s ‘Ideal Band’ will bring together musicians and singers from an extensive guest list as part of the ‘Kist of Riches’ concert.
James Patterson and John Dipper have played together over many years, including a period in the Patterson Jordan Dipper.
Rosie Stewart is a singer and ambassador for traditional Ulster singing. With a style that is entirely her own, she picks and chooses her repertoire from songs that might be 200 or 20 years old.
Brian Miller is one of the stalwarts of the Scottish Folk scene coming to prominence initially as a member of The Laggan, and still a member of The Stars Band with Arthur Johnstone and Charlie Soane.
Dave Goulder is a master songwriter, almost everyone will be aware of his song The January Man which is one of the classic songs of the folk revival. There is much more of course, including a song The Pinwherry Dip which is set very close to Girvan.
A member of the internationally renowned Sands Family from County Down, Colum Sands is an exceptional songwriter immersed in rural traditions in Ireland.
Dick Gaughan is a legendary figure within the folk revival in Scotland. Dick has had health issues in the last couple of years but has agreed to come to Girvan ‘subject to circumstance’.
Gary West learned his piping with the acclaimed Vale of Atholl Pipe Band and in the late 1980s, he began to play a prominent role in the folk music scene, joining Ceolbeg in 1988, and becoming a founder member of the Scottish ‘supergroup’ Clan Alba in 1991.
Sandra Kerr has had a long and distinguished career in folk music, beginning with her training in the acclaimed Critic’s Group (1963-72) where she developed her song-writing skills.
Mike Vass is one of the most creative forces on the Scottish music scene as a musician, composer, producer and arranger. In 2008 he joined Malinky, the internationally respected champions of traditional Scots song. He returned to record Far Better Days and play further concerts with them in 2015 and in 2018 he was part of a new Malinky recording which is shortly due for release.
Heather Yule is a long established accredited member of the Scottish Storytelling Directory and has travelled all over Scotland and abroad, including Iceland, Norway, Poland and North America, performing, teaching and leading workshops.
Aly and Maggie Macrea are mother and son, Maggie best known to Girvan regulars as the artistic director of the festival for over 20 years. Aly was recently placed first in the Border Ballad Competition at Newcastleton Festival.
The Barrstools are a local six piece band with their roots lying in the village of Barr in South Ayrshire, their blend of musicianship and craic has quickly become a music festival mainstay.
Artie Trezise brings his Artie’s Tartan Tales show to Girvan – the festival where some of the ideas for The Singing Kettle first formed through Cilla & Artie’s meeting at Girvan with Major Mustard’s Travelling Show.