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Whenever I return from a good well organised and busy festival and ponder on what I enjoyed the most, I'm always surprised at what springs to mind first. To be perfectly honest it's rarely the festival headliner and often it's not even the band or artist I was initially most looking forward to seeing. Mostly, it's that undiscovered gem, or that moment something quite unexpected happens, which occupies my thoughts. There's also all the minor irritations that spring to mind, but one tends to overlook them. I might find myself sitting in a deserted space waiting for an interviewee to arrive, knowing full well that there's someone exceptionally good on stage somewhere not too far away, emoting deliriously and I'm missing it. This comes with the territory I suppose and this is why it's particularly handy having two of us around in order to catch a good majority of it. Musicport gave me lots to think about over the last week and judging by the Northern Sky report, which can now be found in the live reviews section, it gave Northern Sky's Liam Wilkinson a lot to think about as well. The annual October festival in Whitby is clearly one of Northern Sky's favourite festivals on the calendar and needless to say, the B&B is already booked for next year.
Musicport was such a packed affair this year that the November edition of the Northern Sky Vaults radio show has had to be presented as a two-part programme in order for us to squeeze it all in. The weekend was bursting at the seams with an eclectic mixture of music, poetry, dance, cinema, comedy and all the other things that makes it one of the most anticipated events of the year. This was our third consecutive year and we would like to thank Jim and Sue McLaughlin for inviting Northern Sky along once again. Over the weekend I got to speak to as many of the artists as I could fit in, including The Mahotella Queens, The Blockheads, Kathryn Tickell, Lemn Sissay, Harpeth Rising, Ragged Union, Katie Spencer, Michael Messer's Mitra and four of the musicians involved in the Soupsongs Live: The Music of Robert Wyatt.
October also saw the arrival in our theatres of Martin Green's multi-media production Flit, which was one of the highlights of the month. Singers Becky Unthank and Adam Holmes joined Martin Green, Adrian Utley and Dominic Aitchison as they delivered a superb show at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds.
At the end of November, or to be specific, the beginning of December, the Great British Folk Festival once again rounds off the year with another outstanding programme of suitably diverse musical artists and styles, loosely falling under the banner of 'folk music'. Although the festival's reputation is squarely rooted on the undisputed folk aristocracy, in the past seven years bringing to its stages the cream British folk music, including Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy, Oysterband, June Tabor, Ralph McTell, Fairport Convention, Bellowhead, Eddi Reader, Steeleye Span, Pentangle, The Unthanks, Home Service, The Demon Barbers, Show of Hands, The Full English, Treacherous Orchestra, Capercaillie, The Young'uns, Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party, Albion Band, Billy Bragg and Moulettes, to name but a few, the festival does take a few risks with such artists not normally associated with folk music, Ed Tudor Pole, Phil Cool, Steve Cradock, Judie Tzuke, Deborah Bonham, String Driven Thing, Justin Currie and this year, the big surprise will no doubt be Bob Geldof. This all adds to the festival's diverse appeal.
This year also sees a handful of returning guests including Donovan, who played at the first festival back in 2010, together with Kate Rusby, Cara Dillon and Oysterband. Polly and the Billets Doux will also be appearing, a band that won its place on one of the main stages after performing on the Introducing Stage last year. This year will also see the debut appearance at the festival by Levellers, a band with a committed following, who will guarantee a great live experience for regular festival supporters and newcomers alike.
Hope to bump into you there.