ireby folk festival
colin irwin

Peggy, Shirley and the glorious 80s

I’ve been to a few 80th birthday parties lately. Well, when I say a few, I mean two. And they were more concerts than actual parties. Yet they were both joyous, humbling experiences honouring two of the most iconic and most enduring influences from t...more


The Alternative BBC Folk Awards

So to Cardiff. Which is in Wales. That’s the one where they didn’t get to vote for independence. Yet. The Millennium Centre. Lovely place. Lovely people. Lovely music. Lovely ambience. Lovely BBC Folk Awards. A right good do it turned out to be too. ...more


The Alternative BBC Folk Awards - Part 2

With one exception (the sainted Nessa from Gavin & Stacey) those giving out the awards this year are a pretty sorry bunch but the winners all turn up and are generally deemed to be worthy recipients and the music paraded on stage is perfectly accepta...more


Top of the Fests

THE HIGHLY UNOFFICIAL TOP 10 MOST POPULAR FESTIVAL ACTS Here we go then…the festival season. A time for conversing with nature, shaking off the worries of the big, bad world, quaffing a few ciders and getting in touch with your alternative side. En...more


What's occurring...

Bellowhead like a beer. They’ve already collaborated with the Potbelly Brewery in Kettering on the creation of the Hedonism ale (“a light coloured bitter with a citrus hoppy finish”, real ale fans) and, having got a taste for it, they are now getting...more


War? What is it good for?

In the immortal words of Edwin Starr, “War, huh, yeah…what’s it good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.” Actually Edwin, I don’t think that’s entirely true. From ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’ to ‘Fixin’ To Die Rag’, from ‘Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit ...more


Happy 50th Birthday Cambridge Folk Festival

Anniversaries are terrible things for sending you wafting off into the dreaded recesses of nostalgia. But hey, as Cambridge Folk Festival celebrates its 50th birthday, here I am recalling those glorious days of yore and moments – for better or worse ...more


Happy 50th Birthday Cambridge Folk Festival - Part Two

Anniversaries are terrible things for sending you wafting off into the dreaded recesses of nostalgia. But hey, as Cambridge Folk Festival celebrates its 50th birthday, here I am recalling those glorious days of yore and moments – for better or worse ...more


In bed with Simon Cowell… and Bill Caddick

Last night I had the strangest dream (I ever dreamed before). I dreamt about Simon Cowell. But not in a good way. Obviously. Not sure how, why, where or when but I found myself on Britain’s Got Talent. Yeah, I know. Shocker. Ant & Dec were there be...more


For your Summer Listening Pleasure...

Ah look, here's a pile of new CD's - Wonder what's in it? My my, what an exciting summer approacheth. England winning the World Cup, Kate Bush rising from the dead, Sheffield being crowned capital of Europe and 3,000 folk festivals to lounge around i...more


For your Summer Listening Pleasure... Part Two

Don’t think you’ll find Mike Rosenberg, or indeed, his alter ego Passenger, at any folk festivals this summer but his new album Whispers is - once you get to grips with his slightly strangulated, oddball voice - compelling. His songs are snappy, his ...more


Tony Benn, Folk Hero

It’s probably unfair to generalise but….well, let’s face it… politicians are scumbugs, right? If a politician told me it was a bright sunny day I’d head straight for the galoshes and sou’westers draw. If there’s one thing you can rely on in this big ...more


The Folk awards Awards

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards were held at the Albert Hall this year. That’s the ROYAL Albert Hall to you, squire. The Royal Albert Hall in London. No piss-up in a brewery this year, no sirree. It was best bib and tuckers all the way. Everyone behaved ...more


The Folk Awards Awards - part two

With great pleasure, we bring you our awards of the Awards part two. From Best Acceptance Speech to the Bad Call Award via the Most Touching Gesture (which isn't as rude as it sounds......more


This machine surrounded hate and forced it to surrender

In truth he wasn’t a great singer and you wouldn’t need to look too far to find plenty better guitarists and banjo players. And while his name is synonymous with some of the most iconic songs in the folk music canon, the man himself shuddered if you ...more


In praise of a loser

I rarely see movies – which is maybe something I shouldn’t readily admit to potential backers of the film script I’m supposedly writing. Last film I saw, in fact, was Les Miserables - stirring stuff, but who the hell cast Russell Crowe?!? However, l...more


Jerry, Country Joe and the death of a President

There has been much talk over the years about the cultural, social and political impact of music and whether it can actually change a damn thing. Billy Bragg’s take is that music per se can’t alter the world, but it can shift opinion about people’s v...more


A fond farewell to Louisa Killen

A couple of months ago I was visiting a friend on the Scottish border in Berwick and, almost on a whim, called Louisa Killen. The reasons weren’t entirely altruistic – I’d long had her in mind as a potentially useful source of information in my never...more


Eddie Barcan interview

He wanders casually around the place, seemingly without a care in the world. A slim, diminutive laid-back figure, stopping here and there to greet old friends with light banter, occasionally hovering to watch an act, mingling with the crowd and blend...more


Eddie Barcan interview -part two

He is, however, happy that demand for this year’s event is strong with an appreciably younger profile than of old. “For an event that’s been going on for so many years it’s crucial for us to develop for the future rather than rest on past laurels and...more


Cults and Celts at Celtic Connections

At that difficult time of year when January mutates into February, there’s only one place to be…Cannes obviously. Or maybe Barbados. But failing that…Glasgow for Celtic Connections! A mad maelstrom of fierce weather, wall to wall receptions, surreal...more


Folk Awards: Alex Salmond came too...

There was the touchy subject of Michael Eavis and his baggy shorts…Kris Drever’s new caveman look…author Julia Donaldson’s secret past as a folk club singer…Roy Harper’s dodgy impersonation of Alex Salmond…and then the First Minister himself regaling...more


Martin Carthy on Desert Island Discs

Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Libby Cotton, Sam Larner, Norma Waterson, Eliza Carthy, Paco De Lucia…now there’s an enticing mix for any set of ears on a Sunday morning. Martin Carthy on Desert Island Discs was always going to be great radio and so it was...more


The Battle: Lau v Bellowhead

Back in the dark and deadly days of the Brit pop wars in the naughty nineties,Blur v Oasis caught the public imagination in headline-grabbing fashion. It was a contest that had everything. The north v south divide. Middle class v working class. Ar...more


The Battle: Lau v Bellowhead Part 2

In part 2 of our LAU v BELLOWHEAD Battle of the Bands Colin Irwin really get down to the nitty gritty... Who has the lankiest lead singer? the answer is not as obvious as you would think. Then there is the dodgy ground of haircuts, inevitably the onl...more


Alas poor Harding, I knew him well...

It can’t be easy being Mr Folk. People having a go at you all the time, outraged because you’re playing this when you should be playing that. Not enough rhubarb, too much custard. Batting off hardcore folkies on one side, trying to beat off the BBC p...more


Nic Jones

To be honest, I feel like a bit of a stalker. Poor old Nic Jones hasn’t been able to hum his favourite Bob Marley song, muse on great chess moves or practise his Hank Marvin dance steps without me leaping out of the bushes and thrusting a Dictaphone ...more


Nic Jones - part two

And so – somewhat fearful - we all gathered at the excellent Warwick Festival at the end of July for the first of this small string of dates. Everyone in there to see the set on that Thursday night was nervous…except, of course, old Nic himself, grin...more


Sam Lee and his Mercury Rising

Well, I’ll be jiggered. You could have knocked me down with a feather boa and one of Loreena McKennitt’s dainty harp strings when I heard the news. Sam Lee’s oddly graceful A Ground Of Its Own album has been shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize fo...more



Phew. So that was summer then. Bit of a whirlwind to be honest, what with all that Olympic stuff going on. Glad it all went well, much to the chagrin of all those boring grumpies who’ve been whingeing about it for the last four years. Never mind Mo F...more


These are the days of miracle and wonder

At a certain time of the evening with the right lubrication and acquiescent company, I am known to go into one. You know, a rant (and I’m not talking about that unspeakable new album by the Futureheads…) The subjects vary, of course. Death to umbrell...more


Norwegians would...

So. Oslo Airport. A café called La Baguette. Andrew Cronshaw and I are killing time awaiting the train that will torpedo us north into the mountains around Otta, wondering what adventures may lurk in the ether of Landskappleiken, a fabled traditional...more


Norwegians would... Part 2

“Bored already?” someone asks when I battle my way out. “Well, I’ve been in there for an hour and a half…” He’s not impressed. “That’s nothing. There’s people in there who’ll be watching for seven hours non-stop. Some of them have their own marking ...more


An Audience with Packie Manus Byrne

You know what the trouble with Spiral Earth is? Not enough nonagenarians. I mean, it’s all very well getting excited about the latest hip young thing who comes bursting out of the Newcastle degree course or hailing some fancy dance band dub-stepping ...more


BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012

Wot? No bread rolls to hurl at Mike Harding? No nominations for Show Of Hands OR Matthews & While as Best Duo? No Barbara Dickson presenting a prize? There’s ALWAYS nominations for Show Of Hands and Matthews & While and Barbara Dickson presenting a p...more


Celtic Connections 2012

So to Glasgow then. To Celtic Connections, the annual ‘that’s Hogmanay done and dusted, what the feck are we gonna do for a knees-up now – oh sod it, let’s have a hoolie’ festival. Actually an awful lot of blood, sweat, tears and hangovers have been...more


Butlins - Great British Folk Festival

Hello campers. Hope this finds you well. I’ve just had a fun weekend in Skegness. At Butlins. Hang on, I’ll run that by you again. I’ve just had a fun weekend in Skegness. At Butlins. And that’s not something I thought I’d ever have cause to say sin...more


What a grim year this is turning out to be…

Mike Waterson. Ray Fisher. And now Bert Jansch. Three stalwart giants of the UK folk revival. All gone. Musically worlds apart and very different characters, they nevertheless had plenty in common, not least an unwavering commitment to pursuing highl...more


Is it August yet? Oh right, it must be Devon then…

My journey to Sidmouth had been long, colourful, tiring and yes, I freely admit it, occasionally squiffy. Well, there was that strange festival on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Iceland and nobody stays sober in Iceland for more than 10 minutes at ...more


Bob Dylan is 70 too

As a follow up to meeting his hero Martin Carthy on the occasion of his 70th and writing a blog about it for us, colin has resorted to verse to celebrate Bob Dylan, who is also 70 this year. This is the whole of Dylans career in one wonderful poem......more


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About Colin Irwin:

Irwin was an assistant editor of Melody Maker in the 1970s and 1980s, before leaving in the summer of 1987 as the magazine moved in a different direction, and editor of Number One magazine in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


His book In Search of the Craic details a comic journey around Ireland seeking out pub music sessions and became a best-seller in Ireland. Subsequent books were In Search Of Albion, a similarly light-hearted journey around English traditions and rituals and Sing When You're Winning, about the history and culture of terrace songs at football matches.

He's also reviewed music for The Guardian, Mojo, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and fRoots and has been a Mercury Music Prize judge.

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