Purbeck Folk Festival
colin irwin

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

15/03/2014


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

02/03/2014


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

02/03/2014


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

31/01/2014


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

24/01/2014


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

09/12/2013


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

15/08/2013


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

02/07/2013


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

02/07/2013


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

11/02/2013


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

31/01/2013


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

15/01/2013


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

08/11/2012


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

07/11/2012


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

20/10/2012


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

28/09/2012


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

28/09/2012


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

14/09/2012


THE FOLK OLYMPICS

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

09/09/2012


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

20/07/2012


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

09/07/2012


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

09/07/2012


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

22/06/2012


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

12/02/2012


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

06/02/2012


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

09/12/2011


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

10/10/2011


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

10/08/2011


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

14/06/2011


Heroes

Bear with me, this might get misty-eyed… Flushed with success one day when one of my books hit the dizzy heights of No 47 in the Irish best-sellers, I gleefully plotted the blockbuster follow-up. I’d list all the heroes of my childhood and youth, tra...more

23/05/2011


Island of dreams

There are times – usually deep into the third glass of Remy while wading through a pile of CDs by some hapless anxiety-ridden singer-songwriter inflicting the grindingly tedious details of their miserable existence on the rest of the world – when I d...more

24/03/2011


Island of dreams - Part 2

And knock me down with a bodhran, that's exactly what Nadim Sadek has done. Converting one of the houses on the island into a recording studio, he engaged former U2 fixer Suzanne Doyle to assemble a bunch of top-notch musicians who descended on Inish...more

24/03/2011


BBC Folk Awards 2011

“Folk music has always been the raspberry seed in the back teeth of the establishment...” says Chris Wood in that quietly loaded way of his to a packed hall hanging on his every word. You can always rely on Chris to rise to the occasion with a pertin...more

11/02/2011


BBC Folk Awards 2011 - part 2

And so the night flies by. Well actually, that's not true, time seems to grind completely to a halt when some of the presenters arrive, eagerly spreading their egoes across the stage. A funny thing clearly happened to Joanna Trollope on her way to t...more

11/02/2011


The Fifteen Commandments

And Lo! Colin Irwin has returned from the mountain with the Fifteen Folk Commandments carved upon the face of an Ewan MacColl album from the 1950's. If we follow these commandments the world shall be at peace and we can trust in Folk......more

18/01/2011


I am the eyes of NOSTRADAMUS...

Before donating his voice to Neil Tennant all those years ago, Al Stewart wrote a song called Nostradamus, bigging up that French geezer from the 16th century who predicted the Great Fire of London, the rise and fall of Napoleon and Hitler, the abdic...more

22/12/2010


I'm a Folkie - Get Me Out Of Here!

Awards, awards! Everywhere you look – awards! But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to reassess the whole mad process. It is, after all, well-known that every single person on these various awards selection panels are clueless morons that end up voting fo...more

10/12/2010


I'm a Folkie - Get Me Out Of Here! part 2

The jungle madness continues, it makes the Darwin Song House look like an Enid Blyton story. Now you can feel the horror in Rufus Wainwrights voice when he finds out that he's not the only gay in the jungle......more

10/12/2010


Folk Against... Folk

One of my favourite memories of the year is standing up and screaming “Bollocks To Nick Griffin!” at the top of my voice at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. It felt good. In fact, it felt bloody fantastic. You should try it some time. Or maybe you did....more

24/11/2010


Folk against ...Folk part 2

Colin continues his examination of the lack of multiculturalism in the current folk scene... Other black acts were around the British folk scene then, too. One of Martin Carthy’s first gigs was playing guitar with Nadia Cattouse; Dorris Henderson s...more

23/11/2010


3 daft monkeys
Cara Dillon
gate to southwell festival

chippenham folk festival
froots

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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.

COLIN IRWIN AT CAMBRIDGE FOLK FESTIVAL

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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