Manchester is famously a broad church when it comes to live music. That’s why it felt overdue when last year it was announced that the city would enjoy a large-scale folk festival for the first time. After such a successful debut, it’s hard now to imagine the city’s musical landscape without it. Back again this year with a joyous celebration of the best of English folk, 2018’s festival will present the work of exciting emerging artists alongside that of household names. Featuring both large scale and intimate gigs in the heart of the city, the urban festival’s hub will be HOME, between the 18 and the 21 October. Gorilla, The Ritz and The Great Northern Warehouse will also be holding a number of gigs, and the Anthony Burgess Foundation will be home to a range of workshops.
One great thing about folk music is its inclusivity. This year’s Manchester Folk Festival has something to please the purists, as well as the more future-leaning listeners. Straddling genres, embracing different cultures and absorbing new influences, the line-up is commendable for its contemporaneity. One great pick is Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita. Respective masters of the classical harp and the kora, the duo’s recent album SOAR is totally enchanting. Kate Sables’ project This is the Kit is another great addition to the line-up. Building a name for herself gradually over a decade, the reaches of Sables’ lauded project now extend far beyond the world of folk. Tackling the mysteries of mortality with lyrical adeptness, her latest album Moonshine Freeze has enjoyed a wealth of popular and critical acclaim, having been nominated for an Ivor Novello award earlier this year.
As well as these younger artists, there are a number of more established acts on the line-up. Billy Bragg is a huge score for the festival. Very political in his work, Bragg reminds us of the immediacy with which folk music is able to deliver radical messages of protest. Perhaps now more than ever, this seems pertinent. The acclaimed musician received wonderful reviews for his latest album Bridges Not Walls, with which he continues to lead a conversation inspired by today’s political turmoil. Similarly, there is Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band. Boasting two mercury prize nominations for solo efforts, five years ago Carthy assembled a folk big band, with which she’ll be playing the festival. With songs on their acclaimed record Big Machine tackling issues like the refugee crisis, Carthy remains a boldly relevant voice in 2018.
As well as a diverse programme of live music, the weekend will also be filled with workshops. Fancy learning how to carve a wooden spoon? No problem. What about making your own leather belt? Or your own purse? Or a wall hanging? There is a whole host of workshops to get involved with over the course of the weekend. Some are for adults, such as The Sacred Harp singing workshop, and some are for families, like the Family Songwriting Workshop. There’s also a pub singalong, as well as a ceilidh at the Great Northern Warehouse! The festival organisers encourage you to think of it as a chance to slow down, connect with friends and make new discoveries. And just a thought… if you’re thinking about going to multiple gigs across the weekend, you can get 20% off the ticket price if you buy four tickets in one transaction. Not bad!