Welcome to the website for
Katie is a traditional musician, researcher, writer and event organiser from Suffolk, England.
I play traditional music on the melodeon and harmonica. My musical education took place largely in the pubs of Suffolk as a young adult, where I learned much from an older generation of musicians. Since then I have spent most of my life either playing traditional music or passing it on to others in one way or another.
Until October 2017 I was Artistic Director of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust.
Seventeen years of work is summed up in a presentation I did for the EFDSS Folk Educators’ Group in June 2017, which you can see here (but there are only a few words of explanation as it was designed as an aide-memoire for me to talk over!): FEG 2017
I am now a freelance performer, tutor, researcher and animateur.
I started playing the melodeon whilst at university, teaching myself to play through listening to others. This was at a time when English traditional music was experiencing a renaissance and there was no shortage of exciting recordings and events to inspire me.
After moving to Suffolk in 1978, I spent many hours in pubs playing alongside traditional musicians and in 2000, with the founding of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, the music of my adopted locality became a huge focus for research and performance.
I play and learn by ear. I love the fact that learning by ear opens up music-making to people from all walks of life and I have taught many people to play instruments and express themselves musically in this way.
EFDSS Gold Badge Award
In 2010, my husband John Howson and I were awarded the prestigious Gold Badge by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. You can read the EFDSS Gold Badge Citation here.
Page updated on 6th December 2019
Bring on the great choons and frocks: PolkaWorks bring some seasonal cheer to a gloomy season at the Meltdown Ceilidhs in Hayward’s Heath, west Sussex on Saturday 7th December. We promise there will be no cheesy carols, but there may possibly be mince pies or baubles and there will certainly be red frocks, shoes and great uplifting dance music.
Any Sliabh Luachra music fans in reach of Stowmarket, Suffolk, do get in touch and I can tell you about our irregular sessions coming up this month and in the New Year.
January brings a restorative trip to the west coast of Ireland, and a musical weekend or two nearer to home!
Meanwhile, looking further ahead in to 2020, I am tutoring and performing at Melodeons on Sea in Harwich, 18th-19th April. A new event, wishing them lots of luck, the location, programme and venues all look great.
After our wonderful “I Looked East and I Looked West” event in April, I gaily said to Matt Cranitch, “If I can do anything to bring you over to the UK more often, just let me know …” So, I am pleased to tell you, that as of 1st November I am acting as UK agent for Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch! I look forward to bringing them to more British audiences.
UK tour dates soon to be announced for August 2020 and October 2020!!
More details here: Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch
A really interesting event coming up on November 16th-17th.
“Britain and Ireland have a rich history of step dancing in many forms and contexts, linking with traditions across the world. This conference aims to further knowledge and understanding in these traditions and to stimulate debate. Two days of presentations, discussion, insight and exploration into step dancing.”
Subjects include “Street” clog dancing; stepping in Irish set and English ceilidh; Devon, Cape Breton, Australian and Welsh traditions; modes of transmission and the influence of competitions, and a panel discussion on Revival and Continuity, to which I am contributing my experiences in East Anglia.
Good news and sad news.
I’m absolutely thrilled that the book I co-wrote with Pat Pickles was short-listed by The Folklore Society for the Katharine Briggs Award 2019.
I am very sad to say that Pat Pickles died earlier this month, in fact I had just heard about the award and was in the middle of writing to her about it when I received this news. Pat had suffered from dementia for the past couple of years, but will be fondly remembered by all whose paths she crossed over the previous decades, particularly through her many interests in folklore.
Buy the book here: East Anglian Traditional Music Trust’s shop.
We’ve got two lovely Valiant Dance Band public dances coming up:
Godalming Borough Ceilidhs in Surrey, with Gareth Kiddier calling on Saturday 5th October
Unicorn Ceilidhs in Baldock, Herts, with Sheena Masson calling, on Friday 11th October.
I’m at Sidmouth Folk Festival in Devon every year, doing a variety of things. This year I’m in the Squeezebox Concert alongside Conor Keane, Brian Peters and Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham (Tues 6th). I’m also doing a presentation on the history of jig dolls in the British Isles and the USA with Jeff Warner (“Jolylboys and LImberjacks”, Thurs 8th), and I’m on a panel talking about the role of competitions in stepdancing, with Instep (Mon 5th). And, of course, there’s the regular spots in the Woodlands “In the Tradition” evenings. Keeps me out of mischief anyway (mostly!).
We’ll also be running the festival CD stall at Dartmoor Folk Festival (Fri 9th – Sun 11th) as usual.
I’ve at last got round to uploading a few images from the wonderful ‘I Looked East and I Looked West’ event in April – here’s me with Billy Clifford,. There’s a whole page of photos here , so do have a look and let other people know they are on here too. During that weekend, friends Caroline and Michael launched a fantastic new website, where they are publishing sound files and scores from recordings they made of Julia Clifford in the 1980s. A great musical resource with a lovely personal touch: it’s called The music of Julia Clifford.
The “Suffolk Premiere” (!) of the George Butterworth film “All My Life’s Buried Here” is at Aldeburgh Cinema on Sunday 5th May at 4pm and I’ll be talking about his folksong collecting in the area afterwards – including from Ben Hurr (left), fisherman from Southwold. Tickets here. Scroll down to February’s news for more about the film.
In connection with this, I have updated my research into their trip to the Southwold area and this is now published on this website: Southwold Singers 1910. When I carried out the initial research in 2003, I also looked into traditional music-making and singing in Southwold later in the 20th century, and this research is now updated and republished here: Southwold in the later 20th century.
I was sad to hear that one of the great characters and singers of Southwold, John ‘Dusso’ Winter died earlier this year, and there’s a lovely tribute to him here in the Eastern Daily Press.
You can now see the full programme of events for “I Looked East and I Looked West”. Details of the pub session trail will be found in the Souvenir Programme which should be available locally at Easter and can be picked up at the weekend. We can also post these out afterwards to anyone who would have liked to come to the weekend but couldn’t manage it. Details here.
My main preoccupation at the moment is this presentation, with over 100 images and press cuttings to edit and organise. Fascinating stuff though …
“I Looked East and I Looked West”, our weekend festival celebrating the life and music of Irish fiddler Julia Clifford is coming up on 26th-28th April, in Stowmarket, Suffolk, and there are lots of exciting developments. We have just sold out of tickets for the Saturday evening , but there are many more events on over the weekend, with an absolutely exceptional line-up of traditional musicians from the west of Ireland coming over to join the celebrations. It’s a one-off event with opportunities to listen, dance and play.
A new film about folk song collector, composer and dancer George Butterworth has just been launched. Called “All My Life’s Buried Here” it charts Butterworth’s life and work until his death on the Somme aged just 31. Featuring wonderful singing and music and interviews, including yours truly, as I researched some of the collecting trips he made in East Anglia with Vaughan Williams in 1910/11. The film premiered to great acclaim at the British Library on 27th January and has public screenings coming up in Leicester, Diss and Lewes. Full details on the film’s website. I will be attending the Q&A session after the screenings in Diss Corn Hall on 27th February.
If you’d like to know more about Butterworth’s folksong collecting in the eastern counties, and the singers he collected from, I have just updated my research about his 1911 trip to the Diss area in south Norfolk and published it here.
Further information about his collecting trips in East Anglia with Vaughan Williams is available on the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust website. Next to be updated is the trip the made to Southwold in 1910, which I will be working on in preparation for the next screening in East Anglia, which is at Aldeburgh Cinema on Sunday 5th May at 5pm. Again, I will be attending the Q&A session after the screening. Come and here about the REAL Ben Hurr!
PLUS … not one, but two public Valiant Dance Band gigs coming up! First up is the Ceilidhs on the Move at Clopton Village Hall near Woodbridge (IP13 6QN) on Saturday 16th February, with Nikki Acott calling an interesting selection of dances. Then we’re back at the always lovely Norfolk Ceilidhs at the John Innes Social centre on the outskirts of Norwich (NR4 7UH) on Friday 8th March with caller Mary Panton delving into her store of unusual dances (pictured on the left with the Valiant Dance Band, Towersey 2018).
Great news to start the new year: we have received confirmation of some grant funding from Culture Ireland, an organisation which facilitates visits by Irish performers to other countries, for our Julia Clifford memorial event I Looked East and I Looked West. We’re delighted to have their support, alongside other established English events such as Return to Camden and Birmingham Tradfest. Later in the month we heard that Stowmarket Town Council are also backing this event, so big thanks to both organisations!
Tickets for I Looked East and I Looked West are on sale now – here’s a quick link to the section of this website about the event.
We’re organising this event completely independently and would encourage you to buy your tickets as soon as possible, or consider making a donation, so that we can ensure it all runs according to plan. It’s a one-off event, so if you miss it … you miss it!
More news very shortly.
Highlights from 2018
Lots of old photos of Julia Clifford surfaced from a variety of people, including this wonderful one of her playing with Tony Hall – whizzo English melodeon (accordion if you’re Irish) player – for a ceilidh at Notre Dame High School in Norwich with Tony and Chris Morley; two on the right unknown. Thanks to Chris Morley for the photo.
A long drawn out project finally reached fruition last summer. Some years ago Pat Pickles who had, with her late husband Rennie, written a book about the history of jig dolls, asked me to work with her on a new edition. The task was a long one, with the revision turning into a whole new edition, with many many extra photographs and pages and pages of additional information, including whole new sections of my own research. It was very much a joint venture and I am only sad that Pat wasn’t really able to appreciate its eventual publication, as, sadly, her health took a serious turn for the worse a couple of years ago. The Brightest of Entertainers is on sale from the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust by post or from me in person, price £11.00.
There’s some events I wouldn’t miss each year, even when I’m not officially booked at them, here’s some recommendations:
Dartmoor Folk Festival, South Zeal, Devon. Went to the first one in 1978 and although I’ve missed a few, it’s a fixture in the diary, especially for the stepdancing and the Orchard family’s sessions. 9th-11th August 2019.
Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Been going to Miltown for donkey’s years, but only to the ‘Willie Week’ in more recent years, when I have been honoured to take part in the harmonica recital. 6th-14th July 2019.
The East Anglian Traditional Music Trust continues under new management.
Having spent 17 years setting up and running the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, there are a lot of links from here to that website. However, the EATMT website is in the process of being rebuilt and some pages may be temporarily unavailable.
Click on the thumbnail to see the whole image.
You can email me at katie.howsonatgmail.com (just change the word at for the symbol @).