2018 news posts

December 2018

HOT NEWS! Tickets for the Julia Clifford memorial event, 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.

And  the last of PolkaWorks’ 10th anniversary gigs on 15th December: for SHOCC ceilidhs near Winchester – and it’s their 4th anniversary! Stompingly good music, interesting dances from caller Aidan Hansell and bunting and party poppers everywhere you look!

And here we were in action: Polkaworks at SHOCC ceilidhs 15.12.18

November 2018

So busy this month nearly forgot to drop by and update this page! Playing for an amazing event to celebrate the centenary of signing of the World Ward One peace armistice in central London this weekend. Off to teach and play at Witney Supersqueeze the following weekend – teaching East Anglian stepdance music, “Stretching Your Fingers” and “In the Mood” (not Glen Miller tunes! – more about expressing yourself through traditional music). Then a mini-fest of Sliabh Luachra music locally with visiting friends.

Two more guests have confirmed attendance at I Looked East and I Looked West! First is multi-instrumentalist John Coakley, a former member of The Boys of the Lough, who knew Julia well in the UK. See our Artists page for more details about John. And second is Tony Hall – whizzo English melodeon (accordion if you’re Irish) player, who played with Julia in the 1980s. Here’s Julia playing 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.

October 2018

Working away on the planning and funding for ‘I Looked East and I Looked West‘ this month. Guest list looking good and we’ve just had confirmation from the Irish Traditional Music Archive that they will be coming to record the event for their archives, which is great news! There’s now more information about the event available (see link above), and tickets go on sale from this website on 26th November.


There’s news of a new opportunity to build your own one-row melodeon in England with Emmanuel Pariselle next year – see Other News at the bottom of this page.

I’m looking forward to a fun Knees Up Cecil Sharp House ceilidh with the Valiant Dance Band in London on Friday 19th and then the culmination of the Armistice project next month, again in London. With Simon Callow no less! Had great fun over the summer with both bands – here’s the Valiant suitably dressed  for some music from the Seychelles at Sidmouth Festival in August …

September 2018

Taking a bit of a breather after a hectic summer (PolkaWorks ceilidh at Towersey Festival pictured). Normal service will be resumed for PolkaWorks’ 10th anniversary ceilidh at Godalming on 29th September.

There’s now a page on here dedicated to  the ‘I Looked East and I Looked West’ event and more news on guests and tickets coming soon.

“The Brightest of Entertainers” – a history of jig dolls – is launched and available from me in person (£11.00) or by mail order (£13.00) from the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust.

August 2018

PolkaWorks is ten years old this summer, and to celebrate we’re out on the festival circuit this month – at Sidmouth, Whitby and Towersey – and we have a couple of special gigs in the Autumn too. More info on the PolkaWorks website  – and dates below.

It’s a busy old month, as I’m also playing harmonica and melodeon with Martin Brinsford at Sidmouth, and the Valiant Dance Band have two special events there – The Next Step Ceilidh with five wonderful stepdancers providing percussion on Tuesday 7th August, and a zany concert called “Around the World in 80 Minutes” on Wednesday 8th August. Then John and I are off to the ever-lovely Dartmoor Festival, running the CD stall as usual, back for a couple of days before a Valiant Dance Band ceilidh at FolkEast, then up to Whitby Folk Week with PolkaWorks for a few days and on to Towersey Festival with both bands on the Monday!

July 2018

Here are Valiant Dance Band members John and Rob plotting our musical itinerary for “Around the World in 80 Minutes” featuring quirky tunes from our repertoire from such exotic locations as Denmark and the Seychelles! This event is during Sidmouth Folk Week, where we’re also playing ceilidhs and concerts.



A different sort of project finally reaches fruition this month. 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 is now finally ready for publication by the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust! It was very much a joint venture and I am only sad that Pat isn’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 from mid August.

June 2018

We’ve fixed a date for our commemorative event for the great Irish fiddle-player Julia Clifford. Julia lived a few miles away from me for the last 20 years of her life and a group of us still play her music locally.

The event, ‘I Looked East and I Looked West’ will take place in Suffolk on the weekend of 26th-28th April 2019 and is already looking very exciting with some great musicians joining us from Ireland! There’s a Facebook page you can join for the latest information. Tickets will be available in late 2018.


May 2018

Listen in on Tuesday 8th May on BBC Radio 4 at 11.30 am for “Thinking Inside the Box” – a programme about making melodeons with me, Andy Cutting and Emmanuel Pariselle. Part of the “Instrument Makers” series. Here’s a link to the BBC page .

“Emmanuel Pariselle welcomes renowned musicians Andy Cutting and Katie Howson to his home, just outside the picturesque French city of Poitiers, where he builds diatonic button accordions for some of Europe’s finest players.

“In his workshop, Emmanuel combines technical skill with a passion for problem-solving, as he aims to build the perfect squeezebox for every musician. Here, he discusses how the instruments are built and maintained, the special relationship between a musician and a maker, and what qualities make a great musician …

“Later, we hear him take a nervous Katie’s two-row button accordion apart to try and diagnose a clickety rattle in the action. And, on a box he designed and built with Emmanuel, Andy demonstrates the difference in what the left-hand and right-hands do and explains that the longer he plays the instrument, the more it plays how he wants it to play.

“Ever wondered what a free reed is? Or what distinguishes an accordion from a melodeon? Or whether you can make a musical instrument from plywood? This is a unique insight into this fascinating instrument – and three friends’ relationship with it – with stories and music along the way.”

OHDB at Cecil Sharp House, 1992

As a trailer for that programme, Old Hat Dance Band got a play on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show on 2nd May. We’re on 14.25 minutes into the programme.  It’s on Listen Again until at least the end of May.




February 2018

The instrument in the red box belonged to my grandpa. I’m playing some First World War songs for an Armistice celebration later in the year and to practise, I’ve been playing along with a recording of John McCormack – my grandpa’s favourite singer. Aw … shame I couldn’t have used his instrument but I play diatonics (the ones below, in different keys)  and his is a chromatic model and all rusted up.



January 2018

This dear little ‘boite a frissons‘  made its second journey to France, this time I went with it!

We visited Emmanuel Pariselle, accordion designer and maker who refurbished it for me a few years ago.  Andy Cutting came too, not to make a melodeon this time, but a radio programme for BBC Radio 4. C’est vraiment excitant!

Here’s a soundclip of this box.