Page updated on 1st July 2018

Here’s some occasional short blog posts, followed  by my gig list and some other news items at the end, including melodeon/accordion news.

July 2018

The Valiant Dance Band are doing a couple of special events next month, at Sidmouth Folk Week. On the left, John and Rob are 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! Join us in the Bedford Hotel from 3.15 on Wednesday 8th August. The night before  is our Next Step Ceilidh in the Blackmore Gardens Marquee, where will be joined by five of the UK’s most innovative stepdancers as percussionists!

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 will soon be available for sale from the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust by post or from me in person.

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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.


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May 2018

PolkaWorks is ten years old this summer, and to celebrate we’re out on the festival circuit in August – 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.



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.




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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.



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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.



 2018 dates

Saturday 24th February 2018: Borderbox, Oswestry, Shropshire – a day of workshops and an evening concert, with Rees Wesson and Tony Weatherall. My subject was tunes in polka timing from England (Suffolk), Ireland (Cork) and Newfoundland and how they vary from country to country.

Friday 9th March 2018: Unicorn Ceilidhs, Baldock, Hertfordshire – Valiant Dance Band

Sunday 20th May: Weird and Wonderful Wood, Haughley Park, Suffolk – informal music under the trees at this lovely laid-back event.

Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th June: English Country Music Weekend, Staffordshire. A mighty seed-bed for traditional music for over forty years.

Friday 3rd -Thursday 9th August 2018: Sidmouth Folk Week, Devon – PolkaWorks  10th birthday ceilidh (Monday 6th);  Valiant Dance Band Next Step ceilidh (Tuesday 7th); Around the World in 80 Minutes (Wednesday 8th) and other special events; Martin Brinsford & Katie Howson Woodlands Hotel etc

Saturday 18th August:  FolkEast, Suffolk – Valiant Dance Band and launch of The Brightest of Entertainers

Monday 20th – Wednesday 22nd August: Whitby Folk Week, Yorkshire – PolkaWorks

Monday 27th August: Towersey Festival, Oxfordshire – Valiant Dance Band & PolkaWorks 

Saturday 29th September 2018: GBH Ceilidhs, Godalming, Surrey – PolkaWorks

Friday 19th October 2018:  Knees Up Ceilidhs, Cecil Sharp House, Camden, London – Valiant Dance Band

Saturday 10th November 2018: Armistice Centenary Concert, Covent Garden, London – with Liz Giddings & Roger Digby 

Saturday 17th – Sunday 18th November 2018: Supersqueeze Weekend, Witney, Oxfordshire – three workshops (subjects tbc) and concert spot.

Saturday 15th December: SHOCC CeilidhPolkaWorks

2019 dates

Saturday 16th February 2019:  Ceilidhs on the Move, Clopton, Suffolk – Valiant Dance Band

Friday 8th March 2019: Norfolk Ceilidhs, Norwich – Valiant Dance Band

Other News

The East Anglian Traditional Music Trust’s Stepdance Day, will be held at Blaxhall Ship in east Suffolk this year, on Sunday 29th July.

This is an event that EATMT took over from previous organisers in Essex in 2007, when I was Artistic Director there. EATMT has encouraged and supported stepdancers both young and old, and there should be lots of them at this event!

For more details see the EATMT website. 



There’s some events I wouldn’t miss each year, even when I’m not officially booked at them, here’s some recommendations for 2018:

Dartmoor Folk Festival, South Zeal, Devon. Went to the first one 40 years ago and although I’ve missed a few, it’s a fixture in the diary, especially for the stepdancing and the Orchard family’s sessions. 11th-13th August 2018.

Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Been going to Miltown for donkey’s years, but only managed a couple of the ‘Willie Weeks’ in recent years. Now there’s no day job to get in the way, why would I be anywhere else in the first week of July? Just remember to pack the waterproofs and woollies, yes, even in July. 7th-15th July 2018.

Meanwhile, the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust continues under the new management of David Cain.

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.