Page updated on 31st August 2019

Here’s some occasional short blog posts, followed by some other news items at the end. Click here to see my gig list. Old news is now archived here: 2018 news posts.

September/October 2019

Two Valiant Dance Band gigs coming up before too long – Godalming Borough Ceilidhs in Surrey, with Gareth Kiddier calling on Saturday 5th October and Unicorn Ceilidhs in Baldock, Herts, with Sheena  Masson calling, on Friday 11th October.





August 2019

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.

July 2019

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.



May 2019

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.




April 2019

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 …





March 2019

“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.



February 2019

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).

January 2019

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.      

Other News

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.

Meanwhile, the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust continues under the new management of David Cain. EATMT has had a period of upheaval recently but is regrouping and looking forward to a revitalisation in 2019.

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.