Birmingham’s Newest Folk Festival – Imagined Isle, 12-16 MAY

Town Hall is set to host a weekend long celebration of folk this spring with a wave of musical delights.

Featuring a specially curated line-up of nationally and internationally renowned artists, alongside profiling local and emerging talents, Imagined Isle celebrates the unique voices and sounds of folk, set against the iconic backdrop of Birmingham’s historic Town Hall, on Thursday 12 May – Monday 16 May.

This year’s festival begins on Thursday 12 May with a tribute to one of the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years, Nick Drake. Nick grew up in nearby Tanworth and is buried there. His father worked in Birmingham and Nick performed at Town Hall, March 16th 1970.

Originally commissioned by THSH in 2009, Way To Blue: The Songs Of Nick Drake now returns full circle after touring the world. Curated by Drake’s producer Joe Boyd, and featuring original orchestrations by the late Robert Kirby, this very special tribute concludes its story where it began at Town Hall for a one-off performance at Imagined Isle. Confirmed names include Sam Beam from Iron & Wine, Academy Award winner Glen Hansard, Vashti Bunyan and Green Gartside, all accompanied by a house band.

Several of the artists performing across the weekend at Imagined Isle have recently been nominated for the 2016 BBC Folk Awards. These include Emily Portman for Folk Singer of the Year, The Furrow Collective for Best Traditional Track and False Lights for Best Album. The line-up also includes the internationally acclaimed and previous BBC Folk Award winner Kate Rusby, supported by local favourites, Boat To Row.

Sunday’s line-up will see the return of another THSH commission originally performed in 2012, featuring The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain exploring the works of Cecil Sharp, the collector who travelled extensively in England and America finding songs during the early 20th century. With his material they bring key ingredients of folk and pop music into focus, and tradition up to date.

Future Folk presents the best rising talents and those at the progressive forefront of British Folk music in a performance created in partnership with English Folk Dance and Song Society especially for Imagined Isle 2016. Alongside False Lights and Luke Jackson, previous winners of ‘Best Duo’ at the 2015 BBC Folk Awards, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker take to the stage on Sunday, transforming songs that are centuries old and making them personal and present again.

With a career that spans over five decades, 36 albums and non-stop touring, one of the leading Delta bluesmen of his generation, Eric Bibb finishes off the festival in timeless style. Bibb will be performing with his full band at Town Hall as part of his Lead Belly’s Gold Album tour.

Richard Hawley, Head of Artistic Programming at Town Hall Symphony Hall, said:

We are delighted to be announcing Imagined Isle as a new festival for Birmingham. Working closely with artists and in partnership with many promoters, we’ve curated a wonderful line-up of exceptional talent, both established and emerging, with many performers coming from the West Midlands. While we still have a few events to announce, please do join us for an unforgettable weekend of music from folk origins that will capture hearts and imaginations.

Line-up in full:

Way To Blue: The Songs Of Nick Drake

Produced by Joe Boyd, Arrangements by Robert Kirby. Musicians include: Kate St John, Neill MacColl, Zoe Rahman, Danny Thompson, Leo Abrahams, Martyn Barker,  Vashti Bunyan, Green Gartside,  Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), Glen Hansard, Sam Lee, Olivia Chaney, Kami Thompson and James Walbourne (The Rails).

Tickets on sale now from