Spotlight on Imagined Isle at Town Hall

We reported recently on Birmingham Town Hall’s forthcoming weekend long celebration of folk music this spring and here’s a little bit of focus on four awesome acts who will be showcasing their sounds in May.

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.

Emily Portman & The Coracle Band

Emily Portman is the 2013 holder of the BBC Radio Two Folk Award for Best Original Song; an accolade which reflects her power to conjure darkly surreal netherworlds where folklore and myth collide with urban landscapes.

In May she’ll will be touring with The Coracle Band, a stellar cast of musicians who featured on the studio album now bought together to recreate Coracle in an ambitious live show.

Joining Emily’s celebrated and longstanding collaborators are Lucy Farrell (viola,saw vocals) and Rachel Newton (harp, vocals). The Coracle live band also features virtuosic string player Sam Sweeney (Bellowhead and BBC Folk Musician of the Year 2015) guitarist M G Boulter (Lucky Strokes) and classical percussionist Toby Kearney (2006 BBC Young Musician of the Year).

Alasdair Roberts is a Glasgow-based musician who was raised near Callander. He is primarily a songwriter/composer, singer and acoustic fingerstyle guitarist as well as an interpreter/arranger of traditional songs and ballads.

In 1996 he released his first 7” single on Will Oldham’s Palace Records imprint; since then he as gone on to produce some 13 full-length albums of music, primarily working with Drag City Records of Chicago. He has toured widely at home in Scotland and abroad – in USA, Canada, Europe, Brazil and Australia – both solo and with various bands.

In 2013 he became a member of the Scottish/English folk group The Furrow Collective, along with Lucy Farrell, Rachel Newton and Emily Portman. His most recent solo release, simply entitled Alasdair Roberts, is a collection of ten self-written songs and was released by Drag City in early 2015. Alasdair is currently working on new material.

Info/Tickets here:

Declan O’Rourke

But, in his mid-twenties, within months of discovering Dublin’s bustling songwriter open-mic circuit, O’Rourke found himself in the mix with the likes of PaddyCasey, Gemma Hayes, Damian Rice and many other Irish singer-songwriters.

Now, he has achieved critical acclaim for his songwriting, singing and performance. Jon Pareles of The New York Times said there was virtuosity in his guitar playing, with ‘intricately contrapuntal picking and meticulous dynamics,’ and that his calling was as a balladeer.

Declan plays to sold-out crowds in his native Ireland and, more recently, further afield. A consummate and versatile performer, his songs mesmerize regardless of whether performed solo, with a band, string quartet, full orchestra, or as a trio.

He writes the sort of classic songs that people don’t write anymore, songs that sound like they’ve been around forever […] Listen to Galileo, which is possibly the greatest song written in the last 30 years. – Paul Weller, Mojo Magazine (Apr 2012)

Info/Tickets here:


False Lights. It was only a matter of time. A late night bar conversation between Sam Carter and Jim Moray (both BBC Folk Award winners in their own right) concluded in the forming of a gleefully raucous guitar band that plays traditional songs and tunes, without committing the sins of the past.

False Lights are a folk rock group, formed in the spirit of the genre’s late-‘60s originators but informed by the music of Sam and Jim’s far more recent youth. It felt to them that no one had updated the template. False Lights owe as much to Radiohead as they do to Fairport Convention.

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker.  BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Winners 2015: Best Duo To win the Best Duo category at the 2015 BBC Folk Awards is quite an achievement at any stage of an artists’ career. But just two years prior to this accolade Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker were virtually unknown on the folk scene (or any other, for that matter). So their success is quite remarkable.

Josienne and Ben had been performing to one woman and a disinterested dog at London acoustic nights since 2009. Following the release of their first two albums One Light Is Gone and The Seas Are Deep, interest began to grow in discerning pockets of the blogging community. But it was musician and producer Jim Moray who persuaded them of a far bigger audience who’d appreciate their classically instilled traditional songs and self-penned lovelorn ballads.

Although Josienne was initially sceptical that the folk and roots scene would welcome outsiders, the reviews, end-of-year polls and nominations that greeted their 2013 album Fire & Fortune would prove her gratifyingly wrong.

Luke Jackson. Luke is a young Roots Singer/Songwriter from Canterbury, Kent, who in 2013 was nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for both the Horizon Award for Best Emerging Talent and The Young Folk Category. With a bold, distinctive voice and a sweet, percussive guitar style, Luke is a confident and captivating live performer. He was also winner of Fatea’s “Male Artist of the Year 2014”

Info/Tickets here:

Eric Bibb

A career spanning five decades, 36 albums, countless radio & television shows and non-stop touring has made Eric Bibb one of the leading bluesmen of his generation. A Progressive preservationist, a fiery singer with true soul, gospel and folk roots, enjoyable and accessible, Eric Bibb wil be performing his honest and powerful blues with his band.

Yana Bibb is returning to the UK as the opening performance and promoting her latest release, “Afternoon in Paris” – through DixieFrog Records.

I’m really looking forward to playing again in the UK and Ireland and we’ll be playing a lot of new and old favourites too! Eric Bibb

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