There are very few places in England that have an unbroken tradition of folk music and song; Dartmoor has its step dancers, box players and singers; East Anglia has a lively tradition of singing and making music and the thread is also unbroken amongst the Irish and the Traveller communities in England.
But Northumbria has probably got the strongest and most vital tradition – from the pit poets of the coalfields to the singers, pipers, fiddlers and mouthorgan players of the Cheviot Hills – think of people like Billy Pigg or Will Atkinson.
Kathryn Tickell came out of that tradition aged nine, playing the smallpipes and winning every piping competition there was by the age of twelve. By the time she was sixteen in 1984, she had released her first solo album and had been made official piper for the Lord Mayor of Newcastle. Kathryn is an instinctive and soulful player and, when I listen to her playing, I always think of the hills of Northumberland and in particular the border hills of the Cheviot – the “Debatable Lands.”
Over the last thirty years she has released a string of fine albums and worked with people like the Chieftains, the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Jimmy Nail and, of course, Sting – joining him on his latest album The Last Ship. She has written music for TV and for theatre and has toured the world with her music, but she is also a great champion of traditional music and young musicians.
In 1997 she founded the “Young Musicians’ Fund”, which has raised, at the time of writing, close to £100,000 to help young musicians in the North East. Kathryn also founded “Folkestra North”, a project to develop young, talented musicians that operates out of The Sage, Gateshead.
We celebrate this amazing woman for the string of great albums and concerts and the massive contribution she has made to col music in these islands, particularly for her work with the new generation of musicians.