An update on our local live music series

It’s been a month since my last blog entry, so it seems like a good time for an update on our local live music series. You may recall that late last year I announced that I’d been awarded National Lottery Project Grants funding from Arts Council England to support True North Music’s 2023 live music programme here in the Huddersfield area of West Yorkshire. As usual, the plan is to feature world class folk-roots, bluegrass and Americana artists, with a series of concerts complemented by some participatory workshops and community outreach sessions. Most of the ticketed events are taking place at The Carlile Institute in Meltham and Marsden Mechanics, lovely community-owned venues we’ve been using for about seven years. With the outreach events we’re also taking the music out into different parts of the  community, bringing the joy of folk music to people of all ages who might not usually be able to go to regular gigs.

How it’s going…

Gangstagrass at Marsden Mechanics

We’ve hosted three concerts in the series to date, all musically exceptional and warmly received: Canadian-American duo Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves made a triumphant return to the Carlile Institute on 20th May, with a sensational performance of fiddle and banjo duets, demonstrating their stellar musicianship and versatile range. They also led an afternoon workshop that drew around 20 instrumentalists for a session which focussed on effective duo playing and rhythmic variations. UK duo Old Spot also contributed a beautiful short opening set to that concert. Then on 8th July, Nashville touring duo Jordan Tice and Liv Greene brought more of a singer-songwriter vibe to Meltham, enchanting our audience with their exceptional songwriting, singing and guitar picking. At the end of July we had another change of gear with a sold out gig by acclaimed American quintet Gangstagrass at Marsden Mechanics. It was quite something to witness a packed room rocking out to this unique bluegrass and hip-hop band – one of our biggest gigs to date! Their thoughtful and progressive lyrics complement their sizzling and danceable music, blending two quintessentially American music genres in a highly entertaining way. Brilliant local folk-roots trio Ólta also won lots of new fans with a blistering opening set.

Back in the spring, we also commissioned a gorgeous illustration from local Huddersfield artist Kate Thornton Design to use in our series publicity. Kate adapted her trademark map and silhouette style to feature acoustic instruments, and the finished result beautifully reflects the local places that we’re bringing world class live music to – note that our venue locations Meltham and Marsden are front and centre in the design! As well as using the illustration on some of our posters and banners, I thought it would be a lovely idea to produce some high quality art prints of it. We’ve been selling them at the Meltham concerts this year, so keep an eye out for those at our next gig too. All profit made on the art prints will be split between the artist Kate Thornton and True North Music (with our share ploughed back into the budget for this series).

The musicians with Head Teacher Mrs Nazir

In early July we also embarked on our community outreach events with the first of our school workshops, at Mount Pleasant Primary School in Lockwood, Huddersfield. Jay Bradberry and Mike Giverin taught fiddle and ukulele workshops to several classes of Year 6 children (aged 10-11), as well as performing a couple of mini concerts. Jay and Mike are two of the finest acoustic musicians in the UK, and renowned for their band Jaywalkers who have played our series in the past. They were ably assisted by Abbey Thomas, a super young mandolinist and guitarist who recently graduated from Leeds Conservatoire. The whole day was a big success, and we got lots of good feedback from the children and the staff. You can read a full report of the day at my previous blog entry here. We’re looking forward to organising a second music workshop day for Mount Pleasant in early autumn – this one will have an old time music theme and will involve some younger year groups.

Still to come…

That’s brought you pretty much up to date, but one important thing to mention is that Arts Council England agreed we can extend the series through to summer 2024, rather than trying to cram all the concerts in before the end of the year. That will give us a wider choice of touring artists, and I also plan to include a day festival of Americana and bluegrass music next summer, with several bands and workshops. Stay tuned for news on that coming soon! Meanwhile, the next event in our local series is a gig by the marvellous Mishra on Saturday 23rd September – find out more and book your tickets here!

I want to acknowledge once again the funding support from Arts Council England which has enabled us to offer the community workshops as well as helping to underwrite the whole series, and to thank our series sponsor Dark Woods Coffee for their support too.