New Project Gets Underway to Revive Teesdale’s Folk Music Traditions

Press Release, 10 February 2012

A new project called “Music at the Heart of Teesdale” is seeking to revive Teesdale’s folk music traditions, inspired by the landscape of this beautiful part of County Durham, and recruit enthusiastic young people from the area to take part.

Photo of the River Tees near Mickleton

The River Tees near Mickleton in beautiful Teesdale. (Photo courtesy Heart of Teesdale landscape partnership.)

Project co-ordinator Neil Diment said, “We plan to run a series of folk music sessions and residential workshops over the next three years for young people aged between 11 and 18 who live or go to school in the Heart of Teesdale project area, based here in Barnard Castle. Hopefully in the future, after a bit of practice, we”ll play a number of gigs in County Durham, North Yorkshire and beyond.”

The project will also build on the research by Mike Bettison (“Flower and Frolics”) and Rosie Cross (“Pyewackett”) that has already unearthed the fact that “Scarborough Fair”—the song made famous by Simon and Garfunkel—was collected in Teesdale in the late 1940s by Ewan MacColl and Joan Littlewood. Mike and Rosie, who have lived in Teesdale for over 20 years, hope that their research will add other such tunes to the Teesdale folk repertoire and produce an archive. “Towards the end of the project,” adds Neil, “we aim to perform and record a CD of a specially commissioned new piece of music, inspired by Teesdale’s folk traditions and the special landscape qualities of the area.”

Hinny Pawsey with violin

Hinny Pawsey, a fiddler, teacher, and graduate of Newcastle University’s prestigious Folk and Traditional Music degree, is the first tutor for the Music at the Heart of Teesdale project.

The project has already signed up its tutor, Hinny Pawsey, a young fiddler, teacher and graduate of Newcastle University’s prestigious Folk and Traditional Music degree who is currently playing for Jez Lowe and the Big Bad Pennies. Neil and Hinny then recruited the young musicians who between them can play a range of instruments from fiddles, cello and “squeezy things” to guitars, flutes and the percussion. “Any young person who is really passionate about learning traditional music,” says Hinny, “we can find a space for them.”

Hinny led the project’s first “taster session” for group of over 20 young musicians at The Hub, a new state-of-the-art eco-building on the edge of town in January. It was a great success with everyone now looking forward to more. The second workshop will follow in March with a residential workshop planned for Midsummer. “It’s such good fun,” said 14-year old fiddler Milly Diment. “I hope after these sessions we will be able to go on and play some more together and maybe do our own ceilidh.”

The Music at the Heart of Teesdale project is part of the wider Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership supported by Barnard Castle Vision, Durham County Council and the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Anyone interested in finding out more about the project, or with information about the music of Teesdale, can contact Neil on 01833 638263 or email him at neil@ndiment.co.uk