In Haunt

13 gigs across a selection of city centre venues and an even more diverse festival than ever - the third Manchester Folk Festival line-up certainly stands out. Returning for 2019 on the 16-20 October, it opens with the BBC 2 Folk Awards at The Bridgewater Hall.

Following on from a highly successful 2018 festival, this year’s edition is even bigger, bringing live folk acts, events and activities as part of a packed programme. This features the likes of Grace Petrie, Kate Rusby, The Breath and a rare  opportunity to see The Unthanks’ latest intriguing project: The Unthanks Sing Emily Brontë (Rachel and Becky Unthank pictured below). There is also a special performance to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester. Tickets are priced between £14-£28 for the individual gigs, now on sale: https://www.manchesterfolkfestival.org.uk/

The Unthanks

The festival also stands proud in its support of the 50/50 gender balance initiative from PRS Foundation’s Keychange, meaning that at least 50% of the acts identify as female. Manchester Folk Festival not only celebrates the depth and diversity of folk music, but its expansive nature as a genre: incorporating everything from floor-thumping dance tunes to mellow music ideal to relax to.

As well as the opening event at The Bridgewater Hall, this year’s festival incorporates four close-by venues: designed to create an accessible experience for all – Manchester Central, The O2 Ritz, Gorilla and HOME. All the gigs involved are individually priced; also meaning that people can pick and choose – no need to buy a whole-weekend ticket.

The exciting launch of the line-up and festival programme was celebrated with a day of folk dance (Joint Morris Organisations National Day of Dance 2019) across Manchester on Saturday 30 March, involving street performances in a number of city centre locations including Market Street, Piccadilly Gardens and Albert Square. It was hosted by local Medlock Rapper, with over 600 dancers and musicians from across the country in attendance.

2019’s festival really is worth celebrating. Attendees of all ages will be able to enjoy a great variety of entertainment: from acoustic to electric, rousing to reflective. We bring you our pick from the first wave of announced artists…

Rising Up: Peterloo 2019, Thursday 17 October

Peterloo Event

A brand new commissioned piece marks a poignant tribute to the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, which took place in Manchester on the 16 August 1819. Written by Sean Cooney, ‘Protest, Rebellion and Freedom of Speech: Peterloo 2019’ is a moving show exploring themes of democracy, free speech and protest through the narratives of two working class women. A historic and heartfelt piece, one not to miss: taking place on Wednesday 16 October as well as Thursday 17 October in the Theatre 1 space at HOME.

Ferocious Dog, Thursday 17 October

Ferocious Dog

A powerful punkishness is powered up with the deep energy of Celtic folk in the music of six-piece-strong group Ferocious Dog. Sure to get audiences moving with their deeply personal, often political pieces which seethe with rapid strings, foot-stomping rhythms and plenty of gutsy drive: mandolin, guitar, bass, drums, violins and vocals make this a high-octane combination. A gig to get moving to, at the O2 Ritz.  

The Breath, Friday 18 OctoberThe Breath

A Manchester-based folk duo comprised of singer Ríoghnach Connolly and guitarist Stuart McCallum, delivering a diverse blend; from reflective pieces to bold anthems.  Carefully crafted songs, deeply thoughtful lyrics and emotive delivery make The Breath a fascinating and wonderful watch. The type of music that leaves audiences spellbound – so see for yourself at Gorilla.

Photo credit: Duncan Elliott

The Demon Barbers XL, Saturday 19 October

The Demon Barbers XL

Bringing a creative and delightfully colourful cabaret of Folk-meets-Hip-Hop mayhem to HOME’s Theatre 1 for an afternoon show (1.30pm) – seeing The Demon Barbers XL will be an unforgettably entertaining experience. Now they have an even bigger band and will bring clog, sword, hip hop and  break dancers to the stage, for a music and dance sensation.

The Unthanks Sing Emily Brontë, Saturday 19 October

Marking writer Emily Brontë’s 200th Birthday and commissioned by The Brontë Society to do so, this is set to be a unique performance of her poems turned into a poignant piano-meets-song piece by group The Unthanks. On piano is Yorkshire-born composer Adrian McNally, who has not only wor the poems into a music format, but also composed it using Emily Brontë’s very own five-octave cabinet piano, which is still based in the Parsonage Museum in Haworth.  With vocals from Rachel and Becky Unthank, sending storytelling to soaring heights with voice, there is much-anticipation around this unique collaboration. It takes place on Saturday 19 October at 7.30pm  in HOME’s Theatre 1.

The full Manchester Folk Festival line-up and details can be found on the website. There are further artist appearances, sing-a-rounds and workshops still to be announced.

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