Singer and harpist Rachel Newton won twice – once as Musician of the Year, and secondly, as part of the Furrow Collective, which was named Best Group. Rachel specialises in interpreting traditional folk songs into English and Gaelic as well as writing her own music She is a founder member of The Shee, who all met on the degree course, and The Furrow Collective. She also plays with the Scottish/Norwegian group Boreas.
The Furrow collective boasts three Folk and Traditional Music graduates alongside Alasdair Roberts – Rachel, Lucy Farrell and Emily Portman. They approach traditional ballads with a bold, improvisatory twist: storytelling takes centre stage, backed by harp, guitar, viola, concertina, banjo, musical saw and rousing harmonies.
These three graduates have also performed together live as The Emily Portman Trio in prestigious venues such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
Jim Causley, another alumnus who specialises in the songs and music of the West Country, was nominated for folk singer of the year – the sixth time he has been nominated for a Folk Music award.
Talented and committed performers
Sandra Kerr, acting degree programme director for the Folk and Traditional Music degree at Newcastle University said: “It is fantastic news. We’re very proud of our former students and wish them all the very best in their careers. We are clearly turning out exceptionally talented and committed performers who have a spark of individuality."
Graduates of the degree – the only one if its kind in England - have a strong track record in the awards. Last year, The Unthanks, which features alumna Niopha O’Keen on fiddle, won best album for Mount the Air. In 2015, Nancy Kerr, who is a guest tutor on the Folk and Traditional Music Course, was crowned Folk Singer of the Year, much to the delight of her mother Sandra who also teaches on the course. The year before, Fay Hield’s group the Full English, which Nancy also plays in, scooped best band and best album, while Bella Hardy won Singer of the Year.
Now in their 18th year, previous winner of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards include Joan Baez, Cat Stevens and Billy Bragg. This year’s awards took place on Wednesday 5 April at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
All images courtesy of the BBC
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