School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Kathryn Tickell




Kathryn Tickell OBE has been a full-time professional musician for over 20 years and has recorded 14 CDs under her own name. She has toured extensively both solo and with her band in venues across the world, in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and Australia. She has performed in venues ranging from small village halls to the Edinburgh Festival, Carnegie Hall, The South Bank Centre, The Barbican and at the European Parliament.

She has worked with a wide range of musicians from all genres and styles including Evelyn Glennie, John Surman, Andy Sheppard, The Penguin Café Orchestra, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sting.

In 1997 Kathryn founded the "Young Musicians' Fund", which is managed by The Community Foundation. To date some £98,000 has been raised to help young people in the North East to realise their musical potential. Kathryn is very involved with initiatives to use historical culture to support regional regeneration.

One of Kathryn's most important and enduring contributions is as a composer. Her work is rooted in the musical thinking and practice of Northumberland, but it is also highly innovative in harmony, in rhythm and arrangement. Her music has been described as 'a force for renewal, transforming traditional music from within the tradition'.

Quoted from Dr Sean Figgis's citation at honorary doctorate award ceremony, University of Northumbria, 2007.

Roles and Responsibilities

• In August 1999 Kathryn was appointed as one of the founding staff for the BMus in Folk and Traditional Music at Newcastle University

• In 2002 Kathryn founded and became Artistic Director of Folkestra, the Sage Gateshead's Youth Folk Ensemble

In 2016 Kathryn set up Superfolkus, a new 'supergroup' of young musicians and singers from the Northeast and Cumbria.

External roles

Director of Magnetic North East (CIC) set up in 2015 to promote and celebrate the identity of the North East of England through arts, music, heritage and creativity.

Deputy Lieutenant of Northumberland 

Presenter BBC Radio 3, World on 3,

Honours and Awards

Honorary doctorate from University of Northumbria, 2007

Queen's Medal for Music, 2009

'Special Contribution to Arts and Culture' Journal Culture Awards, 2009

Musician of the Year in BBC Radio Two Folk Awards 2005 & 2013

Honorary degree - Master of the University from the Open University 2015

OBE 2015

Honorary Master of Music from Durham University 2017


Research Interests

• Northumbrian and Borders music, including field recording of older and "lost" musicians such as Dick Moscrop of North-Tynedale recording both their music and their oral histories.

• My composition has two major aspects:

o The continuation of writing music within the known idioms of the traditional music of Northumberland and the Borders, usually for traditional instruments.

o Writing for instruments and players from outside the Northumbrian tradition and working to break down the boundaries between different musical genres.

Recent Work

  • Water of Tyne, Kathryn Tickell and Friends, CD released November 2016
  • Kathryn Tickell and The Side, CD with Kathryn's touring ensemble 2014
  • Northumbrian Voices, CD and touring project featuring research material from Kathryn's interviews with older traditional musicians from rural Northumberland. Released 2012
  • 2010 - 2013 Involved with the workshopping and development of new Sting material for his album and musical The Last Ship, including compositional input on some tracks.
  • Soloist at the Liverpool Philharmonic annual series of Christmas concerts 'The Spirit of Christmas' performing new material composed by Kathryn for herself and orchestra.

• State of the Union, joint commission with Scots harpist/singer Corrina Hewat for the Brampton Live Festival July 2007.

• Instrumental by The Kathryn Tickell Band, CD, released April 2007

• the sky didn’t fall by Kathryn Tickell & Corrina Hewat, CD, released February 2006

• ‘Strange But True, a CD of various collaborations over the past 25 years. Released November 2006.

• Air Dancing, The Kathryn Tickell Band, CD, released 2004.

• Collaboration with Norwegian jazz brass ensemble ‘The Brazz Brothers’, with performances at Newcastle Jazz Festival and Voss Jazz Festival (Norway). Two tracks were also recorded for my ‘Strange but True’ CD.

• Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ composition for Northumbrian smallpipes and small ensemble Kettletoft Inn was premiered at The Sage Gateshead on Oct 21st ’06 and was broadcast on Radio 3. The composer dedicated the piece to Kathryn Tickell.

• Commissioned music for the Norwegian centenary celebrations which was performed by the Kathryn Tickell Band in Norway. Some of the pieces were also included in the Channel 5 TV documentary Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbria.

• Collaboration with jazz saxophonist Andy Sheppard to create a multi-media work for the opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in September 2001.

Future Research

Ongoing performance/touring programme.

Esteem Indicators

• Awarded Honorary Doctorate by University of Northumbria, July 2007
• TV documentary Kathryn Tickell's Northumbria broadcast twice by Channel Five, March and November 2006
• Numerous TV and radio appearances on regional and national networks

• Musician of the Year in BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2005 & 2013

Awarded the honorary degree 'Master of the University' from the Open University 2015

Awarded OBE 2015

Deputy Lieutenant of Northumberland 2015

Awarded the honorary degree Master of Music from Durham University 2017