The line-up for this year’s Saltburn Folk Festival, from 11th to 14th August 2022, is starting to take shape, with organisers excited to be bringing the event back into real life after two years away.

Music of all kinds flourishes in the Tees Valley. Our area has produced many internationally famous performers over the years, and newer artists are gaining national reputations through streaming services, radio playlisting and live performances. We are well served with places to listen to music, including thriving independent venues like the Georgian Theatre in Stockton and Middlesbrough’s Westgarth Social Club. When it comes to folk music, there are over a dozen clubs in and around our area where folk enthusiasts get together to sing and play.

When we’re not in pandemic mode, we have grassroots folk festivals in Hartlepool and Saltburn, along with the Billingham International Folklore Festival and, just down the coast, Whitby Folk Week.

Focusing on Saltburn, for a few days each summer this little seaside town hosts a festival of folk music, dance and song that brings in hundreds of visitors to the town and offers free entertainment to residents too. But for the past two years there hasn’t been a Morris dancer to be seen and sea shanties have not echoed from local hostelries, as the festival has been cancelled because of COVID.

For many years the festival was run by well known Saltburn resident John Taylor, but sadly, John died in 2018. Ken Hall, a regular Festival participant, stepped in and built a team to keep traditions alive in 2019. Ken steered the Festival organising team through the pandemic, and there was a successful and innovative Virtual Gathering in 2021.

Ken and some of the other experienced team members recently stepped aside, making room for new volunteers to take on an organising role. The current Festival Team have already done a huge amount of work to plan a live festival for this year, running from Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th August.

The line-up for the festival includes much loved favourites such as Teesside’s very own Wilson Family (https://thewilsonfamilyalbum.co.uk/) alongside some acts new to Saltburn like headliners Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow (https://ohooleyandtidow.com/) .  O’Hooley and Tidow’s song, Gentleman Jack, was the theme song for Sally Wainwright’s TV drama of the same name starring Suranne Jones.

With forty or so acts booked so far, it’s not possible to mention all the performers, but here are another three that give an idea of the variety of music that will be on offer.

Jez Lowe (https://www.jezlowe.com/) is a long-time favourite of Saltburn audiences and one of the performers at last year’s Virtual Gathering. A leading light of the UK folk and acoustic music scene, Jez is one of the busiest live performers in the country. He is also an outstanding song writer and his songs are among the most widely sung by other performers, whether by long-established acts like Fairport Convention, The Dublinersand Bob Fox, or by the new breed of stars like The Unthanks, The Young Uns and The Duhks.

Granny’s Attic (https://www.grannysattic.org.uk/) were also part of the 2021 online Festival and those who saw their show are excited about seeing them in person this August. With exceptional musicianship and boundless energy, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne (melodeon, anglo-concertina, vocals), George Sansome (guitar, vocals) and Lewis Wood (violin, vocals) have honed their skills touring the UK and Europe since 2009. They are much loved by audiences up and down the country, with bookings everywhere from Cambridge Folk Festival to Cecil Sharp House.

Middlesbrough’s Amelia Coburn (https://www.ameliacoburn.co.uk/) has been busy travelling the world as part of her language studies and has gathered experiences that she threads through her highly lyrical and evocative original songs. With influences ranging through folk, jazz, new wave, classic rock and pop and much more besides, she explores an ethereal world hovering on the edges of reality. Amelia’s recent singles Dublin Serenade and Perfect Storm have gained national radio airplay in the UK and beyond. Amelia has performed at Cambridge Folk festival, Czech Ukulele Festival, supported big names including Steve Harley, Vin Garbutt and the Wedding Present, and it’s no surprise that her solo gigs are often sold out.

Run by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis, Saltburn Folk Festival can’t rely on ticket sales alone to cover all the costs of staging an event on this scale. Fortunately, they’ve had financial support from Arts Council England, Tees Offshore Community Benefit Fund (provided by EDF Renewables via Tees Valley Community Foundation), Tesco Community Fund, and Saltburn, Marske and New Marske Parish Council. They are also starting to have some success finding local businesses who want to be major sponsors of the Festival.

With such a diverse line-up of quality acts, the organising team at Saltburn Folk Festival are confident this year’s event will attract three distinct groups of people. Firstly, an established audience of festival goers from all over the UK and beyond. Saltburn has a special appeal because of its friendly character and the stunning North Yorkshire seaside setting. Secondly, there are the members of the Tees Valley’s folk clubs who will welcome an opportunity to gather and see familiar acts alongside performers who wouldn’t regularly appear in this part of the country. Finally, and this is where the organisers see real potential for audience growth, there are local residents who are looking for interesting ways to spend their leisure time. After the past couple of years with limited opportunities to travel and socialise, people are looking for new experiences close to home and might just be ready to see what is on offer at a seaside Folk Festival.

So far their optimism seems justified, as the initial batch of bargain priced Earlybird tickets for Saltburn Folk Festival quickly sold out. There’s currently a Spring Special offer at a very reasonable £70. Visit www.saltburnfolkfestival.com/tickets/ for more details.