WITH more than 200 artists performing in 25 different venues across the four days of the Leigh Folk Festival, you'll not exactly be stuck for something to see that appeals to your taste.

It's the biggest festival of its kind in the UK, run entirely by a small army of volunteers who worked their socks off all year round to put on the much loved event which brings in around 20,000, across the four day programme.

Get on the website at leighfolkfestival.com to get an overview ahead of the event so you can be best prepared to make sure you get to see everything you want, and don't forget to pick up a programme as soon as they go on sale, which will have all the timings inside. Not only is the programme a great memento to have, and essential if you want to keep on top of all that's going on, but the money you will pay for it help keep this festival mainly free, with just a smattering of special ticketed events.

Paul Collier is the artistic director of the festival, which is now in its 28th year.

Among many other tasks, he oversees the entire music programme to make sure it is varied and brilliant.

We asked him for six of his personally recommended 'must sees'.

Here is what he said:

The Trials of Cato

The remarkable rise of energetic trio The Trials of Cato on the UK folk scene has been the subject of massive critical attention. Dubbed 'The Sex Pistols of Folk', (J. Davis) they pay clear homage to the tradition whilst twisting old bones into something febrile and modern, with stomping tunes and captivating stories.

Originally from North Wales and Yorkshire, The Trials of Cato formed whilst living in Beirut, and spent a year boiling down the roots of their sound into a hybrid of traditional influences that intrigued Lebanese audiences in the country’s biggest venues. Returning home from Beirut in the winter of 2016, they have since torn a shape very much their own into the canvas of the UK folk scene. Back in the UK, they set to performing tirelessly up and down the country, leading to BBC Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe hailing them as “one of the real discoveries on the folk circuit in recent times.” Musical development in the run up to their debut album proper was swift and sure, with Hide and Hair winning acclaim and receiving repeated national airplay on BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music. Praised for the diversity of their material and influences, The Trials of Cato live show “invariably stuns audiences wherever they play.” (FATEA).

Whether plying their trade busking, performing in front of thousands at festivals across Europe, or frequently selling out their own shows, The Trials of Cato have the wind behind them.


4pm-4.50pm, Billet Wharf, Old Leigh, Sunday June 30

Ex Easter Island Head

This year we’re delighted to be welcoming the remarkable Ex Easter Island Head for what will be a unique ‘double header’ concert with Diamond Family Archive in the hallowed and atmospheric surroundings of St Clement’s Church.

Ex Easter Island Head is a quartet hailing from Merseyside, which has long been home to a flourishing experimental music scene. This unique music collective performs works that explore group interplay, repetition and melodic invention to mesmerising effect.

Ex-Easter Island Head composes and performs music for solid-body electric guitar, percussion and other instruments, and have performed their original compositions solo, as a duo, trio, quartet and as a large ensemble across a wide variety of events from site-specific installation works to live film scores. Earlier this year they had the honour of appearing with the legendary veteran minimalist composer Terry Riley. Drawing comparisons to Steve Reich, Glenn Branca and Claude Debussy, the collective has released four albums to significant critical acclaim. Their most recent, Twenty-Two Strings, incorporated multiple electric guitars augmented through mechanical preparations. The contents are skilfully balanced between methodical precision and emotional resonance, their warmth coming from the use of mallets on the bodies and strings of horizontally-laid guitars. These primary percussive hits provide drive to their work, while the natural echoes that they produce create secondary layers that wrap themselves around that rhythmic core. The result is a listen that's dynamic, rich and fluid despite the modesty of its parts.

The group’s live performances have been praised for their hypnotic energy, compositional flair and unique spectacle, which should be brought out to the full in the atmospheric surroundings of St Clement’s. As someone here recently quipped ‘Four guys with guitars from Liverpool….it’ll never work’!


7.45pm-8.30pm, St Clement’s Church, next to Leigh Library Gardens, upper Leigh, Saturday June 29

Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston

After a considerable gap of ten years, in 2019 we welcome back the great Trevor Watts just on the cusp of his 80th birthday, this time in the company of the tremendous pianist, Veryan Weston. Some of you will no doubt remember the splendid collaborative concert involving Trevor and Steeleye Span fiddler Peter Knight in St Clement’s Church at the 2009 Leigh Folk Festival – part of which has since been immortalised on our vinyl release Dog Days, Devil Fish & Darkest England, available from our information tents…hint, hint.

Since the 1960's, Trevor Watts has been at the forefront of many innovations within the jazz, world and improvised music areas as a saxophone player, percussionist and composer. The only founder member of The Spontaneous Music Ensemble still alive, he also founded Amalgam (which included Keith Rowe) and his 1980s Moire Music Group which included Veryan Weston and Peter Knight as well as Phil Minton, Pinise Saul, Lol Coxhill many more. He also formed The Drum Orchestra (1980-1997), which involved musicians mainly from Ghana (ECM 1449 CD A Wider Embrace). He instigated the 35 piece collaboration with the Drum Orchestra and Teatro Negro de Barlovento (Venezuela) which toured here and also in Venezuela in the 1990s then right and around the world, taking in every continent. Other prominent musicians he’s played with include Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, Kent Carter, Rashied Ali, Steve Swallow, Bobby Bradford, Cyro Baptista and Stan Tracey.

Currently his main involvement is one part of a long standing duo with pianist Veryan Weston. This duo have been highly acclaimed for their recordings and “live” appearances. They have toured in Brazil, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand together amongst many other places. Veryan has worked with Trevor Watts for more than 40 years; their paths have crossed frequently because of shared musical interests particularly in rhythmic ideas. Now their music has one focus – improvisation, also a thread throughout Veryan’s work which reveals new aspects of an ever-changing musical identity depending on who he is playing with.


2.25pm-3.05pm Fishermen’s Chapel, Old Leigh, Sunday June 30

Justin Hopper and Sharron Kraus

Heading up our the Friday night programme are poet and writer Justin Hopper and psych folk musician Sharron Kraus, both previous Leigh Folk Festival performers, with a rare collaborative show linking up with the release of their album Chanctonbury Rings on the Ghost Box label. This really is one not to be missed!

Based on live performances of Hopper's 2017 book The Old Weird Albion, it’s a poetical, autobiographical and psycho-geographical account of his experiences at the titular earthwork on the West Sussex Downs. The album is a blend of folk, electronic music, poetry, prose and environmental sound. Kraus’s electro-acoustic soundscapes and songs interweave with Hopper’s rich, intimate narration. Musically it moves effortlessly from the traditional to the avant-garde, and also includes Belbury Poly contributing music and production throughout and bookending the work with a memorable theme tune.

Justin Hopper is an American writer based in the UK. His work explores the intersection of landscape, memory and myth through non-fiction and poetry. Since 2012 he has also curated exhibitions of contemporary landscape art on these themes. His poetry and music recordings have been commissioned for projects and festivals in the US and UK since 2009, including a previous collaboration with Jim Jupp of Belbury Poly called Ley Lines which also featured Shirley Collins.

Sharron Kraus is a singer of folk songs, a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose work offers a dark and subversive take on traditional music. In addition to eight solo albums, Kraus has recorded an album of traditional songs with Meg Baird and Helena Espvall (Espers, Beautify Junkyards) and written an album of songs recorded with a selection of traditional folk singers including Jon Boden, Fay Hield and Ian Giles. She’s also recorded and performed with Ex Reverie’s Gillian Chadwick as Rusalnaia, with Tara Burke (Fursaxa) as Tau Emerald and with free-folk collective United Bible Studies (also appearing at this year’s festival).

Sharron will also be appearing with her own band in Leigh Library Gardens on Saturday afternoon. Her recent performance at the Woolf II Festival was a particular highlight of that event, so prepare for something really special…



10.30pm - 11pm Twenty One, Pier Approach, Western Esplanade, Southend, Friday June 28 (Justin Hopper & Sharron Kraus)

3.30pm - 4.10pm Upper Library Gardens, Leigh, Saturday June 29 (Sharron Kraus & Band)

United Bible Studies

We’re delighted to be welcoming back United Bible Studies to the Leigh Folk Festival for a rare live show in their current incarnation.

United Bible Studies is an experimental and improvisational folk band from Ireland, with members in the UK. There are a few core members such as David Colohan as well as a host of incidental contributors on both the live performances and studio albums.

United Bible Studies was formed in Dublin in 2001 by David Colohan (Raising Holy Sparks) and James Rider (Cubs). Initially inspired by the likes of the Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention, UBS soon developed into a sprawling entity featuring a revolving cast of members, with the same line-up rarely appearing twice. Pastoral psychedelia and traditional song have remained the cornerstones of the band's style, alongside collective mprovisation that can take the form of extended drone-works or explosive outbursts of ecstatic noise. Releases have included the albums The Shore That Fears the Sea, The Jonah, and a collaboration with Dutch lutenist Jozef Van Wissem, Downland. The band's 2008 US tour, which included an appearance at the Terrastock Festival, has been documented on the cassette The Dreamlike States of United Bible Studies, the"I Am Providence LP on the German Jellyfant label, and the I Am Full Gibbous cd.

Alongside founders David Colohan and James Rider, the line-up currently includes former Mellow Candle vocalist Alison O'Donnell, Dom Cooper, Matt Leivers and Graeme Lockett.


6.15pm-7pm Fishermen’s Chapel, Old Leigh, Sunday June 30

Kitty Macfarlane

For this year’s opening night concert we welcome a new, but fast-rising, face on the folk scene, for what promises to be a special evening.

Kitty Macfarlane is a songwriter and guitarist from Somerset, whose music is rich with visual imagery and written with an eco-eye. From the starling murmurations on the Somerset Levels to the lowly eel's epic transatlantic migration, and the small part we ourselves play in a much bigger picture, her songs are bound by the underlying theme of mankind's relationship with the wild. Kitty Macfarlane's highly anticipated debut album Namer Of Clouds, released September 2018 and produced by Sam Kelly and Jacob J Stoney, gathers inspiration from the sky to the seabed. Carried by a voice 'as clear as a mountain stream' (FRUK), her lyrics touch on intervention and rewilding, climate change and migration, and woman’s historical relationship with textiles and the land. The album is augmented by all kinds of ‘found sound’ recorded in locations from Somerset to Sardinia – birdsong, waterfalls, the click of knitting needles - and bookended by sounds of the wild.

Kitty was voted Female Artist of the Year 2018 by FATEA. Namer of Clouds was included in The Guardian's Best Folk Albums of 2018, and nominated for Album of the Year in the fRoots Critics Poll.


22.35pm - 23.15pm Leigh Community Centre, Elm Road, Leigh Thursday June 27"