Our Summer programme concludes this month with a visit from HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE, a “spellbinding” duo who were “born to play and sing together”, according to fRoots Magazine.

A chance meeting at their local Black Fen Folk Club in Cambridge uncovered Hannah and Ben’s shared musical passions and sympathies, that over time has developed into a unique and intimate show of American roots and English folk music.

Huddled round a single microphone, singing intimate duets with just mountain dulcimer, dobro and guitar Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage are a folk duo that look & sound classically timeless, yet feel refreshingly unique. Fleetingly, they may evoke a memory of Gram & Emmylou, Shirley & Davey, or Gillian & David but their warm distilling of influences from both sides of the Atlantic produces a refined sound that is decidedly their own. 

Their unique unplugged presentation creates a widescreen, cinematic soundscape with open spaces and atmosphere, giving their beautifully pure vocals room to share the songs’ emotion and narrative.

The material is as joyful and fun as it is intense, but the common factor is the duo’s warmth and confidence in each other; their natural ease and connection is clearly evident on the recorded music, and a genuine pleasure to witness on stage.

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be Exeter-based singer/songwriter BEN MORGAN-BROWN, who writes intimate and reflective songs heavily informed by the folk-baroque guitarists & singer/songwriters of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Inspired to pick up the acoustic guitar when he first heard Bert Jansch’s debut album, his open-tuned guitar, ethereal vocals & obliquely personal lyrics tip the hat to Nick Drake, John Martyn, Michael Chapman et al, whilst still maintaining a unique musical style & identity.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 20th July 2018, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. They are priced at £12 each in advance (£10 for members), or £14 on the door. There will be a full bar, stocking Severn Cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and also locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will be our now-famous "stealth raffle", with prizes including CDs, gift boxes of beer and sweet treats. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware.

For further information, please find us on FACEBOOK, TWITTER and INSTAGRAM or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We are thrilled to reveal the programme for Autumn/Winter 2018.

There is a real blend of styles across the broader folk genre from some of the UK's leading names - there really is something for everyone - and it's rounded off by a rather special Christmas treat!

Kicking off the programme on Friday 21st September, at our Frenchay Village Hall home, will be JIM CAUSLEY. During the past decade Jim has been nominated no less than six times for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award. Opening for Jim will be singer-songwriter HANNAH WOOF.

October's gig sees us back at DOWNEND SCHOOL on Friday 19th as we welcome THE LUCY WARD BAND. Lucy is an impressive, original songwriter whose unique delivery and breath-taking voice has enchanted audiences the world over. JACK HOPKINSON will get the evening underway.

Our November headliners are MEGSON, at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 16th. The husband & wife duo bring an infectious mix of heavenly vocals, lush harmonies and driving rhythmic guitars. Megson have gained fame on the British folk scene, not only for their arresting & intelligent songwriting, but for their exquisite musicianship and northern humour. Opening the evening will be the highly-rated KIRSTY MERRYN.

Rounding off the programme on Friday 21st December, as we return to CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND after their refurbishment, will be a unique collaboration between two of the UK's top acts. 'AWAKE, ARISE: A CHRISTMAS TOUR FOR OUR TIMES' sees LADY MAISERY link-up with JIMMY ALDRIDGE & SID GOLDSMITH in what promises to be a stunning evening. The five-piece will be supported by DANNY PEDLER & ROSIE BUTLER-HALL.

We feel sure that you will agree that this is one of our best programmes to date. All four shows are on-sale now at MELANIE'S KITCHEN and online HERE. And we know that you're going to want to come to all four shows, so once more we've added a Season Ticket option, available online only, where you can pay for all shows in one go (and avoid those pesky booking fees at the same time!).

Do let us know what you think... we hope you're as excited as we are! Any problems, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Sit down, Downend Folk Club. It's your own time you're wasting.” In search of a bigger venue, Downend Folk Club are on the road again. This time they pitch up at Downend School in the company of the truly wonderful RACHAEL MCSHANE & THE CATROGRAPHERS.

It's been a while since the sad demise of Bellowhead. In that multi-headed folk juggernaut, Rachael McShane was the only girl in a noisy gang of boys. Most nights she’d bounce and clown with the best of them, swapping between cello and fiddle, attacking folk stompers with unabashed relish. Tonight there's no need to show off. Instead she proves that those years of big tunes and bigger stages have wrought the perfect performer. She has a strong voice and plays viola and violin with such ease that it seems effortless. Her band map out traditional folk journeys with her and, although they are only a three piece, every delightful nook and cranny is explored. Julian Sutton on the melodeon is brilliant at adding textures, while Matthew Ord plays guitar with gentle and assured finesse. It's clear that if you are used to playing with the greatest folk band ever you accept nothing but the very best. When these three play tunes they are English with a capital E. Steeped in Northumbria and the North East they are pastoral and beautiful.

As well as being one of the finest folk musicians in the country it’s no real surprise to learn that she’s a teacher too. You can put money on it that she’s one of those cool ones; one of those that never seem to shout but hold a class in the palm of her hand; one of those that you want to listen to; one of those that you’ll always remember. Those teachers are pretty rare, I guess, but then so are musicians like Rachael McShane.

They say that truly brilliant teaching looks easy and so, tonight, every song seems to come naturally. Whether telling tales about a female highwayman (highwayperson?) in Sylvie or singing “the greatest of all incest ballads" everything is balanced just so. But like all the best educators many of these stories have a point. Songs skewer foolish men time and again; women are strong, wise, warm and almost always victorious. Trousers are stolen from drunkards, bad behaviour avenged and pleasures taken on their own terms. There's no lecturing though, just truth. The new album that’s due in August will be utterly essential on this showing, especially for those that love Kate Rusby and Kathryn Tickell.

If Downend Folk Club have a house band then support act ROAD NOT TAKEN are probably it. Self-deprecating club chairman Ant Miles plays guitar, Anita Dobson adds her spectral, beautiful voice and Joe and Claire Hamlen provide the delicious musical counter-points. Tonight they are a revelation; having seen them on several occasions at the club, they are maturing beautifully. Songs are delicately arranged and a brooding spookiness pervades the whole of their short set. Mainly drawn from the traditional canon, these songs are given enough of a twist to make them something new. It feels as though they’ve been draped in glittering cobwebs and that is a very fine thing indeed. Fittingly the stand out, I’ll Weave My Love A Garland, even teaches us something.

Tonight we learned two things: that Road Not Taken have become the best folk band in Bristol and that former members of Bellowhead continue to make the loveliest, most interesting music that you’re ever likely to hear.  A*.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Chris Dobson