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Jon Boden: Magical Things Can Happen

Manchester Folk Festival 2017 is a major new festival of English folk and acoustic roots music which showcases everything from the traditional to the experimental, including protest songs and songs of struggle to joyful reels and social choruses. HOME is proud be the festival hub this October and will be showcasing performances, selling tickets for all festival venues as well as providing a great base for audiences to find out more and share festival highlights.

With its roots set firmly in the traditions of the past, Manchester Folk Festival has a keen eye on the future, always a seeking out fresh talent and listening out for new and unique voices. Whilst it presents some of the biggest names in the industry, you are also guaranteed to be exposed to many unsung stars of the future with a range of artists and styles that is bold and beautifully brought together in one place.

Or rather, places. All lining the Whitworth Street Corridor and working in partnership with HOME are Gorilla, The Ritz and The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, all of which will be part of this exciting programme of performances. The festival takes place in the city over one weekend and will be host to indoor gigs, an outdoor stage (at the festival hub at HOME) as well as workshops, sing-arounds and in-conversations with artists. Collectively we have a festival that confidently straddles genres, embraces cultures and absorbs new influences and is here for Manchester audiences to embrace.

Ahead of the opening we spoke to folk pioneer Jon Boden. Probably best known as the lead singer, and one of the principal arrangers, of the multi-award winning Bellowhead, Jon has also performed with Spiers & Boden and formed his own band Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings in 2009. Both were set aside while the folk juggernaut that was Bellowhead went on to play to huge audiences across the UK, Europe and beyond till their final gig in May 2016. Following this Boden had dedicated his time to the Remnant Kings who are set to showcase their new work to audiences of The Manchester Folk Festival.

“It’s very exciting” says Boden of the forthcoming Manchester Folk Festival performance. “It’s kind of a new stage for me, although the band have been playing together for quite a few years, we’re really coming back as a new force”. Post-Bellowhead musical production appears to be in full flow, “We’ve a new album which we’ve just written and are recording at the moment and we’re bringing lots of new material from that, plus we’ve a new expanded line-up to bring a more theatrical approach to it all.”

Back in 2010 Boden launched a folk song a day to highlight the importance of social singing, the project being a huge success. In context of music festival, social singing still seems strikingly socially relevant, “It’s where it all comes from”, explains Boden. “I think we’re a bit cart before the horse, in this day and age in that everything about music is focused on the entertainment industry, it’s very much about music as something you consume, you purchase and enjoy, in a kind of semi-passive way, where as where music comes from is an expression of social togetherness, and of entertaining each other. That has been a big part of human life up till about 50 years ago”. This is where folk bears such relevance, “Folk very much carries on this tradition, it’s a great tragedy that we’ve more or less lost that as part of our everyday life and I think folk music is one particularly strong way of re-engaging with that side of human existence which we have lost touch with.”

As well as creating the opportunity for social singing, and collective gathering, festivals very much provide a space for the unknown. A scenario very much outside of our normal social context, where things may be stumbled upon, new acquaintances met, new ideas explored; “Festivals are great” discusses Boden, “they create a critical mass of people in one place so you have this ability to create really magical moments, not just in the concert room but also in the bar after the gigs where there are sessions or dances or whatever, it’s that thing of bringing enough people together who have an interest in the potential of folk music but also of social music making in general.” It seems there is plenty to look forward to at the Manchester Folk Festival, “When people are sharing space for a weekend, quite magical things can happen.”

The Manchester Folk Festival comes to the city from 19 – 22 Oct. Jon Boden and the Remnant Kings play the festival on Thu 19 Oct at HOME. Buy tickets here.

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