21 Jan 2022.

Harp & a Monkey


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I was really looking forward to this gig, and I wasn’t disappointed. Pure Folk Theatre, with its’ heart in the right place. I’ve seen the lads a good few times before this, and I must admit on the first occasion, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, though that was some time ago. Suffice to say, they’ve honed their act to perfection on all levels, musicianship, comedy, history, pathos and are thoroughly good blokes.

The group consists of Martin Purdy, Andy Smith and Simon Jones and they first hit the stage in 2008. All local lads, with well researched material from their own patch and a little beyond. I’m not too sure how the name came about, but there is certainly a harp on stage, played really well. Perhaps the monkey was hiding! Guitar and 5 string banjo played sensitively, really bringing the songs to life, plus accordion and xylophone played by Martin. Surely that can’t work? It does, in a mesmerising way, not to mention the subtle use of electronic percussion and sound effects. These lads are busy, but they make it look so easy!


The gig was at the Barlow Institute at Edgworth, back from enforced absence to their monthly concert schedule. A great venue, perfectly suited to Harp and a Monkey, proper village hall atmosphere. I have to admit an interest here, as I’m on the Barlow team and usually do the sound here, although tonight, they were self-contained with their own gear, skilfully done. Support spot was from local duo Es and Chris, nicely performed, with good harmony singing and tidy guitar. We’ll see more of them.


MC Ed McGurk brought the main act on stage for their first show of 2022 and they were soon into the “’Manchester Angel,” a familiar song but given a unique arrangement. I won’t give a full list but I found it seemed to pass very quickly, always a good sign of an absorbing show. “Bolton’s Yard”, “Tupperware and Tinfoil”, “Calico Printer’s Clerk”, “Girls of Glossop Road.” Every one a great story, a brilliant first 40 minute set. A lot of these songs are featured on their recent CD “Victorians”, plus examples from their 2 earlier albums.


Their second set was equally absorbing and the full house at the Barlow hung on every note, again, a lot of songs you won’t hear anywhere else, played and sung with a special Northern-ness, if there is such a word! We had “Men Digging Holes”, “Gallipoli”, “Molecatcher” and the brilliant “Victorians”, title of the new album, songs you could listen to again and again. I particularly liked a re-working of Mike Harding’s “Waiting for me Payday”. The encore was “Charlie Chaplin”, which I’m used to playing with the Oldham Tinkers, but another fresh approach, a great finisher. The audience certainly went home happy and it’s great to see the Barlow up and running again. Thanks lads.



Dave (Tinker) Howard.       Jan 2022.

18 Feb 22   Bryony Griffith & Alice Jones            www.bryonyandalice.com

Supported by Steve Canavan

Bryony Griffith & Alice Jones publicity photo by Joanne Crawford print quality square (1).

A powerful new duo emerging from the chaos of the last two years - Folk at the Barlow and the rest of the folk world has been waiting! As established solo artists, Bryony Griffith & Alice Jones are no strangers to the folk scene, however the force of this phenomenal “new” duo is sure to turn some heads, and for very good reason.

Hailing from the close knit communities of West Yorkshire, both are long-time purveyors and performers of traditional English folk music, united by a mutual fascination with folk song and tune collections from their native county. Bryony and Alice draw on a wealth of stories inspired by the landscape and language of their surroundings, not to mention the local characters they have both grown up with and still live amongst today.

Via villages, valleys and moorlands, they channel their own brand of Yorkshire folk music. Combining their respect and understanding of traditional song, music and dance with their own more contemporary style of folk performance, they present a unique repertoire of harmony, history and Northern banter. Featuring Fiddle, Harmonium, Tenor Guitar and intricate close harmony vocals in their distinctive regional accents; Bryony and Alice's music celebrates a shared love for community heritage that resonates throughout Yorkshire and beyond, connecting with musical communities the world over. 

Bryony and Alice are fine singers and instrumentalists with great attitude and plenty to say. 


Bryony and Alice were supported by great northern singer-songwriter, teacher, columnist and founder of St Anne's Folk Club Steve Canavan, purveyor of witty, topical and thought-provoking ditties, excellently delivered on voice and guitar. Throughout the pandemic he has written song after song to keep us amused, entertained and up-beat. Find him on YouTube.

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March 2022 Concert

 Kimber's Men         

Supported by Michelle Holding & Bonz

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March saw Folk at the Barlow host a fantastic concert featuring Kimber's Men and Michelle Holding and Bonz.

 Kimber's Men are definitely the UK's finest Sea Shanty band, but are much much more than this. They specialise in maritime material, and although  shanties form much of their repertoire, they also range through nautical ballads and broadsides to modern sea-related songs. They present their material in an innovative way that is all their own. I heard some of the best and most interesting harmonies I've ever heard in the Barlow Hall, which isn't what you usually get from Shanty groups. The audience were spell-bound and the atmosphere electric. As a group of stalwart Yorkshire-based gentlemen there was inevitably a bit of ribbing at their Lancashire audience, which added to the fun! Delivering sturdy, stirring and energetic singing, well-lashed with harmony and emotion.  Kimber's Men believe that modern songs have a place alongside old classics like Sally Racket, Lord Franklin, Shallow Brown, and Shenandoah. They sing them out with praiseworthy gutsiness, and always acknowledge the provenance of their songs. https://kimbersmen.com/

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Michelle Holding and Bonz are a fantastic duo with great versatility over a range of styles. Michelle is a Manchester-based singer and occasional songwriter, who has a ear for a great song. With a striking and distinctive voice of amazing range, Michelle  performs with passion and sensitivity and has the gift of “getting a song across”. She plays guitar, banjo and concertina, always apologising  when she gets the banjo out, though she is an absolute maestro on this instrument. Several people commented that they had never enjoyed banjo playing so much. Seasoned performer Bonz is a talented multi-instrumentalist who plays dobro, banjo and harmonica, and provides harmony vocals. He claims to have performed at folk clubs, festivals and concerts before Michelle was born. They play a varied mix of British and American traditional and  contemporary folk, and more. The range of material and depth of humour was great. A duo that deserve to be much better known.


Tickets are £10 each. To book please email folkatthebarlow@gmail.com

Friday 15 April 22   Wayward Jane        


Supported by Sean Furlong

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 A vibrant young band, Wayward Jane give an innovative interpretation of American Old-Time tradition, blending roots material with fresh arrangements and original compositions. Their rich sound features fiddle, banjo, double bass, guitar, wooden flute and vocal harmonies. When playing live their shows have a joyful energy to them that expresses the fine musicianship of the band members and the playful chemistry that exists between them. Ranging in mood from high-octane toe-tapping tunes to tender and soulful songs, Wayward Jane have beautifully blended voices and harmonies, leaving audiences with a warm glow in their hearts.

“Wayward Jane weaves a gorgeous tapestry of heart wrenching vocals and tasteful, informed instrumentation.  I could listen to these guys all day!” – Rachel Baiman

“Wayward Jane play old-timey and Americana as though they were born to it.” – Folking.com

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Wayward Jane were supported by local singer-guitarist Sean Furlong, who has been delighting attendees at our singarounds in recent months. Bolton singer / guitarist Sean is an established performer at local open-mics, specialising in Americana. He’s a fan of singer-songwriters such as Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark and Dave Alvin, but is also partial to the occasional rocker or a golden-age pop classic 

May Concert
Mike Wilson and Damien Barber
supported by The Harty Family.