Our writers

Over the life of the magazine we have had contributions from many people with a passion, knowledge and committment to folk music. This is not a comprehensive list but writers include: Hector Christie, John Waltham, Alex Monaghan, Alan Rose, Alan Murray, Pete Heywood, Roger Edwards, Sharon Armstrong, Shona McMillan, Nigel Harbron, Tony Hendry, Janie Meneely, Tom Bliss, Elaine Bradtke, Brian Peters, Chris MacKenzie, Simon Haines, Colin Hall, David Kidman, Dai Woosnam, Debbie Koritsas, Geordie McIntyre, Alison McMorland, Jim Byrne, Jim Bainbridge, Susanne Kalweit, Graham Pirt, Fiona Heywood, Raymond Greenoaken, Rob Adams, Joshua Dickson, Clive Pownceby, John Carnie, Julian Gurr, Loudon Temple, Iain Campbell, Mel Howley, Mike Wilson, Nigel Schofield, Clare Button, Frank Chester, George Frampton, Paul Burgess, Chris Haigh, Peter Urpeth, Pete Wood, Phil Thomas, Richard Brown.

If you would like to join our team of reviewers and writers, please contact us on editor@livingtradition.co.uk.

See more information about some of our writers below.

Alex Monaghan

Alex Monaghan has been playing traditional music since 1978, and writing about it since 1993. His first reviews were published in Issue 2 of Living Tradition Magazine. Having lived in Edinburgh and Dublin for roughly a decade apiece, he is now a Celtic musical missionary in deepest England.

Concentrating on instrumental music, Alex's interest includes Celtic, Scandinavian, French, Balkan and Klezmer music, as well as many North American styles. He is a regular contributor to Irish Music Magazine, Piping Today and Folkworld, as well as Living Tradition, and also writes for festivals and record companies. While living in Dublin, Alex wrote and presented several radio series on European and North American traditional music.

More information, particularly on Alex's career as a performer, is available on his sporadically updated myspace page AlexMonaghanTrad. If that's not enough, Google him.

Bob Harragan

Bob Harragan, born in Romford in Essex in 1954, has lived in Llanelli in Carmarthenshire since 1972. A former News editor of the Llanelli Star, he has been a freelance journalist since 1990, specialising in such disparate subjects as coal, planning, schools cricket, and, of course, folk music.

"I can remember walking into a school lesson in 1970 with a clutch of LPs including the latest Martin Carthy and being told by a colleague he went to Brentwood Folk Club where they had a singer 'even better than Carthy'. I was naturally sceptical, but that singer was Nic Jones.

"I worked with some militant members of the Welsh Language Society who were fans of the Wolfetones and pro-IRA singers, and blowing their minds by persuading them to come and see The Boys of The Lough.'

Top Ten Folk Albums

Fairport Convention –UnHalfbricking

Bellowhead - Matachin

Nic Jones - The Noah's Ark Trap

The Dransfields - Rout of The Blues

Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts

The Copper Family - A Song For Every Season

Carraig Aonaair

English Country Blues Band - Unruly

Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band - No Roses

Dave Swarbrick - Rags, Reels & Airs

Thoughts on John Peel - by Bob Harragan

Every record collection compiled over the last five decades was influenced by John Peel - those of folkies especially. Indeed, it can probably be said that it was the payment from sessions for Peel, Bob Harris and occasional others, that kept our leading folkies going through the oil crisis of the mid 70s. Certainly exposure on Top Gear was important to the folk-rock bands, and in the case of the original Albion Country Band and the Dransfields electric band it provided one of their few appearances.

There were favourite Peel tracks, too. I've been looking through my record collection to pick some out.

FAMOUS FLOWER OF SERVING MEN - Martin Carthy. The Master's first 'home-made' big ballad was a Peel favourite from the beginning. People were surprised Martin only played it in session twice, but the record, with its throbbing dulcimer, appeared many times.

THE ACE AND DEUCE OF PIPERING - John Doonan. One of those tracks which appealed to Peel, way out of his normal field, from the 'Flute for the Feis' album from Bill Leader's ultra traditional Leader label. I seem to remember the great man saying he found its bouncing rhythm redolent of sunshine.

HERE IN SILENCE - Sandy Denny. The single from the 'Pass of Arms' film, which should have been a hit. Peel played 20 minutes of Denny big ballads on the day she died.

JOHNNY O'BRAUDISLEE - JSD Band. The kings of the idiot dance. The JSD's followed that Lindisfarne -Jack the Lad tradition of rowdy sing and dance alongs. This was their wildest track, but they were a favourite for sessions, too.

THE OWDHAM CHAP'S VISIT TO THE QUEEN - Oldham Tinkers. Peel of more recent vintage. The Tinkers music-hall whimsy would often break in to the hammerings of techno and garage, and other distant musics of which we folkies know little..

THE GREEN MOSSY BANKS OF THE LEA - Nic Jones. A bit of a cheat this, because Nic was a most frequent visitor to the Peel Show in the several years he was not making records. Producer John Walters thought him a delight to record, as he could be sat down in front of the microphone and produce enough songs for two shows in the time it took to explain the process to most sessionees.

KING DOG - Mr .Fox. Another slight cheat. A shambolic Mr.Fox appeared on Peel's live 'Sunday Show' around the time of 'The Gipsy'. Despite the mass-harmoniums and fiddles zooming off in all directions - the power of the songs was apparent, though this little gem did not appear on record until a quiet acoustic version by Pegg and Strutt some years later.

Clive Pownceby

A freelance writer, broadcaster and Festival MC for over 25 years, Clive was member no.776 when he first paid a visit to the Bothy Club, Southport in late 1966. Given a background singing with beat groups and in blues and soul music, Folk may seem an unlikely side-trip but as he says “everyone in town knew about the place and I felt I had to check it out, but it was another six years before the tradition finally won out over Wilson Pickett!”

He became a resident singer in 1974 and took over as Organiser the following year when Tony Wilson, one of the original pioneers of the Bothy which had established itself in April 1965, went off on a 6 month teaching secondment. On his return, Tony never wanted his old compere’s job back and whilst Clive still says he’s ‘standing in’ he’s eternally grateful to have inherited a going concern that the founders had made second to none.

The club is still going strong and has recently released a CD with a track each from the current residents.

See more about the Bothy and Clive on their website at Bothy Folk Club, Southport

Dai Woosnam

Dai Woosnam, based in Grimsby, UK, is a veteran writer on a host of subjects. He has been appearing in the pages of The Living Tradition since 1993, the year of our inception.

He was born soon after WW2 ("Hey, I am not THAT old! I am younger than Elton John and David Bowie! Ha! But not much methinks, since I was born on exactly the same day as Carlos Santana.")

Initially, Dai wrote a TLT column called The Tizer Test, and then followed that up for a few years with his double-page TLT column, Daigressing. This latter was certainly a column that pulled no punches.

He has written several TLT feature articles down the years on artistes as diverse as Eddie Walker, Julie Felix, Keith Kendrick, Eric Bogle etc.

In 1994 he started mailing a provocative potpourri of opinions (and most-importantly, counter-opinions!) and great jokes, to people all over the world. And this - approximately 20 times a year - mailing of his (now also called Daigressing), has changed with the times. Since 2005, it has become much less wordy and more "YouTube clip" orientated. He steadfastly refuses all requests to have a bells-and-whistles blog or a fancy website. He says "the Internet is full of the slick and the professional, but invariably these items leave you curiously empty after reading them. I am about providing proper mental food for people. And thus I happily rely on the very basic pared-down production that every Daigressing represents. And the fact that these Daigressings are not archived, is their very USP. It is their very TRANSIENCE that makes people read them. If you want to sign-up for your free supply of my Daigressing, email me at daigress@hotmail.com
and I will happily add you to my list of subscribers".

But ask Dai what he is proudest of, and he will tell you that it's his relationship with TLT. "Pete Heywood stood by me when some members of the Folk Mafia were baying for my blood after I had trod on their toes in that flagship column. I will be eternally grateful for that support and remain deeply appreciative of the editorial integrity and professionalism of TLT".

Incidentally, if you are wondering, his surname is not uncommon in Wales. Dai says: "whatever Peter Alliss the golf commentator tells you, trust me, we Welsh do not pronounce my name the Alliss 'Chinese' way, to rhyme with Fu Manchu. But in actual fact, the first syllable 'Woos' rhymes with the vowel sound in wood/couscous/should etc."

David Kidman

David is a freelance writer currently based in West Yorkshire. He was born further south, however, and lived and worked even further south for rather too long before grabbing the chance to move north when it came!

From a very early age, he has been keenly interested in (and knowledgeable about) music, this interest eagerly extending beyond the realms of folk into (and back out of!) many other kinds of music, ever keeping an open mind to new musical experiences.

Although he has always embraced a certain critical faculty, David’s writing career began in earnest around fifteen years ago, since which time he has contributed to a number of publications.
As well as The Living Tradition, these have included:
• Online magazines – mainly the Net Rhythms website, but also Folk&Roots.co.uk, and most recently with a dedicated page on the Acoustic Rotherham website;
• Print-based magazines – those with a national circulation (principally fRoots and Rock’n’Reel Mk.1); & those with a regional base (e.g. Folk Roundabout, Stirrings, Tykes’ News).

David’s Mission Statement:
“I care about the music – passionately – and my intention is to do justice to both the music and the artist/s (although with the listener and potential purchaser in mind too). My personal policy is to provide honest, objective, fair and constructive criticism and feedback.”
This is reflected in the many positive testimonials received, and in the number of contextual review quotes encountered on artists’ own publicity material!

David is also:
• An experienced festival and folk club MC, well-regarded for his informed and genuine enthusiasm for the music as well as his ability to keep things running to time and schedule.
• A revival singer, performing solo and unaccompanied. Though broadly within the folk tradition, his repertoire is not entirely typical of it. He readily intersperses traditional with more recent compositions… rousing choruses with gentler, thoughtful or deeply reflective songs (while not neglecting fun and the occasional parody);
• A published poet.

See David's website here or contact him using the contact form in the drop down menu.

Grem Devlin

I was born in Culross in 1958, and moved to the Midlands (Leamington Spa) early 1960 – then to Kendal in 1969. I got my first guitar in 1968, and played my first gig in 1971, just before my 13th birthday. I formed an acoustic band in secondary school (Cirrus) but also played in various duos around that time. I was first taken to a folk club (The Lakes) in the early 1970s by my elder brother. The place was packed (the artiste was Mike Harding) and I was instantly hooked.

I first began playing at folk clubs joining in the sessions at the short lived Windermere Folk Club in 1975, along with Pat Tate, Mountain Road and many others. I was in and out of the country for 11 years (1975-86) as I was a ship’s engineer, but while I was ashore in between times I played in countless trios, duos and other collectives too many to list (including a period as bassist for Agaric, a Led Zeppelin tribute band in the mid 70s!). My first solo appearance was a spot at the Jug of Punch FC in Havant in 1977 I suppose.

After coming ashore I retrained and became fully involved with technical publications, and formed my own technical and music publications company (Devlin Glozing Limited [DGL]) in 1990. From 1988-1993 I was co-organiser of Folk at the Fleece (Kendal FC), and I began writing for Folk North West around 1989. DGL sponsored events at many Folk Festivals including Kendal and Edinburgh, with a particular emphasis on emerging talent. I folded the company voluntarily in 2000, when I came to the conclusion that I was spending more time chasing payment than earning revenue, at which time I became somebody else’s wage slave!

I first met my wife (Jackie Thomson, from Edinburgh) at one of my annual jaunts to Edinburgh Folk Festival in the early 1980s I guess, but I only went there once per year and it took a long time to become a couple – with only seeing each other for 10 days a year! We finally married in 1993, at which point I returned to Scotland full time, and our son Alistair was born 9 months and five days later!

In recent years I have been co-organiser of the first Linlithgow Folk Festival and also secretary of Loanhead Music Festival. I still play occasionally (guitar, bass, Appalachian dulcimer and South American mini harp), but a skin affliction that affects my hands has put paid to most performing (probably all those years working in oily engine rooms on ships). I’ve been a reviewer for Living Tradition since about issue 2.

Favourite Albums – Just a Selection! (in no particular order)

1. Albion Band – Rise Up Like The Sun
2. Harvey Andrews – Writer of Songs
3. Rosie Hardman – Firebird
4. Adrian Legg – Fretmelt
5. Memphis Minnie – In My Girlish Days
6. Joanna Carlin – Fancy That!
7. Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking
8. Balham Alligators – Balham Alligators
9. Joni Mitchell – Blue
10. Whippersnapper – Promises
11. Aly Bain – Aly Bain
12. Christy Moore – Whatever Tickles Your Fancy
13. Show Of Hands - Roots
14. Tom Pacheco – There Was A Time
15. Chris While – Still On Fire
16. Various Artists – Bringing It All Back Home
17. Eliza Carthy – The Definitive Collection
18. Hedgehog Pie – Just Act Normal
19. Bob Dylan – Biograph
20. John Sebastian – John B. Sebastian

Jim Bainbridge

Jim picked up the melodeon in 1964, for a fiver in a Twickenham junkshop, and has played DG box ever since. He learned a lot from the great London Irish players, as well as his involvement in the Marsden Inn folk club in South Shields, which had such important guests as Margaret Barry, The McPeake family, Willie Scott the Border shepherd, and Matt McGinn. He's picked up songs, ancient and modern, over the years, and has made a living in the pubs of West Cork in the nineties, as well as running a goat farm with his wife Francie, a grand spoons player.

A Geordie by birth, he's lived in London, Kent, Ireland and Scotland, as well as spending a few years in the Canary Islands. So his repertoire is varied and eclectic and he's played all over these islands as well as around Europe.

He is well known in pubs, clubs and Seamens' missions for 40 years (and the rest!). He made some gramophone records (!) but more recent CDs include - The Drunken Billy Goat (1998) with Patrick Forester - reissued 2011 - Lights on the River (2004) and Galloway House (2008). Another is in the pipeline...

Jim is a regular contributor to The Living Tradition magazine writing many articles, reviews and opinion pieces.

John Carnie

John Carnie is based in Aberdeen and is an occasional contributor to Living Tradition with his most recent article being in 2008 on the history of flatpicking guitar. He is a singer and guitarist who plays traditional tunes and blues on the guitar and has long been involved in the music scene in Scotland.

He was heavily involved in running Aberdeen Aberdeen Folk Club through the 1990s and at that time was playing in Desperate Danz Band and Off the Tracks. He has more recently been involved in teaching at the Scottish Culture and Tradition organisation. He is currently researching for a forthcoming book on Scottish guitar playing styles. His recent cd "Far from Home" was album of the week in September 2009 for Celtic Music Radio and he was also involved in the recent Greentrax "People and Songs of the Sea" compilation cd. He is also involved full time in running a tourism organisation in Deeside.

John lists his 'Desert Island Discs' as follows:

Richard Thompson - The Old Kit Bag
Bob Dylan -Modern Times
Altan - Local Ground
Rory Gallagher - Fresh Evidence
John Coltrane - Giant Steps
The Bothy Band - First album
Tony Rice Unit - Backwaters
5 Hand Reel - The Earl of Moray
Blind Boy Fuller - East Coast Piedmont Blues
Runrig - The Stamping Ground

See John's website

Sharon Armstrong

Sharon Armstrong is a Scottish freelance writer currently based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

She was born and grew up in the picturesque town of Ayr, and has from childhood been interested in journalism, travel, traditional Celtic music and music festivals - although not necessarily in that order.

After graduating from Strathclyde University in Glasgow with a BA in English and Psychology, she moved to Edinburgh where she worked, amongst other things, as a reporter and arts reviewer.

Her love of travel led her across the Atlantic to New Orleans where, like so many before her, she stayed far longer than she planned to - long enough to witness first-hand the effects of that infamously welcome guest, Hurricane Katrina.

Post-Katrina, following a brief stint as a Vet-Tech during which she picked up one of the many dogs rescued from the flood-waters, Sharon dusted off her rucksack, put a leash on her newly acquired ‘New Orleans Crack-Hound’ Dougal and hit the road again, returning home to Scotland to undertake a MSc in Journalism at Edinburgh's Napier University .

After graduating she moved back to the US, where she currently works deep in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter with the WWOZ Jazz and Heritage Radio Station as a writer, interviewer, producer, and co-host of the station’s weekly Celtic music show, Music In The Glen, with Sean O'Meara.

She has worked as a journalist and a photographer for Yes!Weekly, a Greensboro North Carolina-based, weekly newspaper, feature writer for the Evening News in Edinburgh, and is an on-going contributor to the Living Tradition Magazine. She has also worked with the Northern Bureau of Channel Four News, and is one of the currently elected PRs for the New Orleans Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, a worldwide organization involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music.

She is still interested in journalism, travel, traditional Celtic music and music festivals - and still not necessarily in that order. Dougal has settled in nicely in Ayr, and has almost lost his accent.

Contact Sharon using our Contact form from the Main menu and choose Sharon from the 'category' dropdown menu.

Shona McMillan

Contact Shona using our Contact form from the Main menu and choose Shona from the 'category' dropdown menu.

Tony Hendry

I’ve been writing reviews and occasional features for LT since 1997. I’m not a musician, a singer or organiser but I hope I can bring the perspective of the bloke who sits peaceably in the folk club audience, joins in the choruses, buys the raffle tickets, and loves the music like crazy. During an eternity as a Whitehall civil servant I gained a good knowledge of the folk scene in London and the south east. Now I’ve moved to Cumbria and am reconnecting with my northern roots. Scotland is just up the road, and I’m planning some border raids.

I love listening to tunes. In my London years, I came to appreciate the southern English style of playing. But I’m better qualified to write about songs. The best ones – whether traditional or modern - display a heightened use of language that bears comparison with poetry and can be equally moving. The early Child ballads are my epitome of pared-down perfection.

I fret about the fragmentation of the folk scene into tribes and generations who don’t talk to each other enough. I fret about club audiences growing old together. I fret about how professionalism and integrity can live happily together in holy wedlock. But musicians, singers and songwriters of all ages and persuasions keep finding ways to stop me fretting too much for too long. They can sometimes deliver passages and phrases of such illuminating beauty as to make worrying seem a waste of time.

Albums for a mountain bothy would include:

Return To Kintail – Alasdair Fraser and Tony McManus
Nic Jones – Ballads and Songs
Martyn Bennett – Grit
Various – A Century of Song (EFDSS compilation of traditional singers)
Karine Polwart – Fairest Floo’er
Martin Hayes – Under The Moon
Various – The Magic of Morris

Contact Tony using our Contact form from the Main menu and choose Tony from the 'category' dropdown menu.