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Folk on Foot

Matthew Bannister goes walking with a leading folk musician in a landscape that has inspired them. They sing and play exclusive acoustic songs on location.

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The Lost Words Spell Songs – Jackie Morris and Beth Porter in Pembrokeshire

The beautiful Lost Words book by artist Jackie Morris and writer Robert Macfarlane has become a cultural phenomenon, raising awareness of the importance of nature words in our lives. It has also spawned the Spell Songs project featuring some of our top folk artists. In this special edition of Folk on Foot, Matthew walks with Jackie and the singer, cellist and ukulele player Beth Porter (The Bookshop Band) on the hill near Jackie’s cottage in Wales. Beth sings and plays as Jackie creates an otter painting in her studio. We also hear music from Julie Fowlis and Kerry Andrew/You Are Wolf.


5 Jul 2019

Rank #1

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Sam Lee singing with Nightingales in Sussex

Season 1 Episode 3: Mercury music prize nominee Sam Lee is a folk singer, a countryman and an impresario. Through his Nest Collective he promotes scores of different folk gigs and events every year. In this episode of Folk on Foot he invites Matthew to join him in a Sussex wood in the middle of the night as he leads a group of people on a silent walk to hear him sing with a nightingale. The bird appears un-phased by the arrival of the group and seems to respond as Sam starts an improvised duet. The next day Sam and Matthew retrace their steps in daylight, reflecting on the power of this mystical experience.


15 Aug 2018

Rank #2

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Seth Lakeman on Dartmoor

Seth Lakeman is the Mercury Music Prize nominated singer, fiddle player and guitarist who will forever be associated with Dartmoor. He grew up in the village of Buckland Monachorum with his two brothers Sean and Sam who are also key players on the folk scene. In this episode Seth takes Matthew to the village church to re-create his 2004 recording "Cape Clear", to the local school to sing “An Educated Man” and to the hills above the Burrator Reservoir where he performs “Kitty Jay”, “The White Hare” and “The Courier”. Along the way he reflects on sibling rivalry, the myths and legends of Dartmoor and his experiences of touring the world with the former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant.


15 Nov 2018

Rank #3

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Cara Dillon in Dungiven

The multi award winning singer Cara Dillon comes from the small town of  Dungiven in Northern Ireland. It is a place steeped in myth and legend with a powerful musical tradition. As Cara and her husband and musical collaborator Sam Lakeman take Matthew on a walk through the countryside around the town, she tells stories of a lost princess and a powerful chieftain and his tiny but tough Scottish bodyguards. She also introduces Matthew to the local well which is reputed to be able to cure warts. Standing on an iron bridge over the River Roe, Cara sings “The Winding River Roe” with the water rippling by in the background. Then they climb the local mountain known as “The Hill of Thieves” which is also the inspiration for one of Cara’s songs. As the rain begins to fall, they take refuge in a local sibin where Cara and Sam perform “The Leaving Song” about the living wakes held by families before their children emigrated to the United States.


5 Sep 2018

Rank #4

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Martin Simpson in Scunthorpe

Regularly voted one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Martin Simpson has been nominated for an astonishing 23 Radio 2 Folk Awards – and won artist of the year twice. He was brought up in the North Lincolnshire steel town of Scunthorpe and takes Matthew on an emotional journey back to his childhood home, explaining how he hid from his formidable mother in the apple tree in the garden, went on imaginary expeditions through a pile of maps he found under a work bench in the garage and was introduced to the natural world on rambles through the local woods with his father. He sings his heartfelt tribute to his Dad, “Never Any Good” as well as “Toy Soldiers” and “Creeping Jane”.


12 Jul 2019

Rank #5

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Julie Fowlis on the Shores of Loch Ness

The Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis takes Matthew Bannister for a snowy walk on the dramatic shores of Loch Ness near her home in the Scottish Highlands. Accompanied by her husband Eamon Doorley, we hear Julie’s beautiful clear voice singing a song linked to the area and a love song that brought the couple together for the first time.  As they head to the spectacular Foyers Falls, Julie explains that understanding the Gaelic language is the best way to form a true connection with the landscape. A red deer and a group of ducks are charmed by Julie’s singing.


14 Mar 2019

Rank #6

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Kris Drever on Orkney

The guitarist, singer and songwriter Kris Drever – Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year 2017 - was born and brought up on Orkney, the archipelago of about 70 islands off the Northern coast of Scotland which is steeped in history. Kris takes Matthew Bannister for a walk, starting in the main town of Kirkwall with its huge sandstone cathedral commemorating St Magnus who came to an untimely end. In the graveyard Kris sings “Winter Moon”. Then they head off to the shores of the great natural harbour at Scapa Flow where Kris performs his powerful song about the scuttling of the entire German navy there in 1919. They end up at the chapel created in a nissen hut by Italian prisoners during the Second World War – a poignant setting for Kris’s song “Ghosts”. Along the way, Kris reflects on the influence of his musical parents; on Scotland’s fondness for strong drink and explains why he’s now moved to Shetland. It’s another great episode with a thoughtful and inspiring artist. Visit our website: https://www.folkonfoot.comSupport us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/folkonfoot


16 Jan 2020

Rank #7

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Stick in the Wheel on the Road to Epping Forest

Stick in the Wheel’s music has been described as “precision folk with anger, lust and blood.” The band’s founders Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter take Matthew Bannister for a walk through their East London stomping grounds, starting in a Victorian weaver’s house in Spitalfields, taking in Walthamstow Market and ending up in Epping Forest where they’re joined by fiddle player Ellie Wilson. Along the way they sing songs that reflect the chequered history of the East End of London and it’s more recent past.


14 Feb 2019

Rank #8

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John Jones and the Reluctant Ramblers walking to the Wickham Festival

This episode has by far the largest cast of walkers we’ve ever assembled – and the most musicians.  The lead singer of Oysterband John Jones started walking from gig to gig and singing on the way long before our podcast was invented. He’s done it all over the country and he’s usually accompanied by a bunch of fans who call themselves the Reluctant Ramblers. On a scorching hot summer’s day, we joined them for a walk over Old Winchester Hill, along part of the South Downs Way and the Meon Valley to the Wickham Festival. On top of the hill John and his band perform "Waking Through Ithonside". After lunch at the pub they give us “Ferryman” and on arrival at the festival the very appropriate “I Will Never Stop Moving”. Along the way John reflects on creativity and the effect of a recent brush with cancer on his view of life and making music  It is a life-affirming journey through quintessential English countryside with one of folk rock’s leading singers.   Become a patron of Folk on Foot at www.patreon.com/folkonfoot. Sign up for our newsletter at www.folkonfoot.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; @folkonfoot. 


14 Nov 2019

Rank #9

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Bonus Xmas Episode: The Sheffield Carols with Jon Boden, Bella Hardy and The Melrose Quartet

In search of the festive spirit of Christmas – and bearing gifts -  we travel to the Peak District and Sheffield to hear the area’s unique local carols. Along the way we collect music from Jon Boden, Bella Hardy, The Melrose Quartet and the singers of the villages of Dungworth and Hathersage. We hear how the traditional carols written and sung by working people were thrown out of the church – and had to find a new home in the village pubs. Put on your Santa hat, reindeer antlers or Christmas jumper, get yourself a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie and join us.  


12 Dec 2019

Rank #10

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Nancy Kerr along the Kennet and Avon Canal

For twelve years, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nancy Kerr lived on a narrow boat, travelling the length and breadth of England’s inland waterways. “We felt like it was a secret part of England and a part that had a different flavour and a different pace”. As she walks on the towpath with Matthew Bannister, she tells how the experience inspired many of her songs – and performs two of them: “Queen of Waters” and “Tiller Song”. Nancy explains that folk music was part of her upbringing, with her mother Sandra Kerr a well-known performer and her father a Northumbrian pipe player. She talks passionately about her love for nature and how it has infiltrated her music, including the moving “Dark Honey” which she sings with bees buzzing nearby. Did she ever fall in to the canal? “Yes, about once a month!”  Become a patron of Folk on Foot at www.patreon.com/folkonfoot. Sign up for our newsletter at www.folkonfoot.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; @folkonfoot. 


17 Oct 2019

Rank #11

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Eliza Carthy (and Family) in Robin Hood's Bay

Eliza Carthy is one of the most influential figures in the UK folk scene. With her exuberant stage presence, she re-interprets the folk tradition for a new generation. She inherited her love of English music from her famous parents. Her Dad Martin Carthy was a key figure in the first folk revival of the 1960s and 70s. He taught Paul Simon the traditional song “Scarborough Fair” and also influenced Bob Dylan. Eliza’s Mum, Norma Waterson, was part of the pioneering family harmony singing group The Watersons. Norma recently suffered a serious illness and Eliza moved back to the family home in the North Yorkshire fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay to look after her. In this episode of Folk on Foot, Eliza takes Matthew on a walk along the cliffs near her home, reflecting on her family heritage and taking him to the farm where the whole extended family used to live when she was a child. Martin, Norma and Eliza’s aunt Ann and cousin Marry gather at the kitchen table for a rousing and emotional sing.


22 Aug 2018

Rank #12

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The Unthanks on the Northumberland Coast

Every winter, Rachael and Becky Unthank and their extended families invite their fans to join them for singing weekends in their native Northumberland. Some fifty people stay together at a bunkhouse where pianist/producer Adrian McNally does the cooking, and Rachel and Becky lead singing workshops. The weekend includes a session in the atmospheric local pub, where Matthew joins the group for a singalong. Then Rachel takes him for a walk on her favourite beach at Low Newton By The Sea, where she sings “The Flower of Northumberland” and “Here’s The Tender Coming”.


19 Jul 2019

Rank #13

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John Smith in Brixham

John Smith is known for his delicate and intricate guitar work, honey-and-gravel voice and songs of lost love. He was born in Essex, but brought up in the seaside town of Brixham in Devon. Struck down by illness as a child, he took up the guitar and practiced obsessively in his attic bedroom overlooking the sea. In this episode, he takes Matthew to the harbour wall to sing “Salty and Sweet” and up onto the cliffs where he found peace and solitude as a teenager to sing his own compositions “Save My Life” and “Hummingbird” and the traditional Somerset song “Hares on the Mountain”.


26 Jul 2019

Rank #14

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Bonus episode: Six Songs from Season 3

A chance to re-live some of the musical highlights from season 3 of Folk on Foot with six uninterrupted songs.   You’ll hear: Never Any Good—Martin Simpson Charm On, Goldfinch—Beth Porter Union Miner—The Unthanks Salty and Sweet—John Smith Lavender Song—Lisa Knapp A Precious Place—Duncan Chisholm Enjoy!


12 Sep 2019

Rank #15

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Duncan Chisholm at Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay, at the far North Western tip of Scotland near Cape Wrath, is one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. This wild, isolated place inspired the Scottish fiddle player and composer Duncan Chisholm’s album “Sandwood”.  He takes Matthew on the four-mile walk from the nearest road to experience the stark beauty of white sand, ancient rocks and rolling waves, telling stories of storms, hauntings and the remains of a Viking longship and a crashed Spitfire hidden under the beach. Then it’s out with the fiddle to hear some of the music inspired by Sandwood.


9 Aug 2019

Rank #16

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Bonus episode: Martin Simpson at BBC Countryfile Live

Martin Simpson performs some of the songs from his new album “Rooted” and talks to Matthew Bannister on the Big Barn stage at the BBC Countryfile Live event in the grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Martin says he is motivated to write songs by “love and anger” and reveals that recording his episode of Folk on Foot was a “surprisingly emotional experience”. He also tells the story of Ken Small whose determination to uncover a second world war tragedy became an obsession.


29 Aug 2019

Rank #17

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Steve Knightley on the Exe Trail

Steve Knightley is one half of the acclaimed folk duo Show of Hands. He and his musical partner Phil Beer are proud to come from Devon—once beating Sir Francis Drake in a public vote to name the greatest ever Devonians. Steve has been described as “a gravel voiced spokesman for the rural poor” and many of the songs he writes are inspired by the  working people he meets in and around his home town of Topsham. In this episode of Folk on Foot, Steve takes Matthew on a walk from Exmouth - scene of some of his earliest gigs as a teenage musician - along the Exe trail to Topsham. In Exmouth docks Steve performs “The Dive” which tells the true story of a father and son diving drama, as the real life son of the story looks on. On a farm near Topsham Steve sings “Country Life” his angry anthem about the destruction of the countryside by second home owners and agri-barons.


29 Aug 2018

Rank #18

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Lisa Knapp in Tooting

The singer and fiddle player Lisa Knapp takes Matthew to the south London borough of Tooting where she was born and brought up. She performs songs with links to the area and tells how she stumbled across the Tooting Tragedy – a story of neglect and ill treatment at a local children’s home in Victorian times that led to hundreds of deaths and caused an outcry led by Charles Dickens. Lisa uncovered a haunting ballad about the story and sings it in the graveyard where many of the children are buried.


2 Aug 2019

Rank #19

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Kerry Andrew/You Are Wolf at the Brockwell Lido

Kerry Andrew has been described by Robert Macfarlane as “a writer and musician of frankly alarming talent”. She is a composer, novelist and vocalist who performs alt folk under the name You Are Wolf. In this episode she takes Matthew for a walk from her flat in South London, through surprisingly green parkland, to the historic Brockwell Lido where she persuades him to take a dip. Along the way she demonstrates her multi layered vocal technique and sings songs from her albums “Hawk to the Hunting Gone” and “Keld” (fRoots Magazine editor’s choice album of the year 2018).


13 Dec 2018

Rank #20