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Music: Folk Roots Festival

Great songs from the heart of working-class struggle

Folk Roots Festival

Trades Club, Hebden Bridge

5 Stars

The Trades Club at Hebden Bridge is the beating heart of class struggle in the musical world and it showed at its Folk Roots festival at the weekend.

One of many highlights reflecting the growth of 21st-century protest songwas a session devoted to unity and unions, revolt and revolution.

Three powerful but very individually distinctive women singer-songwriters raised the spirits of the audience.

Chrystine Moon's songs of peace and resistance opened with her version of the Sam Cooke classic Wonderful World - "With peace and co-operation and decent public services/what a wonderful world this could be," she sang.

She set the tone for a line-up of songs reflecting the realities of capitalism and the options available to us.

By contrast the young and vigorous punk poet Louise Distras shook the roof with her more aggressive style, thrashing her guitar and vocal chords in a style which is rarely seen at an event like this.

But folk music is the music folk are experiencing, thinking and saying and it resolutely refuses to be straitjacketed into a narrow and genre-based definition.

The audience, initially taken aback by Distras, were won over by her attitude and pointed lyrics on numbers like Stand Strong Together and her poem Dreams From The Factory Floor really hit the mark.

Well known on the radical circuit Tracey Curtis rounded off the session with a wide-ranging set taking in torture, capital punishment and motherhood - Raising Boys And Girls deals with the issues of ensuring children are brought up to show mutual respect and avoid the pitfalls of patriarchy, while still remaining boys and girls.

Like Distras, Curtis also rewrote an old song, Gilbert O'Sullivan's Matrimony.

A writer of catchy pop in the 1970s, Sullivan has churned out grumpy right-wing nonsense of late about a woman's place being in the kitchen.

But Curtis subverted Matrimony as the basis for lyrics about aggressive policing in a song called All Coppers Are Bastards.

Another session, "radical folk for the new century" certainly raised the spirits and it was appropriately rounded off when Viv Boardman, who'd been feeding and looking after the performers all weekend, came out of the kitchen and led the audience in an impromptu Red Flag.

Some may consider it to be an "old" song but its spirit is still much needed in the 21st century and it was entirely in keeping with a magnificent event.

Peter Lazenby


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