Special Events

THE ROAD TO PETERLOO  – Ballads and Broadsides 

The Road to Peterloo’ tells the tale of one of the most notorious incidents in British labour history – the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in Manchester in 1819 – through some of the many broadside ballads that were printed around the time of the event. The concert features three singers and musicians well known to Whitby Folk Festival, Pete Coe, Brian Peters and Laura Smyth, who are all from the Manchester area. The story begins in the early 19th century, with songs about the Napoleonic Wars, the Luddite uprising, and the poverty and hunger suffered by handloom weavers, cotton spinners and other workers, providing the background. Ballads written in the immediate aftermath of the event describe the terrible events of the day, when mounted soldiers charged a peaceful crowd of pro-democracy demonstrators and killed or injured many men, women and children by their indiscriminate use of sabres. The concert ends on a more optimistic note, as Peterloo inspires the rise of Chartism.

Laura, Brian and Pete present a wealth of freshly-discovered songs, sourced partly from Alison Morgan’s new book ‘Ballads and Songs of Peterloo’, and partly from their own research, and have set many of them to specially-composed tunes. Between them they offer three fine voices and instrumental skills on concertina, melodeon, bouzouki, guitar, cello and banjo, and add period dance music from the Manchester area in this 90-minute show.


LIVING BY THE SEA – A vocal voyage through communities afloat and ashore

‘Join us as we take a trip among those who live by the sea.’ Backed by their own community on stage – a passionate choir of Whitby festival goers – storyteller Matthew Crampton and choir director Paul Sartin take us on a trip amidst those whose lives are governed by the sea. This re-unites the creative pair behind the acclaimed recent adaptation of The Transports, together with two other musicians from that remarkable production, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose of Faustus. Like the Radio Ballads, Living by the Sea is a feast of word and song, diving between ports and ships across Britain and the world. Expect intimate tales, tragic ballads and heart-pounding shanties – all revealing the fierce hold the sea keeps upon those who live by it.


JIMMY’S FIDDLE – The story of Georgian/Victorian Tyneside through the eyes of James Hill, The Geordie Paganini

James Hill was probably the most famous fiddler on Tyneside during the late Georgian and early Victorian periods. He wrote more than 40 tunes, mainly hornpipes, inspired and informed by the places and characters he came to know.

This story is a reflective account of his life, told through ‘Jimmy’s ghost’ and set in and around The Hawk public house, which was owned by his future father- in law. The narrative unfolds to a back-drop of James Hill’s own compositions, clog dancing and songs from the time, incorporating some newly commissioned pieces.

Featuring two top virtuoso fiddle players, Tom Mcconville (BBC Musician of the Year) and Stewart Hardy, this show provides fantastic entertainment for all the family. Tom and Stewart will be joined by two of the North East’s finest singers, Alan Fitzimmons and Jim Mageean, and clog dancing champion Natalie Rae.


Will Kaufman’s newest show tells the story of Guthrie’s battles against his racist Brooklyn landlord, Fred C. Trump, father of the US president. Based on unpublished songs, letters, and notebooks that Will discovered in the Woody Guthrie Archives, the show brings to life all the anger and contempt that Guthrie felt for those in power who will deny justice to their fellow human beings on account of the color of their skin.