?In less than two years, Birmingham?s reborn Town Hall may have already secured its place as the new spiritual home of English folk music?Birmingham Post, 2009

A celebration of the life and work of legendary singer songwriter John Martyn, curated by long time friend and collaborator Danny Thompson, live performances from the Graham Coxon Power Acoustic Ensemble, rousing big band Bellowhead, rising folk star Jackie Oates and free sessions are amongst the highlights of this year?s English Originals weekend.

Now in its third year, the weekend celebrates music uniquely English in character and infused with authenticity of place, identity, time and tradition, and takes place at Town Hall and Symphony Hall in Birmingham between Friday 14 May and Sunday 16 May.

Musician of genius

The life and work of John Martyn will be celebrated by a very special gathering of artists at Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 14 May, with Grace and Danger – curated by bassist, instrumentalist and legend of the jazz and folk worlds, Danny Thompson.

Thompson, who has performed with Ronnie Scott, Tim Buckley, Roy Orbison and Nick Drake as well as helping to found British folk-rock band Pentangle, started working with John Martyn in the early 1970s. Soon after the pair became inseparable, performing together for years and gaining notoriety for their antics off stage.

“Of all the musicians I’ve come into contact with Danny has taught me the most…particularly about style and jazz technique.”John Martyn on Danny Thompson

Surrey-born and Glasgow-raised singer-songwriter John Martyn counted Nick Drake and Jimmy Page amongst his contemporaries and was the first white artist to be signed to the Island record label.

His career, which spanned over forty years, took him across the world and led to recognition as the most soulful and innovative singer of his generation.

A musician of genius who walked a tightrope between the grace of his art and the danger of personal demons, Martyn?s career was blighted by alcohol-fuelled misadventures, drug abuse and a high-profile amputation yet his influence on artists including Phil Collins, Ray Davies, Keane, The Verve, Billy Bragg, Portishead and Eric Clapton amongst others is huge, and despite his passing in January 2008, John Martyn?s legacy lives on in folk, jazz, blues, reggae, trip-hop, funk and much more.

Beverley Martin, John Martyn?s ex-wife and musical partner throughout the 1960s, Wolverhampton born singer songwriter and Ivor Novello award winner Scott Matthews and and pop-folker extraordinaire Eddi Reader will be joined by further special guests to be announced shortly.

From cradle to grave

Blur guitarist, folk connoisseur and lovable English eccentric Graham Coxon will be joined by several notable friends including folk guitar legend Martin Carthy at Town Hall Birmingham on Saturday 15 May for a reprisal of The Spinning Top, Coxon?s acclaimed musical story of a man?s journey from birth to death.

Part homage to the work of folk stalwart Martin Carthy and the finger picking techniques of the late great Davey Graham and late great John Martyn, The Spinning Top also comprises skiffle, rootsy melancholy blues, world music and even the odd experimentation with distortion and fuzz boxes, producing an album which the Sunday Times described as ?heart-stoppingly beautiful?.

A rendition of the seminal acoustic track Free Ride, performed by Graham Coxon and Robyn Hitchcock was one of the highlights of the Way to Blue: Songs of Nick Drake concert as part of last year?s English Originals.

?The Spinning Top is a revelation. A gorgeous album….cements Coxon as a true icon in a day and age populated by unmagnificence.?BBC Music

A fitting close

Rising star Jackie Oates, who received three nominations for Folk Singer of The Year, Album of the Year and Best Traditional Track for ?Isle Of France? at the recent BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, opens the final show of the English Originals weekend at Town Hall Birmingham on Sunday 16 May.

Described by veteran folk broadcaster Mike Harding as ?a genius?, Jackie Oates left the Mercury nominated Rachel Unthank and the Winterset to release acclaimed album The Violet Hour in early 2008, before winning two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2009 and hauling in brother and renowned musician Jim Moray to produce third album Hyperboreans, marking a new confidence and maturity in the Cheshire born vocalist.

“Expectations for Hyperboreans were high. On all fronts Oates delivers, with beautiful singing, innovative arrangements and an intriguing selection of songs”Songlines

Headliners and raucous big band Bellowhead bring their stomping stage show to Town Hall Birmingham for the second time since the building reopened, dragging a trail of awards, accolades and triumphant sell out shows behind them.

The 11 piece band, who embrace a plethora of styles from around the world – big band to soul; jazz-funk to classical strings, with more than a hint of music-hall, have won four Best Live Bands awards (2005, 2007, 2008, 2010) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

A highly successful three-week festival-headlining tour across Canada during the Summer of 2009 has won Bellowhead a raft of new fans & admirers including Glen Campbell, who danced side-stage all the way through their Calgary gig. Bellowhead embarked on an 11-date Autumn UK tour including a sell-out show at Shepherd?s Bush Empire in London and Manchester?s Academy and, revealing the incredibly diverse musical backgrounds and interests of the 11 band members, released an 14 track compilation of individual recordings (?Umbrellowhead? – Megafone).

Projects to date include ?A Dirty Weekend with Bellowhead? – an alternative St Valentines night complete with cross dressing, Burlesque dancing and a 30 piece choir, a nautically themed New Year?s Eve Spectacular at London?s Southbank and countless TV and radio sessions.

?The biggest, rowdiest and quite possibly, best thing to have happened to English music for a long while…?Q Magazine

Soon to be recording their third studio album at the Abbey Road studio with the legendary producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead, Buzzcocks), Bellowhead recently recorded their version of The Simpson?s theme tune for 20th Century Fox at the invitation of filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, 30 Days).

Folk For Free

Birmingham based folk ensemble N.O.M.A.D. open English Originals with a free performance in the Level 3 Bar at Symphony Hall from 5.30pm on Friday 14 May, as part of the popular Rush Hour Blues series while nationally acclaimed music and festival promoters Moseley Folk have invite a selection of artists from across the West Midlands to perform in a free afternoon showcase on Saturday 15 May.

Spanning ambient folk, psychedelic roots and blues and ethereal vocals, Dave Boddison, Abie Budgen, Deborah Hodgson, Goodnight Lenin and Megan Henwood will perform from 2pm in the Level 3 Bar at Symphony Hall, ahead of the evening concert.

English Originals has hosted performances from Billy Bragg, The Unthanks, Tunng and Seth Lakeman amongst others, and commissioned Way to Blue ? a tribute to music icon Nick Drake which premiered at Town Hall Birmingham in 2009 before touring across the UK.




Level 3 Bar, Symphony Hall Birmingham
5.30pm, Friday 14 May 2010

Grace & Danger
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
7.30pm, Friday 14 May 2010
£18.50 / £21.50 / £25.00

Level 3 Bar, Symphony Hall Birmingham
2.00pm, Saturday 15 May 2010

The Graham Coxon Power Acoustic Ensemble
Town Hall, Birmingham
7.30pm, Saturday 15 May 2010

Bellowhead + Jackie Oates
Town Hall, Birmingham
7.30pm, Sunday 16 May 2010


(£2 fee per transaction on all bookings except
those made in person at the box office)

Town Hall and Symphony Hall are managed together by Performances Birmingham Limited, a registered charity. Between them, the two halls present an exciting and varied programme of over 600 concerts and events a year, designed to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. Over 500,000 people visit Town Hall and Symphony Hall annually, and a thriving Education and Community department reaches a further 10,000 people of all ages.

Town Hall Birmingham re-opened in October 2007 following a £35m renovation funded by Birmingham City Council (£18.3m), Heritage Lottery Fund (£13.7m), European Regional Development Fund (£3m).

Fiona Fraser
Press & PR Manager
T 0121 644 5008 (Direct)

Lyle Bignon
Assistant Press & PR Manager
T 0121 644 6028 (Direct)

Issue date 05.03.10