Issued: 20 April 2009



Event Info:

Singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright, ex-Blur guitarist Graham Coxon and West Country folk star Seth Lakeman are amongst the line-up announced for this year?s English Originals weekend at Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham.

English Originals, which runs from 15-17 May 2009, invites distinctive artists from all four corners of the country and beyond to celebrate music uniquely English in character, music infused with authenticity of place, identity, time and tradition.

The weekend includes performances from the critically acclaimed Tyneside band Rachel Unthank and the Winterset with special guests Spiers & Boden (15 May, Town Hall) and an evening with ?poster boy of folk? Seth Lakeman and friends including the 2009 Radio 2 Folk Award nominees Megson and hotly tipped singer-songwriter Nancy Elizabeth (17 May, Symphony Hall).

Saturday 16 May at Town Hall sees Way to Blue – a star-studded tribute to West Midlands musical hero Nick Drake curated by his legendary producer Joe Boyd, with arrangements by folk legend Robert Kirby and featuring a veritable who?s who of contemporary and legendary singers – Martha Wainwright, Graham Coxon, Beth Orton, Vashti Bunyan, Robyn Hitchcock, Camille O?Sullivan and Jack Steadman – backed by an extraordinary house band including the legendary guitarist Neil MacColl and inspiring jazz pianist Zoe Rahman.

The evening concert celebrates Drake?s status as one of the most influential acoustic artists of the last fifty years, inspiring a whole generation of English artists counting Radiohead, Paul Weller and Coldplay amongst their number.

Describing Nick Drake as the ultimate English Original, Joe Boyd said:

“When I first heard Nick’s songs, not only was I astounded by how beautifully he sang and played, but I dreamed of getting other great singers to perform them. This concert is a chance to see some of that dream fulfilled. There will also be surprises and revelations for those interested in what lies behind the brilliance of Nick’s music.”

The English Originals weekend also features a free performance by eclectic local band Mama Matrix, Drake?s producer Joe Boyd and guests in conversation, a screening of A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake and a free live performance from Birmingham?s own Vijay Kishore.

2008?s English Originals saw sell-out audiences for performances from artists including Billy Bragg, Daughters of Albion, Tunng, Sharron Krauss, Seth Lakeman and Kitty, Daisy and Lewis.

Full listings for English Originals:

Friday 15 May, 5.30 – 7pm
Symphony Hall Birmingham Level 3 foyer
Folk4Free: Mama Matrix
Part of Rush Hour Blues. Admission free.

Highly original local band and strange musical creatures Mama Matrix comprise Daz Dolczech, Dark Mavis, Anka J, Mike Hurley and Murpheus and mix poetry and devastating Balkan gypsy music born of secret after hours parties and late night jams over the past four years in Birmingham.

Friday 15 May, 7.30pm
Town Hall, Birmingham
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset and special guests

Dancing down the leftfield and singing in their own lilting Geordie accents, Rachel Unthank & The Winterset are the inheritors, curators and gleeful distorters of Tyneside’s traditions. Recently nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and with acres of critical acclaim, The Unthank sisters take time out of the studio to perform a special Town Hall concert. Check the website for guests to be announced.

?A sensationally graceful sound that can be epic and subdued, dreamy and specific, as well as supernaturally ancient and defiantly modern?easily more contemporary and stylish than boys in skinny trousers holding electric guitars like it?s 1969.? Paul Morley

Saturday 16 May 4.30pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham (ICC Hall 5)
A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake
Tickets £3.50 or free to ticket holders for Rachel Unthank, Way to Blue, Seth Lakeman & Friends

The title of this moving and beautifully photographed film – more of a poem than a documentary – comes from a quote from Drake?s sister Gabrielle, who said ?I always say that Nick was born with a skin too few.? The film approaches the landscapes, locations, people and music in the life of one of rock?s most tragically romantic figures.

Directed by Jeroen Berkvens. Running time 48 mins

Saturday 16 May, 7.30pm
Town Hall, Birmingham
Way to Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake
Produced by Joe Boyd, Arrangements by Robert Kirby

Undoubtedly one of the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years, Drake found little mainstream success during his lifetime. However since his untimely death at the age of 26, his fragile acoustic, autumnal music has touched the hearts of millions of people. This very special evening, curated by his producer Joe Boyd with arranger Robert Kirby, brings together an array of special guest artist to celebrate a unique talent.

Saturday 16 May, post-concert
Town Hall, Birmingham
Looking into the music of Nick Drake
Joe Boyd, Nick’s first producer is joined by Robert Kirby – Nick’s friend and arranger and Robin Frederick – a music teacher and friend of Nick’s who has the most remarkably sophisticated and accessible analysis of what makes Drake’s music so unique

Sunday 17 May, 4.30pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham (ICC Hall 5)
White Bicycles: Joe Boyd and guests in conversation
Tickets £3.50 or free to ticket holders for Rachel Unthank, Way to Blue, Seth Lakeman & Friends

Joe Boyd reads from the pages of his book about ‘making music in the 1960s’ and is joined by Robyn Hitchcock who will sing some of the songs referenced in the book.

Sunday 17 May, 5.30 – 7pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham Level 3 foyer
Folk4Free: Vijay Kishore tbc
Admission free

Fresh from performances at SXSW and across the UK, the compelling singer-songwriter returns to his home city to help close English Originals in true striking style. ?Brilliant, brilliant songs. Like a Brummie Jeff Buckley singing the words of Nina Simone. Vijay?s luscious acoustic folk is more compelling than Simon Cowell in a motorway pile up?. NME

Sunday 17 May, 7.30pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
An Evening with Seth Lakeman & Friends

The press often call Seth Lakeman the ?man who made folk fashionable?. It obviously helps that he is lavishly talented and ruggedly handsome, but the real secret lies in his music; which whilst firmly rooted in the traditions of his West Country folk is also steadfastly contemporary and adventurous. Tonight he performs music from his last album and brings together a variety of musical friends for a shindig to remember?


Notes to editor:

Selected interviews available with all artists. Please contact the press office with requests: Lyle Bignon 0121 644 6028

Information available at:

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/community department reaches a further 20,000 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).

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

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