Described as “The future of Folk”, Banter take English traditional music to the next level with their iconic interpretations of classic songs and dance tunes.

Following in the creative footsteps of the likes of Steeleye Span and La Bottine Souriante, Nina Zella, Simon Care, Tim Walker and Mark Jolley are lovingly reinventing what defines English Folk. Previous albums have received rave reviews from around the globe for both their live shows and studio albums. This year sees the release of their much anticipated fourth album HEROES.

“… wonderfully, powerfully dynamic. They really rock wherever they go.” – Mike Harding
“…full of Invention.” – R&R Magazine 4* review
“… really atmospheric and exquisitely done.” – Mark Radcliffe (BBC Radio 2, The Folk Show)

“… Nina Zella…Easily comparable to Christine McVie” – Northern Sky
“…If you think there’s nothing new to hear in folk music these days, listen to Banter and think again.” –
“…What the folk tradition is all about.” – Folk London Magazine

“…Trad is everywhere; it’s how it’s used that makes all the difference.” – Spiral Earth Magazine
“…Trad goes visiting the relatives.” – The Living Tradition Magazine

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Transatlantic folk band The Magpies are quickly becoming one of the most exciting and innovative acts on the contemporary roots scene. Combining sublime harmonies with exquisite musicianship and impressive songwriting, The Magpies traverse Anglo and American roots, drawing inspiration from traditional Celtic folk, bluegrass and Appalachian trails, to create an effortless melting pot of music. 

Accomplished musicians in their own right, founding members Bella Gaffney (award winning singer-songwriter, guitarist and banjoist) and Holly Brandon (acclaimed fiddle player and tunesmith) perform alongside gifted singer-songwriter and guitarist Ellie Gowers. These talented young musicians work collaboratively to create their fresh brand of transatlantic folk and champion gender equality in the music industry, with a fervent thread of feminism running through their music.

Following the release of the band’s critically acclaimed debut album in 2020, The Magpies released their second album Undertow in October 2022. A rich and varied showcase of their live sound, flawless instrumentation provides an elegant canvas for intricate harmonies and engaging storytelling. With a sound that pushes boundaries and brings a fresh voice to the current milieu, the album’s success comes as no surprise, with a quarter of a million streams on Spotify, a place in the Official Folk Albums Chart Top 40 and a live session on BBC Radio 2. 

In their live performances, The Magpies have been exceptionally well-received, touring extensively throughout the UK, with festival highlights including Glastonbury, Cambridge, Larmer Tree, Shambala, Towersey and Deer Shed and international performances in USA, Canada, Ireland, Portugal and Luxembourg. Their live shows are known for their high energy and wry delivery, transporting audiences to distant lands with ethereal voices and glistening instrumentals.

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Rory McLeod, an ex-circus clown and fire eater, is a one-man-soul-band, and poet. He has a natural troubadour’s talent for weaving magical, musical, storytelling spells accompanied by his own bizarre solo orchestra of distinctive instruments. The spoons, finger-cymbals, bandorea, Djembe-drum, harmonica, guitar, trombone and-tap-dancing shoes accompany the “rich, raw, deep and resonant” voice of this “singular and liberating performer.”

Rory is a generous, hardworking, lyrical performer, whose mission is to carve new roads, to “keep memory alive”, and to take his audience on a journey, emotionally, physically and musically on large and small stages, living rooms, tents, and streets.

Apart from performing his own songs, Rory is also well known for taking part in workshops and round-robin set-ups with other musicians, crossing many cultural and musical borders. Rory is always up for both participating and or leading improvised sessions.

As a ‘community artist’ for some 30 years, musician, poet and storyteller Rory has toured and performed for community groups in all kinds of venues from village halls, schools, care homes, tents, art centres, community gardens, arts festivals, literature and poetry festivals, libraries and in the middle of fields. As of January 30th 2017, He has become a new associate member of The National Rural Touring Forum and also a registered performing artist on the Night Out Scheme.

Rory has travelled the globe for different reasons at different times, from Asia to the Middle East from Gambia to Cuba, Afghanistan, China, Zimbabwe, Central America, Australia, North America, Canada, Europe and other nooks and crannies of the earth.

Rory was voted Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2002. The award was presented by singer and songwriter Vin Garbutt.

Other awards include:

  • Texas Harmonica Champion 1981.
  • Edinburgh Festival Street Busket of the Year in 1985.

“Expect the unexpected.”

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Ellie is a songwriter and guitarist from Warwickshire. What grew from a childhood love of literature and traditional folk song is a carefully crafted and emotionally mature catalogue of original material, with references to artists including Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake. Bringing to the stage a strong voice full of expression and maturity, her songs are written with sociological, ecological, and personal themes in mind. These songs at times are sensitive and tender, but are not without the fiery and darker discourse that have labelled Ellie as dynamic and one to watch. 

Towards the end of 2022, her highly anticipated debut album Dwelling by the Weir was released. An album that weaves the past, present, and future together. It is an exploration of the folklore, stories, and people that made her pastoral home county of Warwickshire what it is today.  With success already from the single release Against the Tide and a TEDx Talk that followed, Ellie entered 2021 with a brand new EP Parting Breath, The EP pays homage to Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne, and received rave reviews and extensive radio play.

In 2022, Ellie was involved in the composing of music for a BBC Radio 3 production in March, and toured the UK as Blair Dunlop’s special guest on his 20 date UK spring tour. Her highly anticipated debut album Dwelling by the Weir was released in September alongside a successful UK launch tour. Ellie can also be found nestled in ‘Birmingham’s premier folk supergroup’, Filkin’s Ensemble. Forged at the end of 2020 after a successful video release of their Arthur McBride rendition, this folk-meets-classical ensemble were an exciting 2023 festival must-see.

“Full of delicacy, precision and gentle delight” – The Guardian

“Essential listening” – At The Barrier

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‘Phil is one of the most popular ambassadors for acoustic roots music. A dazzling instrumentalist, he is perhaps best known as a top flight fiddler’

From Phil’s website…

The Truth

Whilst that may be the perception, I would actually take issue with that statement. I didn’t write it.  I’m very good at what I do. The trick is to design what you do in order to acommodate your limitations. Thats why I don’t teach. I leave that to the pros. I’m too busy gigging or making albums anyway. Please stop asking me! The perpetual problem of being a Z list muso/celebrity is how to describe yourself. The most onerous task of all is trying to big yourself up and exaggerate past exploits. I’ve now been ‘on the road’ for 45 years. I’m amazed I’m still standing. I’ve made hundreds of albums with bands/singers/ musicians and done gigs with them. Some are world famous, some you’ve never heard of. The dumbest and most pathetic thing in existance is to see a musicians C. V.  that lists the people that they may just have been with on the same bill on the same day at some festival as people that they’ve ‘worked with’. Whilst I ache in the places I used to play (L Cohen!), I’m still up for what is about to happen, not what has been and gone. Hopefully, myself and my compatriots have more to contribute yet before we shuffle off.

This is why my catchphrase is:

Phil Beer. Plays guitar and fiddle, sings a bit. Sums it up

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Chris While

“The best singer in England” – Eddi Reader
“She rises like an angel from the ashes with a voice to match” – The Guardian

“She has the heart of a poet and the eyes of a painter. Her writing is literate, credible, forthright and honest. Her voice is beautiful, a term I very rarely use when describing the deliveries of most singers. It is emotion packed without ever being melodramatic, compassionate without being needlessly sentimental, damning when she fervently believes certain issues need to be confronted head on, but always making for compelling listening. A quite superb album from one of the most notable women, currently living up to the reputation she has quite painstakingly built over a number of years in the contemporary folk scene.”
Maverick Magazine (five stars)​

“She learns from many, takes from few and comes away her own woman, She is quite simply a skillful, powerful and beautiful singer/songwriter and superb guitarist at the top of her game.” – Folk Roots

She left the Albions in 1997 afer a 4 year stint to pursue a full time career with her duo partner Julie Matthews. While & Matthews have been nominated ten times in the best live act and best duo categories at the BBC Folk awards  and Chris has been nominated in the best song category for ‘ The Light In My Mother’s Eye’. In 2009 they won the best duo award

Chris has five solo albums, Still on fire 1991, By Request 1992, Look at me now 1993, In the Big Room 1997 and the critically acclaimed Rosella Red 2007.

Chris, along with Julie Matthews, Christine Collister, Melanie Harrold, Miranda Sykes & Helen Watson form the vocal band Daphne’s Flight, a powerhouse of incredible voices. They made their only album to date in 1996 and followed with a tour. In 2017 for their 21st anniversary, they re-united with a major tour and a suberb new album, ‘Knows Time, Knows Change’, This year they offer a stunning new studio album ‘On Arrival’.

One the biggest joys in Chris’s life however is to sing with her Daughter …..

Kellie While

In her mid-twenties, after years of touring with The Albion Band, e2K and as a solo performer Kellie decided to pursue a career in radio production. She is now Head of Creative at 7digital in London and her job keeps her away from performing much of the time these days. However, Kellie still finds some time each summer to play a handful of gigs with her Mum.

Each December she also takes to the road with The Albion Christmas Band (alongside Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol and Simon Care), which has been touring for 20 years and attracts sell-out audiences across the UK.

As a guest vocalist, Kellie has been a much sought-after contributor to other people’s projects including albums by artists such as Martin Simpson, Black Sedan, Roy Bailey and Thea Gilmore and live collaborations with Eddi Reader, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Fairport Convention.

Kellie has been the producer of the BBC Folk Awards for the last half dozen years or so and Mark Radcliffe’s Folk show before that. She has produced and written many acclaimed documentaries for Radio 4

“Ms While can feel very satisfied with this album, it is, by turns witty, pithy and punchy and deserves to place her in the vanguard of British folk. She is a seriously talented woman” fRoots

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Andy Cutting is a rarity. A musician’s musician: a soulful and technically outstanding melodeon practitioner with an ear for a fine tune. Many of his tunes have been purloined along the way: some considered contemporary classics on the folk scene. But then, Andy is also a warm and emotive perfomer, modestly engaging his audiences with his self-deprecating wit and then flooring them with downright staggering musicianship. There are few melodeon players who put so much feeling into their playing, whether it be a set of dance tunes, or accompaniment to a slow English ballad.

Andy has been consistent musical force since he came swiftly to prominence with the innovative Blowzabella. As well as a thorough grounding in the English tradition, Andy’s influences extend way beyond these isles, particularly to the music of Central France and to the storming Quebecois tradition. These influences will be well-known to all those familiar with Andy’s duo with English fiddle player, guitarist and singer, Chris Wood. Wood & Cutting became one of the most influential, and enduring duos on the scene; paving the way for the explosion of many of today’s thrusting young newcomers.

Andy’s commitment to, and sense of pride in traditional music, as well as his sensitivity and understanding of the form, has made him one of the folk scene’s most wanted, playing with Kate Rusby, John McCusker and Under One Sky to name but a few. There is also a growing demand for him to play outside this genre. He has recorded with Sting, John Illsley (Dire Straits), and was recently asked to join The Who for an acoustic concert in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. As well as his ongoing work with Chris, Andy is currently working with Martin Simpson, June Tabor and Blowzabella

In my musical life I’ve been lucky to work with a few musicians that I would call a genius, Andy Cutting without a doubt is one of these people. He is not only a true master of his instrument but a very inspiring musician to play with and be around. I’ve learned loads just by listening & watching Andy play. To top it all off, you couldn’t meet a nicer fella. John McCusker

Hearing Andy Cutting play is like going through the wardrobe and finding Narnia. His music is glorious, joyful, moving, subtle, emotionally charged, a totally spell-binding experience that is never long enough. June Tabor

Andy is the consummate accompanist, harmonically, rhythmically and melodically and an exquisite soloist. There is no one I’d rather work with. Martin Simpson

Andy is a top drawer player who speaks with his hands. I had no idea how lucky I was to work with him until long after we had gone our separate ways. Chris Wood

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Seth Lakeman was catapulted into the music mainstream when he was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2005 for his album ‘Kitty Jay’. Inspired by the legends and stories of Dartmoor where Seth grew up, it was produced by his elder brother Sean Lakeman and cost just £300 to record in his kitchen in a Dartmoor village. The Guardian noted his inclusion in the Mercury Prize shortlist at the time as “the biggest surprise” as he was up against a raft of well-known pop artists. Through Kitty Jay Seth brought folk music to a new, younger audience and he has been widely credited with breaking down perceptions and barriers often associated with folk music.

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of the album’s release and Seth will be touring with a band including long-time collaborators Benji Kirkpatrick, Ben Nicholls, Cormac Byrne and Alex Hart playing the album and other favourites.

Seth’s thrilling solo performance of the eponymous title track on live television at the Mercury Awards won him unanimous praise and started him on an incredible solo journey which has included record deals, 11 album releases (including 6 Top 40), BBC Radio 2 playlisted singles, a clutch of awards and touring all over the world.

He was delighted to be asked in late 2022 to record on Van Morrison’s new album ‘Moving On Skiffle’ which was released in March 2023 and has been performing with Morrison and his band in the UK and Europe including at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Seth has previously worked and toured extensively with Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) with his band the Sensational Space Shifters.

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We are humbly and immensely grateful to Costa Festivals / Harmony Voyages for their support and mentoring in the evolution of BanterFest and we are especially thankful for their kind sponsorship towards the presentation of this Seth Lakeman Trio headline concert at BanterFest 2024.

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Raised in the East Yorkshire flatlands on the fringes of Hull, Katie Spencer’s landscape has always been that of open skies and widening rivers. Industry still shapes the city here. The people, as with the land, are moulded by tides and stark horizons. Stand in the same place for long enough and you can watch the sun rise over the North Sea and then sink into crop fields, glowing auburn in late-summer sun. It is this sense of space and movement that flows through Katie Spencer’s music.

The songwriting, and most notably her guitar playing stems from a time when the steel-stringed instrument was truly finding its voice. Artists like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and perhaps most evidently Michael Chapman, flow into her sound, carrying with them the warmth and idealism of the early 70’s folk and songwriter movements.

Katie Spencer’s highly anticipated second album, The Edge of the Land (2022), followed her debut release, Weather Beaten (2019) which was praised for its unique song-craft, spell-binding musicianship and crystal sonic clarity, as she brought together fans of music from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Delicate and un-rushed, the ten songs on The Edge of the Land drift by like ships on the horizon, yet intimacy and introspection still remain.

The inclusivity found in her recorded works is most apparent when on stage, with a personal connection and humour that allows the listener time to appreciate the emotion of the music. Her historical gig list is extensive, taking in the world-renowned Celtic Connections and Cambridge Folk Festival, whilst performances with Danny Thompson and Alan Thomson have left audiences in awe of her confidence and craftsmanship.

‘Katie’s guitar playing has echoes of my dear friend the late great Bert Jansch. Like a musical weaver she threads her poetic lyrics through the guitar’s strings and produces little tapestries of song.’ – Ralph McTell​

‘Her articulate picking, with suggestions of folk and jazz, frames intelligently written songs and is the backbone to her music.’ – Guitarist Magazine

‘One of the most satisfying and spellbinding singer-songwriter collections I’ve encountered in some time.’ – RnR Magazine

 “If you like quality folk guitar playing and singing, all interwoven with thoughtful and clever lyrics, you will love this album and, like me, be blown away by Katie Spencer” – FATEA

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Jez Lowe and The Bad Pennies have been playing their songs and music of Northern England for over two decades around the folk festivals, clubs and concert stages of the world. “Acoustic simplicity coupled with electric vitality” was how they were described in their early days, and with a dozen albums to their credit, along with solo albums by Jez and by other members of the group, their following has continued to increase. They have played in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Belgium and of course all over the UK and Ireland. Their annual Christmas Tour has played to sell-out audiences across the UK for the last 15 years, and albums such as “Northern Echoes – Live on the Tyne”, “Wotcheor!” and 2023’s “Snow Dancing” have delighted audiences the world over.
Strong vocals, backed by outstanding instrumental back-up on guitar, cittern, fiddle, fretless bass, keyboards and Northumbrian Pipes, have made them one of Britain’s top attractions on the folk/acoustic/Celtic circuit.    

The lineup of The Bad Pennies currently comprises:

JEZ LOWE – A double nomination in the 2015 BBC Folk Awards – for best singer and best new song – was a timely reminder of Jez’s standing in the UK folk and acoustic music scene. Not only he is one of the busiest live performers in the country, but his songs are among the most widely sung by other performers, whether by long-established acts like Fairport Convention, The Dubliners and Bob Fox, or by the new breed of stars like The Unthanks, The Young Uns, Megson and The Duhks.

Jez’s own long-established band The Bad Pennies (featuring Kate Bramley, Andy May and David De La Haye) continue to attract a huge following, and his other collaborations with The Pitmen Poets (with Billy Mitchell, Bob Fox and Benny Graham), The Broonzies (alongside fellow-veterans Maggie Holland, Chris Parkinson and Roger Wilson), Men at Words (with James Keelaghan and Archie Fisher) and with fellow-songwriter Steve Tilston, show a willingness to push boundaries and venture boldly into pastures new.

Meanwhile, his involvement in the award-winning BBC series The Radio Ballads continues, with his song The Wrong Bus singled out for inclusion on Radio 4’s Pick of the Year in 2018, and five more of his contributions included in the BBC Radio broadcast featuring the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in November 2019. Many of these songs also featured on his 2016 solo album, The Ballad Beyond, the success of which prompted a feature in fRoots magazine and glowing reviews the world over.

Jez’s ongoing partnership with fellow-singer/songwriter Steve Tilston reached fruition in 2016, with the release of a duo album, The Janus Game, consisting entirely of new, co-written songs by the duo. 
Another long-term partnership, with Canadian singer-songwriter James Keelaghan, will bring the two men together again in 2024 for a tour across Canada in March. Their joint-album “Live In Australia”, recorded at a concert in Fremantle, was released in 2017.

KATE BRAMLEY who joined The Bad Pennies in November of 2000 as fiddle player and vocalist. Kate still tours solo, and also with U.S based band Sweetgrass, who have a number of cd releases available.  In 2006 she released a her most recent solo album, LITTLE CANAAN, produced by Jez, and featuring a mixture of traditional and original songs, including some choice cover versions of other writers’ songs.‘The impressive Kate Bramley’ was how the Daily Telegraph described her voice and music. In addition to a career in music, Kate has a career as a theatre writer and director, running her own Badapple Theatre, as well as freelance work for the world-renowned Hull Truck Theatre Company.

ANDY MAY who joined the band in 2002, but had worked with the band prior to his official joining by rehearsing and recording several tracks of the CD, Honesty Box. Bringing a whole new dimension to the band, with his accordion, Northumbrian smallpipes, and whistles, this multi-instrumentalist has quickly expanded from being a sought-after session player for the likes of Kathryn Tickell, to a valued member of a live performance band. With 20 wins at open piping competitions under his belt, his first at the age of 13, Andy is a record-breaking and holding, nine-time winner of the Northumbrian Pipers Society Annual Open Competition! In addition to his adeptness at playing the pipes, Andy also makes them. Andy has two solo albums available on Fellside Records, ‘Yellow Haired Laddie’ and ‘Happy Hours’. When not playing with the Bad Pennies, Andy tours worldwide with the band ‘Baltic Crossing’ who celebrate their 10th anniversary this year.

DAVID DE LA HAYE joined the Bad Pennies briefly back in the summer of 2006 for a couple of festival appearances and joined the band full time in Spring 2007. Dave hails originally from Jersey but is now based permanently in Newcastle. He started out playing bass with Border’s fiddler Shona Mooney and has since pushed the bass to the foreground with the Monster Ceilidh Band. In addition to performing with the Bad Pennies, he works as Studio Technician at Newcastle University

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