Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music in and around the South Midlands. It has been produced for around 25 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.
From our base in Oxford, we distribute 1800–2000 copies through an intricate network of folk clubs, record shops, libraries, music venues, pubs, morris dancing teams, festivals and individuals. Click here to see a list of places that receive bulk copies of Shire Folk. We think you can safely assume that well over 4000 people read each issue.
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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk
Judging from all the amazingly talented young singers and musicians I have seen at festivals so far this summer the future of the music we all love looks very rosy indeed.
However, while at a folk festival this year, my wife and I had a discussion with a fellow festivalgoer about the age range of folk audiences. Looking around the venue at the start of the Ninebarrow set, at 63 years of age I did feel a bit of a youngster! As my new friend said, ‘the problem is that folk music is still largely watched by the ‘Fairport generation’ brought up on the music of the 60s and 70s’. I wasn’t sure if this was entirely true, as while my wife and I liked folk music as students in the 70s, we really picked it up again in the early 90s when we saw a then quite youthful Show of Hands support Ralph McTell at Nettlebed Folk Club.
What, I feel, is certainly true is that there is a discrepancy between the number of young people playing folk music and the age of the audience. This leads me on to wonder if there is anything festivals and particularly folk clubs can do to encourage more young people to come along. Festivals that put on more rocky bands like False Lights do get youngsters on their feet, so perhaps more room for dancing and a little less for sitting may help.
With regard to folk clubs, the format hasn’t changed much since my wife and I first went along as teenagers. In March, I saw the excellent award-winning Sam Kelly and Jamie Francis play one of the best gigs I have ever seen at Nettlebed to an audience of around 60 people. About six weeks later Fairport Convention sold out, which seems to suggest that there is a reluctance of the older generation to embrace new, younger acts. I do wonder if we occasionally need more youthful artists being booked as support acts (say 30 minutes) to established stars of the folk scene. That’s how we first experienced Show of Hands, who are now one of the best loved bands on the folk circuit. It might just encourage the existing clientele to support the younger generation.
So perhaps the future isn’t as rosy as we might imagine. Let us know your thoughts – we would love to hear from you.