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Ferry Folk: Reflections

© Market Place

In spring 2017 Market Place awarded a development commission West Suffolk Arts in Brandon, Suffolk, to try new ways to reach new audiences. Ferry Folk was a traditional folk music and dance event held on 17th September 2016 at the Ram Hotel. Ferry Folk featured performances by Rant & Rebellion, a new band formed by members of the Brandon Folk Collective, and the Top Ceilidh Band who provided the music for some fun and energetic folk dancing, 

Rant & Rebellion are Mike Willett, Alison Barnes, Paddy Butcher and friends. Formed just for Ferry Folk, the group specialises in writing folk songs in a traditional East Anglian style that are based on stories from Brandon’s fascinating history and all performed on reproduction heritage instruments made by founding member, Mike Willett. Paddy Butcher is a professional folk musician and Ali Barnes is a local artist based in Brandon. 

Arsh Gill, our Marketing Intern caught up with Leigh Driver, director of West Suffolk Arts, to talk about the experience of putting together and bringing to life this project for the local community.

  • How did the Ferry Folk project develop, from first ideas to the actual event? How did the Rant & Rebellion group come together?

The initial idea was that we wanted to have a big taster evening, where lots of people could be introduced to Mike Willet’s heritage instruments that he made in his home studio. Mike Willett was introduced to Ali Barnes, who attended the evening and they formed an instant rapport; sharing similar ideas. They gelled amazingly and they became a writing powerhouse of fantastic new songs.

Ali and Mike worked together, they brought in my son Michael as their sound engineer.  They also brought in Paddy Butcher, a professional folk musician, who became their mentor. In fact, Paddy was so impressed with what they were doing that he became part of the group.

They had never performed live before the Ferry Folk event. It was their first live performance. On the night they were brilliant, they did fantastically well for a brand new group that have hardly been in the room together at all.

  • How did they research the stories for their songs?

In the beginning, we visualised lots of regular meetings and guest lecturers, but, unfortunately this didn’t happen because we couldn’t get them together. Instead we booked tickets for a whole day at the traditional music day to explore different types of heritage music and people writing songs, traditional music and new music. They learnt so much just from that one day, this inspired them terrifically, and gave them a lot of pointers for their own future performances.

  • What is your favourite song or instrument and why?

I thought it was a brilliant CD! In fact my favourite song was “Old Shuck” – the one about the dog. Melinda Appleby, who taught the creative writing class here, also knew Mike, and she introduced a poem, which became one of the songs in the album. Paddy Butcher, the mentor, put one of the songs in his set now, which he performs as part of his professional music set. It went better than I thought.

  • What has happened so far since the Ferry Folk event? Do “Rant & Rebellion” want to play again?

Alison and Mike will continue to write together and they will record. They want their next CD to be more professionally recorded. They are certainly going to create more traditional folk music. — Leigh Driver, West Suffolk Arts

CDs are available at the Brandon Centre, Bury Road, Brandon, IP27 0BQ. You can just drop in and buy one from the reception. Contact: 01842 816100.