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Kathryn Tickell

Kathryn to be new Artistic Director of Folkworks

November 10th, 2008

Here follows a news release from The Sage Gateshead:


Globally acclaimed Northumbrian musician, Kathryn Tickell is to be new Artistic Director of Folkworks.

From September 2009 Kathryn will be responsible for providing artistic leadership, advice and inspiration for the folk music programme within The Sage Gateshead, and for other Folkworks projects taking place regionally, nationally and internationally, including the annual programme of Summer Schools, and The Sage Gateshead’s high energy youth folk ensemble, Folkestra, which was a smash hit at their televised 2008 BBC Proms debut.

Today Kathryn said, “I have been involved with Folkworks since the very beginning, twenty years ago, and I’m totally delighted to be able to play a role in its future. The Artistic Directorship is an exciting post and I already have lots of ideas of potential projects!”

The news was announced at a Gala Concert on 9th November to celebrate twenty years almost to the day since Folkworks was formed in 1988 by Ros Rigby and Alistair Anderson as a pioneering development agency for folk music in the North of England. Folkworks’ early achievement in establishing Folk and Traditional music centre stage in the concert halls of the world alongside classical, rock and world music, often bringing together musicians from different, complementary backgrounds, grew from a programme that included the promotion of regional and national tours, international collaborations, festivals, training for teachers and schools, and establishing a youth summer school which has inspired thousands of young musicians, some of whom, such as Nancy Kerr, Robert Harbron, Rachel and Becky Unthank and others, have gone on to make professional careers in music. Northumbria remains the only region in England to have its own instrument, the Northumbrian Pipes, of which Kathryn is a virtuoso player.

Kathryn Tickell is a composer, performer and successful recording artist whose work is deeply rooted to the landscape and people of Northumbria. But she also works collaboratively across many genres, making her work contemporary and exciting, and putting her firmly at the forefront of the current folk music revival. This year she became the first folk musician in history commissioned to write a piece for the BBC Proms. It was written for The Sage Gateshead’s unique collaborative regional youth ensemble Folkestra (of which Kathryn remains Music Director), Muzsikás, London Sinfonietta and London Young Musicians. One of the foremost composers of our time and Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, composed a piece especially for Kathryn, commissioned by The Sage Gateshead and premiered with musicians from Northern Sinfonia in October 2006 and aired on BBC Radio 3. Speaking about why he wrote the work for Kathryn, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies said: “In admiration and respect for her work in making her home county come alive with a re-awakened awareness of its own musical heritage, and of inexhaustible developments and transformations of its traditions.”

Winner of BBC Radio 2 Folk Award’s Musician of the Year in 2005, Kathryn was the subject of a Channel 5 television documentary ‘Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbria’ and has made numerous TV and radio appearances. In July 2007, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by University of Northumbria for her outstanding and inspirational achievements. The citation for the award said: “One of Kathryn”s most important and enduring contributions is as a composer. Her work is rooted in the musical thinking and practice of Northumberland, but it is also highly innovative in harmony, in rhythm and arrangement. Her music has been described as ”a force for renewal, transforming traditional music from within the tradition’.”

A young Kathryn Tickell performed at the launch of Folkworks in November 1988 and she has been involved on a regular basis in Folkworks’ performance and education projects over the past two decades as well as developing her highly successful international career as performer, composer and teacher. Her versatility is such that she was also commissioned by The Sage Gateshead to work with saxophonist Andy Sheppard to write Music for a New Crossing, which was performed live to celebrate the opening to the public of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in September 2001, and also played a major role in The Sage Gateshead’s opening weekend in December 2004.

Current Folkworks Artistic Director Alistair Anderson explains why Kathryn is the right person to succeed him, “Kathryn Tickell is the ideal person to take the work of Folkworks forward. Not only is she a world class performer, she is also absolutely committed to passing on her skills and her love of the music, to the next generation be it at a village school or at university degree level. Furthermore, because of her links with the tradition through her extended family she has a deep understanding of the many ways the music can engage with communities. I am delighted to be handing the torch on to Kathryn.”

Anthony Sargent, General Director of The Sage Gateshead echoed that sentiment, saying, “There can be no doubt that Britain’s musical landscape has been profoundly enriched by the extraordinary pioneering first two decades of Folkworks, the visionary brainchild of Alistair Anderson and Ros Rigby, and Kathryn Tickell — herself a musician of unique breadth and depth — is absolutely the perfect person to develop that legacy in fresh directions for the 21st Century.”


Notes to editors:

  • Folkworks played a key role in the planning and development of The Sage Gateshead and along with the other founding musical partner, Northern Sinfonia.
  • The Folkworks programme continues within the music centre through the wide ranging programme of concerts, weekly classes, Absolute Beginners Workouts, and festivals, including the forthcoming Fiddles on Fire Festival over the Easter weekend in April 2009.

For more information, images or interview requests please contact: Helen Fussell, Head of Media and PR (maternity cover), The Sage Gateshead (t) 0191 443 4567 (e)


Cloud Horizons artwork

Cloud Horizons

Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening’s second album, released September 1st 2023.

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