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Anthony John Clarke , George Papavgeris , Hard Times , Houghton Weavers , Jez Lowe , Ken Nicol , Maltloaf , Mark Claydon , Marie Little , Pelican Babies , Saggy Bottom Girls

ImageAnthony John Clarke was a very late fifties baby, born in Belfast on October 18th 1956. He started songwriting at the age of nine inspired by the sixties but it was only when he left Irealnd and came to England that he pursued his passion for writing with any vigour. Lacking belief in his work he languished in the shadow of others for too long but the creator of "Irish Eyes" and the beautiful "Seven In Ireland" was destined to make a mark on the British Contemporary Music Scene. Living in Liverpool and being managed superbly by Sheelagh for many years afforded Anthony John the opportunity of performing his songs far and wide. Seven tours of the East Coast of the USA ensured him a small but loyal following there which remains loyal to him to this day. Bookings at clubs up and down the UK and recent developments including the vocal collaboration with Elizabeth van de Waal increased his popuarity and made him a FOLK NAME

There are very few places in the UK and Ireland that Anthony John has not played, his supporters are loyal and many and the tributes he receives from his peers bear witness to the talent and hard work of one of the folk scene's nicest guys.With several albums of songs to his name he retains his reputatation as one of the top songwriters on the scene. His hard work and dedication to his craft are a credit to him.. For him, songwriting is indeed a craft:

"The songwriter has a responsibility. It's not enough to put a tune to some words or some words to a tune. The song is a vehicle for a notion that the writer has about something. If it wasn't, then the song would have no beginning, middle or end. It's not complicated. The notion is what starts the process and the completed song is the fruition. It invites others into the notion, the idea,the feeling, the celebration, the private moment. And if you can provide a laugh or two along the way it gets my vote." Anthony John speaking on BBC Northern Ireland 2004

His songs include the legendary: Broken Years, The Only Life Gloria Knows, Tuesday Night Is Always Karaoke, Irish Eyes, Between Midnight and Blue and the sensational Two People. His shows are funny, challenging and extremely popular. Anthony John Clarke is one of the music scene's real gentlemen.

"People don't leave the house to be bored to death. You have a responsibility to entertain and avoid being self-indulgent. I avoid being professionally Irish as much as I can. I'm from Ireland and I love Ireland but that doesn't mean I have to go on about Ireland all night. Just because I'm an Irish songwriter doesn't mean I can't love the Kinks and the Small Faces, Wes Montgomery, Coldplay, The Dixie Chicks, Christy Moore or Frances Black. I like the songs of George Formby . They were my first delight musically and I liked listening to them with my children as they were growing up" Anthony John speaking on BBC Radio Merseyside 2005

If you've not seen an Anthony John Clarke Concert, give it try! If you've not heard his music, you have a treat in store. He is no ordinary songwriter, and the warm feeling that you experience when leaving one of his shows will stay with you forever.

George Papavgeris in his own words

ImageInveterate white collar computer-basher and songwriting impersonator;  born in Salonika, Greece in 1953; resident at Herga folk club; 30+ years with “the best girl north of the South Pole” (Vanessa);  a son (Martin, b1982); a daughter (Aliki, b1985); two grandkids (Timmy b2002, Abi b2005); a dog (Lyddie, b1997); and we all belong to the amputee cat (Archimedes, spawned from the jaws of hell in 1993). Update 9 June 2006: Archie sadly left us today for the big Cuddle in the Sky)

Then, in April 2001 something happened.  I am still not sure what it was, but the result is 184 songs and six albums so far: “Countryside Like This” & “Perfect Moments” came out in October 2002 under my home-label of Mellows Productions; “Silent Majority” in March 2003 & "Life as usual" a year later, both under Robb Johnson’s UNLaBELLED label; and "Ordinary Heroes" & "For my next trick..." in October 2004 & March 2006 respectively, under Robb's Irregular Records label. What’s more, people seemed to like them, and I started getting invitations for gigs. And more important, singers like Martyn Wyndham-Read, Roy Bailey, Andy Irvine, Vin Garbutt, Johnny Collins, Cockersdale etc were asking to sing my songs. Things were becoming serious, perhaps my “faffing around” was producing something worthwhile!  But I don’t want to let it become so serious that I will stop enjoying it. I just consider it a lucky “streak”, and I intend to ride it as far as it will take me.

Looking back at what I have written so far, I now realise something that must have been there all along, yet I had never acknowledged overtly: I am driven by love of people with their imperfections (BECAUSE of their imperfections, even) and love to watch and support them as they struggle through daily life. It was always there; the songs acted as the relief valve to let it out. I still carry idealism too, no longer naive but tainted already with the compromises and stresses of adulthood. In a way, my songs are a cry of fear – that I might one day lose my idealism altogether. But still, in my world all is not gloom and doom; there are lots of perfect moments, and I am determined to enjoy and celebrate them all.

Of course, I don't know how long this will go on. Is my songwriting just a phase? Will song No 185 be written? Will I know it when I have "dried up"? God knows. Meanwhile, I am having the time of my life; and meeting lots of people in the folk circuit; and making friends - good friends; and when, every now and then, I hear another voice singing a song of mine, I feel the need to say "thanks".

Hard Times comprises Mick Taylor (acoustic bass), Gordon Johnston (banjo, mandolin, guitar) and Laurie Johnston (everything) – all superb musicians playing a mixture of traditional and modern tunes and songs from the UK, the USA and Europe.

Houghton Weavers were formed in 1975, The Houghton Weavers made their television debut in the BBC's talent show "We'll Call You". So successful were they that, within a couple of months they were given their own show "Sit Thi Deawn" which continued for six series over seven years and had the highest viewing figures for any regional T.V. programme.

ImageAs well as their own show the Weavers have appeared on many other national TV programmes for both BBC and ITV including "Jim'll Fix It", "This Is Your Life" and "The Video Entertainers".

Six series on Radio 2 led the Weavers to appear with such notable artistes as Cannon & Ball, Ken Dodd, Rick Wakeman, Mike Harding, Billy Connolly, Phil Cool, Jasper Carrott, Norman Wisdom, Mick Miller and Stan Boardman amongst many others.

They have starred in six pantomimes at top theatres in the North West, five of them as top of the bill.

An album deal with EMI found the Weavers recording at the famous Abbey Road Studios and now over 24 albums bear their name, many of which have been re-released and are still major sellers, Their perennial favourite "The Blackpool Belle" was a number 1 hit in Tasmania and a number 3 hit in New Zealand.

Their Fan Club consists of over 2,000 members ranging in age from three months to 100 years and stretches as far afield as the USA, Canada, Bahrain, Belgium, Australia and Germany.

The Houghton Weavers guarantee a wonderful evening of song and humour. Their experience in the business together with their style and professionalism ensures that, as their motto says, they will always "KEEP FOLK SMILING"

Jez Lowe , best known for his songs describing the mining culture, society and people of his native Northeast England, is a busy performer in high demand, with annual tours to the United States and Canada and frequent tours to Australia and New Zealand

ImageAside from his regular busy tour schedule Jez was recently commissioned to write over 20 new songs for the BBC Radio 2 ‘Radio Ballads’
series, that airs in the UK in March 2006.

Born to a coal mining family with Irish roots, Jez was raised in an area close to the English/Scottish border where coal mining was the dominant occupation, and the stories and characters of the region have shaped his work for many years.

He served for a time Durham's Composer in Residence and has often been commissioned to write songs that chronicle important events in the locale. These have included the closing of the coal mines; the last Big Meeting Day (a gala fair in the mining community); the beginning of the new millennium; and most recently the reclaiming of coastal land from pollution & mining residue.

He is a remarkable song-smith using wit, warmth, sensitivity, and keen perception, to paint colourful portraits of ordinary people with ordinary lives whom may be specific to Northeast England, but through Jez's eyes and verse become universal characters.

His songs have been covered by The Fairport Convention, The Tanahill Weavers, The Black Family, The Dubliners, Gordon Bok, Cherish the Ladies, Bob Fox and a host of other acts in America, Canada, Australia and the UK.

He has recently released ‘Doolally’, his 14th full length album which follows the success of his 2002 release ‘Honesty Box’ heralded as ‘one of the top ten albums of 2002’, BBC Radio 2 Folk show.

Ken Nicol is an exceptional musician. As a guitarist he is one of the most skilled and exciting playing anywhere today, as a singer, he is capable of evoking a wide range of emotions in his audience; and as a song writer he demonstrates these abilities in his clever and well, crafted material.

ImageBorn in Preston, Ken started playing the regional club circuit where his talents were soon recognised. He formed the band ' Nicol and Marsh's Easy Street' with Pete Marsh, which generated a lot of local response. Record companies showed interest, and they went on to produce three albums to widespread acclaim. Ken was offered the opportunity to provide musical support for Al Stewart's band and Loudon Wainwright III on their seasonal circuit. Al Stewart then featured Ken as lead guitarist on his National Tour.

After Ken's first international with Easy Street and the recording of their third album in America he stayed on in Southern California for two years, playing gigs as a solo acoustic performer, and as the lead singer for the band 'Versailles'. Ken returned from LA to an enthusiastic audience of UK fans, and continued to work on the Club Circuit as a solo performer, producing the albums; "Living in a Spanish Town", "Two Frets From The Blues", "Clean Feet-No Shoes" and more recently, 'The Bridge' all released on his own label M.V.S.

In 1997 Ken joined The Albion Band as lead guitarist and singer, writing much of the material himself and co-writing with Ashley Hutchings. They produced four albums in this time; "Happy Accident", Before Us Stands Yestertday", "The Christmas Album" and "Road Movies" on the Topic record label. Touring both nationally and internationally from Festival Venues to Arts Centres , The Albion Band's classic line up of Ken, Ashley Hutchings, Joe Broughton, Neil Marshall and Kellie While has won many rave reveiws. Ken left the Albion Band in September 2001, and continues to write, record and perform, now as a solo artist.

"Ken Nicol's return from the United States is one of the best things to happen to the British music scene. An immaculate guitarist and a fine lead singer, with the heart to put it together and raise the standards of our circuit." Isaac Guillory

"I first ran into Ken Nicol and his playing when I was booked at Hugh O'Donnell's club in Preston and was immediately aware that I was watching and hearing a very high class player indeed. Flexible too. He seemed comfortable with whatever style was tossed at him - and as I remember it, it was a pretty varied evening of music. Talking to him I got the feeling that he had become fed up with just sitting on his bum in LA and had decided, for better or worse, to come home to Preston. Not the most brilliant career move a soul can make (you may say) but then he's far too independent a soul to pay that kind of thinking too much heed. He is however intelligent enough to have made the most, musically speaking, of the learning opportunities out there and then to have taken such formidable and painstakingly acquired skills on both acoustic and electric guitars where he feels happiest. And that was where, apparently, Preston (home) utterly eclipsed LA. His more recent appearance as a member of the Albion Band has galvanised that mob in no uncertain terms, but this is him on his own. I think that he's a very good player indeed."  Martin Carthy

"I know talent when I hear it. Ken is an exceptional player and the consumate professional. He was a credit to our entourage." Al Stewart

"Ken has a winning vocal style and is a guitarist par excellence. My own first cassette of Ken's music was donated, at special request, to Stevie's own collection of 'noteworthy' artists." Ben Bridges (Guitarist with Stevie Wonder)

Maltloaf from Eccleston and Wigan

ImageMark Claydon is a phenominal performer on the guitar who can sing a bit two. He has played with the great Martin Simpson and performed with Angie Palmer, Napper and Bliss and Bandersnatch to name but a few. Be prepared to be stunned into silence, when Mark puts his hands near a guitar you can usually hear a pin drop in the rests.

ImageMarie Little ...  her upbringing in Salford ... early appearances in the folk clubs around Manchester ... crossing the hill to the North East ... raising her family ... running a pub ... taking a degree ... involvement with community arts ... arts therapy

..she has continued to develop her wide range of music.  Offerings from Marie range through contemporary songs of Industry and social significance, Music Hall, Country & pop - mostly  heartfelt  - often delivered with trademark humour  - always with her unique stamp of quality

... in her natural element in front of or amongst  an audience her songs may be sad or thought provoking one minute and have you howling with laughter the next ... along with an innate ability for working with people her warm personality and natural Northern wit add to her charm...

all this ..  combined with a tremendous talent, and a voice and guitar style suited to her range of material makes her an entertainer of the first order.

Pelican Babies are Lea Nixon and Mark Connelly,  two songwriters from different musical backgrounds who decided to start working together just to see how they might develop as writers and performers.

ImageLea Nixon at 17 won a recording contract with C.B.S. Records having beaten thousands of other entries in a nationwide songwriting competition. The release of a single quickly followed but without corporate backing never got its just rewards. Lea eventually parted company with C.B.S. and began experimenting with new musical styles. While working on a new project for D.J.M. Records he played as a session musician alongside the bass player Herbie Flowers and the London Philharmonic Orchestra . Lea continued to develop his craft as a songwriter and subsequently formed an acoustic duo "Nixon and Galbraith" . they toured the country as support act for "The Dooleys" pop group and recorded six BBC TV shows on which they performed many original songs.
Mark Connelly progressed through various college bands to form an all synthesizer band "Total Eclipse" playing experimental music. Major record company interest however, never advanced to secure a contract and the group disbanded. A chance meeting with Lea resulted in the formation of "The Clockwork Lounge" who had a strong local following playing original pop/dance music. After that Mark decided to devote all of his time into writing and spent the next few years with Lea writing specifically for other artists. In this period they had four songs published with the music publishing company 'Sleeping Giant'. Like many other writers they are still awaiting a cover on one of their songs........................ ! ! ! ! !

After spending several years working in a small studio Mark and Lea decided to go back to performing under the name of "J.J. Jones", and they spent an enjoyable year touring pubs and folk clubs playing an original blend of blues/pop. That was then.......................................... Today, with the introduction of new songs and instruments they are now known as the "Pelican Babies".

Saggy Bottom Girls formed in 2003 when Marie Luff, joined Joyce Riding and Sue Groves who have been singing, dancing organising in the Lancashire folk world for many years in various guises. Deriving thier name from the Soggy Bottom Boys - featured in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou. This probably reveals an infatuation with the star -- George Clooney, but thats not important right now -- at least they didn't call themselves the ER Gals. The trio specialise in unaccompanied three part harmony often with fun and laughter. Sometime folk, sometime music hall, many time humourous but alway entertaining. Great music and great fun.