Bristol Folk Festival: What to expect from the weekend, from where to go and what to listen out for

Bristol Folk Festival is back this weekend and brings with it a pretty exciting line-up of events and sweet sounds

<p>Highly acclaimed folk artist Kate Rusby will be headlining the festival</p>

Highly acclaimed folk artist Kate Rusby will be headlining the festival

After a popular run in 2019, Bristol Folk Festival returns to the city for three days this May Day weekend with a stellar line-up of British and international artists.

With a focus on showcasing the best of the west when it comes to folk music, alongside a taste of the world in the genre too, the festival is set to be bigger than ever this year.

Where to go

Taking over multiple venues across the city, the festival will open on Friday Night at Clifton Cathedral, before St George’s Bristol will form the heart of the festival over the rest of the weekend.

Bristol Folk House is also going to be hosting ceilidhs and upbeat sets, while The Architect on Harbourside will be hosting Folk Sessions on Friday and Saturday night, too.

Who to see

To kick things off on Friday 29th, the so-called ‘First lady of Folk’ Kate Rusby headlines the opening night with a special opening concert at Clifton Cathedral. Kate Rusby is celebrating 30 years as a professional musician, and will appear with her virtuoso band, hand-picked from the UK’s finest artists.

Somerset’s Kitty Macfarlane will also be headlining the event

Alongside Kate Rusby, O’Hooley & Tidow, Jon Boden and Kitty Macfarlane will also be headliners for the event., with O’Hooley & Tidow joining Kate Rusby on the opening night.

Characterised by strong harmonies and humorous, heart-touching tales of the exceptional and everyday, the duo are often cited as ‘England’s answer to the McGarrigles’ (Guardian) and are widely recognised as ‘one of British folk music’s mightiest combinations’ (Mojo). 

As the headliner for Saturday’s programme, Jon Boden will be playing at St George’s. More widely recognised as the frontman of Bellowhead, a game-changing eleven-piece, and winners of eight BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, excitingly he will be performing with his new group The Remnant Strings, with support from Senegalese artist Amadou Diagne.

Look out for Jon Boden & The Remnant Strings on the Saturday at Bristol Folk Festival

Look out for Medicine Creek featuring Nuala Honan, too, and Granny’s Attic, who are also joining the Saturday line-up.

For the closing headline act on Sunday, Somerset-local Kitty Macfarlane will be serenading with her futuristic folk sounds. Described as a tonic for the times we’re in, and fast building a cross-generational fanbase, she’s more than just one to watch and is said to already count Iggy Pop amongst her fanbase.

Extras to look out for

Aiming to help recover the live music scene after the pandemic and to shine a spotlight on the genre of folk music, the festival is encouraging people to buy weekend tickets in order to see as many artists as possible and save money in the process.

Word on the street is that there will also be special interviews and surprise events thrown into the mix, so it isn’t just music to look forward to.

You’ll find Good Habits playing on Saturday

Dr Anna Rutherford Creative Director of Bristol Folk Festival says: “Folk music connects, tells our stories and binds us. After two tough years, we’re honoured to bring Kate Rusby and Jon Boden, the queen and king of UK folk, and a whole host of artists to a resurgent festival city and to be part of the recovery of live music.

“The calibre of artists programmed across Mayday weekend is astonishing – book for an old favourite, or better still, take a chance on something new!”

So, how do you go about getting involved?

You can purchase tickets for the whole weekend or opt for individual Day and Night concerts instead. Day and Night passes are available for each day of the festival, while Weekend Passes allow full access to the three days of music.

There are five main concert sessions, each with a major headliner from the world of folk, so buying a Weekend Pass can help you to save £20+.