Once convinced she couldn’t sing, now nature graces Katherine Priddy’s haunting voice at National Centre for Early Music

Katherine Priddy: “One foot in folk music and one foot elsewhere”. Picture: Sam Wood

KATHERINE Priddy’s debut EP, Wolf, was chosen by Richard Thompson, no less, as The Best Thing I’ve Heard All Year.

That was in 2018, since when the Alchurch singer-songwriter has been on the gradual rise, leading to the June 2021 release of her debut album, The Eternal Rocks Beneath, on Navigator Records.

It duly topped the Official UK Folk Chart; reached number five in the Americana charts; received a five-star review in Songlines; made Mojo magazine’s Top Ten Folk Albums of 2021 and attracted airplay from Radcliffe & Maconie, Gideon Coe, Cerys Matthews, Guy Garvey, Tom Robinson and Steve Lamacq on BBC 6Music, as well as on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show.

On the road there have been tours with Thompson in 2019 and 2021, a joint run with Sam Kelly; support slots with The Chieftains and Vashti Bunyan; a sold-out December solo tour and an appearance at the Folk Alliance International Showcase in Kansas City in February.

Now, the penultimate night of Katherine’s 15-date spring travels brings her to the National Centre for Early Music in York tomorrow (1/6/2022), on her return to North Yorkshire for the first time since playing the Magpies Festival at Sutton Park in August 2021.

“It was their first year running the festival in the grounds there, and it was really brave of them, to be honest, as we were just coming out of the Covid lockdowns, but we had a really lovely crowd,” she recalls.

Katherine is making her mark on the contemporary roots scene with songs that bear testament both to growing up surrounded by nature and to her love of language, literature and poetry from her days of studying English Literature at the University of Sussex in Brighton.

“I first wrote a song when I was maybe 14/15, but it took a few years for me to really progress,” she says. “I did some performing in my teens and early twenties, but now I’m making up for lost time.”

Katherine had first set foot on stage to play Dorothy in her school play [The Wizard Of Oz] when she was nine. “I later taught myself to play guitar but I was convinced I couldn’t sing, though I did pass my GCSE, and I did do the odd show and performance at university,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I graduated that I went into a studio for the first time.”

As for performing live, “I’ve always been really nervous,” Katherine admits. “When I first started, I had to play sitting down because my knees were shaking so much! I still get nervous, but you have to enjoy it or you won’t have the energy to keep going. Having some self-belief and focusing on the good feedback is important.”

Katherine grew up in Alchurch, a rural village to the south of Birmingham. “There wasn’t an awful lot of music going on there, though they did start a folk night at the men’s club, just over the fence from my garden, so I played there, and it was good to have Birmingham on the doorstep,” she says.

“Some people hear a melody first, others write the lyrics first, and for me it’s always been the lyrics,” says former English Literature student Katherine Priddy. Picture: Sam Wood

She has now moved to the Second City. “It’s not quite as lovely and green, but it’s still lovely,”  she says. “I recorded The Eternal Rocks Beneath there, at Rebellious Jukebox, a studio that Simon Weaver runs almost as a hobby but he’s a fantastic superstar producer.

“It’s next to the factory where all the whistles are made for FIFA in the industrial heart of Birmingham, underneath a road next to the Jewellery Quarter.”

When writing songs, she puts an emphasis on the lyrics . “Some people hear a melody first, others write the lyrics first, and for me it’s always been the lyrics. I want them to be able to stand on their own like poetry, where each word has weight,” says Katherine. “It should be the same with lyrics, where you have to concentrate on finding the right word.”

On her debut EP Wolf, the title track was inspired by Heathcliff, and Katherine returned to Emily Bronte’s book for her debut album. “Wuthering Heights is my favourite novel, and I loved how Cathy described her love for Heathcliff as being ‘the eternal rock beneath’,” she says.

“A lot of my songs have themes of childhood and growing up, and for me, it fitted in as a foundation for what’s coming next.”

Does haunting vocalist and finger-picking guitarist Katherine consider herself to be a folk musician? “I think I’m just outside, with one foot in folk and one foot elsewhere, but what I appreciate about folk songs is that they tell stories,” she says.

Sometimes she performs her storytelling songs solo, but “these days I play sometimes with George Boomsma [a surname of Dutch origin, should you be wondering], “she says.

“He’s from Northallerton, so he’ll definitely be with me tomorrow, doing the supporting set as well as playing with me. He plays electric guitar and sings some really nice harmonies, and we’ve done a song together called Ready To Go. That’s the working title. It’s unreleased so far, but we’re quite likely to perform it tomorrow.”

A summer of festivals awaits Katherine, to be followed by recording sessions in the autumn and winter for her second album, with song-writing in progress.

In the meantime, tomorrow offers the chance to discover why Richard Thompson was so impressed by that first EP, Wolf. “It was bonkers that he heard it,” Katherine says.” I still don’t know how he got hold of a copy! When it’s a first release, you’re proud of it yourself, but for someone of his standing to say what he did was such a boost.”

Revolver presents Katherine Priddy and George Boomsma at National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, June 1, 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

More Things To Do in and around York as festivals open and half-term attractions beckon. List No. 84, courtesy of The Press

Fourmidable: York children’s entertainer Josh Benson will perform four Just Josh shows a day at the York Spring Fair and Food Festival

BIG beards, food and funfairs galore, Irish whimsy, postcard art, tree theatre, Moronic music, female folk and a year’s notice of camp comedy catch Charles Hutchinson’s eye.

York Spring Festival and Food Fair, Clocktower Enclosure, York Racecourse, Knavesmire, York, running until June 5

IN its second year at York Racecourse, this event takes in the Platinum Jubilee long weekend celebrations to complement the 15 vintage funfair rides, food stalls,  live music and family entertainment, highlighted by the lighting of York’s Jubilee Beacon on Thursday evening.

Look forward to 6.30pm performances by York musicians Huge, The Y Street Band, Hyde Family Jam and New York Brass Band, plus Wales’s Old Time Sailors.

Busiest of all will be York children’s entertainer, “balloonologist”, juggler and magician Josh Benson, performing his high-energy Just Josh show four times a day. Tickets: ticketsource.co.uk/yorkspringfair.co.uk.

Jorvik Viking Festival: Invading forces take over York city centre for five days. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Half-term festival of the week: Jorvik Viking Festival, York, today until Wednesday

NEARLY two and a half years after hordes of Viking warriors and settlers last descended on the city, York is ready for five days of Norse-themed fun and entertainment. 

Moved from February to fit into the summer half-term holiday, the 2022 festival sees the return of a living history encampment, March to Coppergate, Strongest Viking and Best Beard contests and Poo Day at DIG, as well as a new arena event this evening, The Jorvik Games. For full festival details and tickets, go to: jorvikvikingfestival.co.uk. See full preview below.

Furious romp: The poster for Dylan Moran’s We Got This tour, visiting York tonight

Comedy gig of the week: Dylan Moran, We Got This, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 8pm

DROLL Irish comedian Dylan Moran promises a joyously furious romp through the frustration and folly of modern-day life in his new tour show.

“These times have not been easy,” he says. “Learn how to make breakfast not even knowing you are out of bed. Diagnose the mirror, reason with the mice and boil yoghurt blindfolded. Enjoy the fruits of hurtling cognitive decline and your neighbours’ sprawling ghastliness, absence of humanity and so, so much more.” Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Postcards on the edge: Rows of original postcard artworks on sale at PICA Studios

Art event of the weekend: PICA Postcard Show and Sale, PICA Studios, Grape Lane, York, today and tomorrow, 10am to 4pm

THE artists at the PICA Studios workshop are branching out into one-off postcard artworks for one weekend only. Each postcard will sell for £25 to raise funds towards improving the studio space and to create a gallery in the foyer.

Taking part will be Lesley Birch, Evie Leach, Emily Stubbs, Katrina Mansfield, Ealish Wilson, Sarah Jackson, Ric Liptrot, Jo Edmonds, Lisa Power, Amy Stubbs, Mick Leach, Rae George, Lesley Shaw Lu Mason and Kitty Pennybacker. Purchases also can be made online via instagram@picastudios. 

Badapple Theatre Company’s poster for Danny Mellor’s Yorkshire Kernel at Theatre@41

Family drama of the weekend: Badapple Theatre Company in Yorkshire Kernel, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, today, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

JAMES’S Grandad is at death’s door, but he has one last mission: to find a tree. Many trees in fact, scattered around the country in memory of his Second World War comrades. So begins writer, performer and puppeteer Danny Mellor’s play for Green Hammerton company Badapple.

Divided between being haunted by his plain-speaking grandfather, his mother rekindling her romance with an old flame, and James’s pregnant partner, Rosie, thinking he is cheating on her, Mellor’s “bonkers” solo show undertakes a journey of Yorkshire wit and grit through one man’s determination to leave a long-lasting legacy. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

The Lovely Eggs: Playing The Crescent at the seventh attempt

Cracking gig of the week: The Lovely Eggs, supported by Arch Femmesis and Thick Richard, The Crescent, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

PROUDLY independent northern psychedelic punk rock duo The Lovely Eggs do not give up. After re-scheduling the tour to promote April 2020’s release of their I Am Moron album seven times, they play The Crescent at last this weekend.

Iggy Pop, no less, contributed to their track I, Moron. “For him just to say nothing but ‘moron’ over and over again fitted in with the sentiment of the song perfectly,” says Lovely Egg Holly Ross. “He just got it. We are all morons. In a world of moronic things. In a world of moronic ideas. You are Moron. I am Moron. We are Moron.” OK, Morons and Eggheads, tickets are on sale at thecrescentyork.com.

Rachel and Becky Unthank: York Barbican debut on Tuesday, showcasing new songs from Sorrows Away

Folk gigs of the week: The Unthanks, Sorrows Away Tour, York Barbican, Tuesday, 7.45pm; Katherine Priddy, supported by George Boomsma, National Centre for Early Music, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

RETURNING to touring after two years off the road, Northumbrian folk musicians The Unthanks will be previewing their upcoming autumn album Sorrows Away in their York Barbican debut with an 11-piece ensemble. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The following night at the NCEM, finger-picking guitarist and haunting singer Katherine Priddy performs enchanting songs on the theme of childhood, distant memories and whatever will follow next from last June’s debut album, The Eternal Rocks Beneath. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Katherine Priddy: Contemporary roots singer and guitarist, playing songs from The Eternal Rocks Beneath at the NCEM. Picture: Sam Wood

Gig launch of the week: Tom Allen, Completely, York Barbican, May 28 2023

YOU will have to wait 12 months for comedian, raconteur, arch television jester and radio presenter Tom Allen’s new show, Completely, to arrive in York. Tickets go on sale rather sooner, from 10am on Monday at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

At 38, Bromley-born Allen has finally moved out of his parents’ house, prompting his eagerness to share his life updates, gain audience opinions on his vegetable patch and delve into the protocol of inviting friends with children for dinner.

On the distant horizon: Tom Allen’s newly announced York Barbican show is a full year away

Jorvik Viking Festival returns with more fun and games…

TENTS for an encampment are being set up in Parliament Street and screens installed at the Eye of York. Traders are transporting their wares to the Guildhall and St Sampson’s Square and a faint smell of mead is wafting through the air. Welcome to the return of the Jorvik Viking Festival.

Nearly two and a half years after hordes of Viking warriors and settlers last descended on the city, York is preparing for five days of Norse-themed fun and entertainment, starting today (28/5/2022).

Postponed from February to fit snugly into the half-term holiday before the Jubilee bank holiday, this year’s festival will see the return of such favourite events as a living history encampment, the March To Coppergate and the Strongest Viking and Best Beard contests, alongside a new arena event at 6.45pm this evening, The Jorvik Games.

“In February, our evening spectacular is usually a dramatic presentation of a Viking story, but with the evenings being so much lighter in May, our event will also be a little more fun,” says event manager Gareth Henry.

Viking warriors ready for a clash of styles

 “The Viking Games will pit the finest warriors from four teams against each other, with spectators invited to pick their champion and cheer them on to victory. Henry. Of course, being Vikings, they might not always play by the rules – and with their own horde of supporters behind them on the arena field, sparks will fly with skirmishes inevitable!”

Tickets for The Jorvik Games are still available, priced £15 for adults and £11 for concessions, with family tickets also available at jorvikvikingfestival.co.uk.

While Saturday will be the festival’s busiest day, visitors from Sunday to Wednesday will enjoy a host of events and activities too.  On Sunday, at 29/31 Coney Street, visitors can meet Vikings from all over Europe, brought together under the Erasmus scheme, including fun crafting activities. 

Young warriors can hone their skills in Have-A-Go Sword sessions on the Parliament Street stage and the Ting Tang re-enactors will bring theatre to the stage every day too.

Five go Viking in York for five days

The last few places remain on crafting workshops taking place Monday to Wednesday at York Medical Society, on Stonegate, including Nalebinding (Viking knitting), Trichinopoly (wire weaving) and tablet weaving.

On Wednesday, Jorvik’s sister attraction, DIG in St Saviourgate, will host the ever-popular Poo Day, a chance for children (and adults!) to try their hand at making a replica Viking poo, based on the world-famous Lloyds Bank Coprolite (fossilised poo, should you be wondering). 

Jorvik Viking Centre’s exhibition of items from the Silverdale Hoard, on loan from Lancashire County Museums, is also expected to be popular, with tickets for the attraction selling out for many time slots throughout the half-term break. 

“With good weather forecast for the weekend, we’re expecting York to be particularly busy, so would urge visitors to pre-book their tickets wherever possible to avoid disappointment,” says Henry.

Full details of all Jorvik Viking Festival events can be found at jorvikvikingfestival.co.uk.