On air Listen


« Previous | Main | Next »

Karine Polwart on porridge, pipes and Potter

Mike Harding | 13:26 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

St Hild and St Bede's College at Durham University makes a good bowl of porridge, let me tell you.

Which is just as well, I'm afraid, since there's not nearly quite such a good cup of coffee to be had on campus.

Indeed, I'm thinking rather enviously upon a certain Kentish folk singer that travels everywhere with his camping stove, an espresso pot and a massive vat of Lavazza.

It's the annual Folkworks Youth Summer School and I've been drafted in for the first time to teach song and song band workshops.

There are some striking and very individual voices here which I've no doubt we'll all be hearing from over the next few years, though most of all it's very cheering to see almost a third of the 120 requesting a place in ensemble song arranging classes.

I confess, the 25 talented folks in the song band that myself and
fiddler Sarah Jane Summers are leading, is stretching my musical agility to the limit, with a D/G melodeon, a set of Northumbrian pipes and an alto saxophone to incorporate into a wheen of fiddles, concertinas, mandolins and voices.

But it's all coming together very nicely for Friday's concert in Durham's Gala Theatre.

My main source of low-level stress today, however, has been the mention of some kind of folktastic Harry Potter-related cabaret skit tonight at the student concert, involving all of the tutors, some rather more enthusiastically than others let's say.

I think the premise is that Harry leaves on The Hogwarts Express from platform 9/8 (cue for some slipjigs) and that Draco Malfoy is a thrash metal guitarist and enemy
of folk music.

In reality, our Mr Malfoy plays Northumbrian pipes, which in the absence of any banjos to insult appear to be good game (though I think it's largely because the general consensus at midnight last night was that if Draco had shoulder length blonde dreadlocks and
a Geordie accent then he might look a wee bit like Jez Lowe's Bad Pennies band mate Andy May).

The role of Ron Weasley was, alas, destined for Armagh-based flautist
Martin Meehan, he being the only red-head on the team.

And for obvious accent reasons, I believe it's been a battle between Sarah Jane and
myself for the role of Minerva McGonagall. I think I won, though it's
hard to feel particularly flattered. Still Sarah Jane is quite happy. Apparently she's always wanted to be a snitch.


  • Comment number 1.

    I hear from another source all is going well up there, it sounds great fun & stimulating. I remember staying for a conference on campus in a dungeon like stone Halls room alongside the Cathedral and sleeplessly marking time throughout the night with the clock chimes. This was long ago in the dark days when one anticipated nothing but instant coffee from communal catering. As a Maid of Kent do I understand the resourcefulness of my fellow County man!

  • Comment number 2.

    It was a truly fantastic week! Didn't try the coffee but the tea was rather criminal, but apart from that it was great! :D


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.