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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Fay Hield
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Describe the atmosphere and live music at a local pub, restaurant, festival, church or temple, club night.... inspire other people to check it out!

Musician: Fay Hield

Location: Newcastle

Instruments: voice

Music: traditional English

Listen  Listen (03'00) to Fay Hield and the Witches of Elswick sing 'Daddy Fox' from 'Out of Bed', Fellside FECD180

Listen to the Witches of Elswick in the World on Your Street tent at WOMAD 2003

'And my dad took us down to the local folk club in Keighley, Yorkshire, so I got into the social scene by singing in choruses and communal singing for pleasure'.

How I came to this music:

My mum was a Morris dancer and when I was a kid she took me around various festivals. And my dad took us down to the local folk club in Keighley, Yorkshire, so I got into the social scene by singing in choruses and communal singing for pleasure rather than fine arrangements and career based stuff. I spent a couple of years in Ireland in my late teens with Damien Barber, who's a box player and singer.

When we came back we hooked up with Maggie Boyle, a great Irish singer who I'd known as a child. She helped me a lot getting gigs and singing more in public, and Maggie, Damien and I set up an organisation there called Three's Company, through which we promote concerts and run an artists' co-operative agency.

The Witches of ElswickThen about two years ago I moved up to Newcastle to do a degree in folk music, and the people I moved in with became the group I now sing with ­ The Witches of Elswick. The other three all and have backgrounds in various folk scenes and they all play fiddle, but not with The Witches because we're an a cappella group.

There's Bryony Griffith, who used to play for a Cotswold Morris dancing side called Dog Rose. Right now she's also in a band called the Demon Barbers. Then there's Becky Stockwell, who's originally from Broadstairs in Kent and used to play in a ceilidh band called Florida. And Gillian Tolfrey is from Jarrow near Newcastle. Her background is much more in Irish music and church singing. We don't have fixed roles in the group and there's no lead singer. We all sing different parts in different songs and we don't learn things from scores, so we do most of our own arrangements.

Where I play:

We sing at folk clubs and festivals all over England. This year we're doing Sidmouth, Towersey, Whitby, Holmfirth, Otley, Fylde, Broadstairs and The Fuse to name a few. But another thing we're trying to do is take folk music to people who wouldn't normally go to a folk club. They really like it when they actually hear it! We just do it for a laugh ­ none of that fingers-in-your-ear stuff ­ and we've been really trying to get into other acoustic events, starting locally. For example, we went and sang at a poetry evening.

The Cumberland Arms is our local pub, where a lot of our singing for pleasure first started, and they're still very supportive of us. As for bigger venues, we also sang at the Newcastle Arts Centre recently.

A favourite song:

This summer we're releasing an album called Out Of Bed and I've chosen a song from it called Daddy Fox. It's not about fox hunting, it's one of the first songs we learnt together and it sort of encapsulates what we're all about which is singing for fun and pleasure, community singing. It's a traditional song put to a different tune which is also traditional and a guy called Mick Peat did the arrangement for it. The main point is that it's just really nice to sing and it's great for people in the audience to join in with.

The Witches' new album 'Out of Bed' is available from
Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story

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