Soundpost Singing Weekend: The Fairy Gathering

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10 May 2019 – 12 May 2019
17:00 – 22:00

The Fairy Gathering will breathe new life into the story-world of folk-tales about fairies, we will explore how they can be made relevant to singers and listeners today.

The fantasy of the fairy world offers escape to a place of light and beauty, of endless food and drink, of laughter and happiness, where we can find those we thought lost forever. Come and join us in a magical place and prepare to be entranced.

A wide range of talks and workshops explore otherworldly material from many angles: delving into the archives and learning about traditional tales in their rawest forms, hearing from singers such as Marry Waterson, Fay Hield, Lucy Farrell, Ewan MacPherson and Ben Nicholls about the enchanted moments they have experienced working with fairy stories, and plentiful opportunities to work with old texts, writers and musicians to generate your own new music. There will also be lots of singing and music around including unique performances from the artists and chances to share your own new or old songs, taking part in big communal sings or offering a song or tune in the sessions and concerts dotted throughout the weekend.

Everyone is welcome; those with a deep fascination in fairy, those who want to develop their singing or songwriting skills, and those who just want to hang out with a group of amazing people and absorb the charmed atmosphere of a Soundpost SInging Weekend.


Marry Waterson

Fay Hield

Lucy Farrell

Ben Nicholls

Ewan MacPherson

Barney Morse Brown

Terri Windling

Carolyne Larrington

Steven Hadley

To find out more about the project ‘Modern Fairies’ which features some of the artists who will be attending our weekend take a look at the website below.


Ticket Prices

  • £95 Weekend Ticket: Full Price (includes concert)
  • £75 Weekend Ticket: Students and Unwaged (includes concert)
  • £12 Saturday night concert ticket only (Max: 2 additional tickets only. If demand is high we may not be able to guarantee concert tickets. Refunds will be issued if this is the case)

Download your booking form here, and email it back to us or click on the ticket link above to buy online.

There are many fantastic options for accommodation local to Dungworth. For some ideas download our accommodation suggestions here.

Tickets are available for just the Saturday Evening Concert featuring artists from the weekend here:


We have some fantastic artists joining us. Here’s a bit more about them...

Fay Hield

Fay makes new music from archival sources, weaving the old into new words and sounds that resonate with the people and places she encounters. She has toured and recorded with various BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning projects, including curating The Full English Band and her own group, The Hurricane Party. Her research at The University of Sheffield looks at the English folk scene to discover how it builds a sense of community, how artists play with traditional materials and how audiences receive them.

Lucy Farrell

Lucy has been a member of several highly acclaimed bands including Eliza Carthy’s Big Machine and The Furrow Collective. An inveterate collaborator, many have been entranced by Lucy’s haunting and quintessentially English voice, subtle and instinctive musicianship and her ability to connect emotionally with an audience. Lucy works with ballads that inspire her own compositions, but in their own handed-down beauty and strangeness tell fantastical stories beyond our imaginations.

Ben Nicholls

Ben is a double bass player and multi-instrumental musician whose work crosses many genres. He has performed and recorded in studios and stages across the world. As a singer and instrumentalist he is known for his work with the Full English and also as a co-writer on the Mercury Music Prize nominated Nadine Shah album ‘Holiday Destination’, as well as featuring on many TV shows, films and adverts. He has also released several albums with his own bands Kings of The South Seas, Dennis Hopper Choppers and Menlo Park.

Ewan MacPherson

Now based in the Highlands Ewan has worked as a multi-instrumentalist in the vibrant Scottish scene for 20 years. Ewan is a member of Shooglenifty and Salt House, and has taken stages around the world with a wide range of traditional and contemporary folk/roots artists. Liverpool born with family ties to Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Ewan completed a BA at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and was later nominated for Instrumentalist of the Year at the 2014 MG Alba Trad Music Awards.

Terri Windling

Terri is an American editor, artist, essayist, and the author of award winning books for children and adults. One of the primary creative forces behind the 1980s mythic fiction resurgence Terri is recognized as one of the founders of the urban fantasy genre, having published the first novels of Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, and other pioneers of the form. As an author, Terri’s fiction includes The Wood Wife and several children's books. As an artist, Terri’s work is inspired by myth, folklore, and fairy tales. Her art has been exhibited across the US, as well as in the UK and France.

Marry Waterson

Part of the Waterson family musical dynasty, Marry has thrived on communal music making while developing highly original and distinctly English performance styles of her own. Words appear, phrased in a way that suggests music. With melody comes rhythm, her interior playground is a place where real life is refracted through the myths, legends and proverbs that shape the “folk memory”. Inscriptions on headstones; Aesop’s Fables; Japanese superstitions – all have their part to play. Three time BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominee, Marry has released four albums on the One Little Indian label and has worked with many stellar musicians including Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and Portishead's Adrian Utley.

Barney Morse-Brown

Duotone (the alias of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and live looper Barney Morse-Brown) is an alchemist, weaving a plethora of instruments including his pioneering and unconventional cello playing and masterful use of a looper for his gentle vocals, into a blanket of intimacy. Barney learnt the cello age six, he went on to study at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and to win a scholarship in baroque cello at the Royal College of Music. Barney has since worked with many high-profile musicians including Maya Youssef, The Imagined Village and multi-platinum award-winning artist Birdy, with whom he toured all over the world.

Carolyne Larrington

Carolyne teaches medieval English literature at St John's College, Oxford. Among her research interests are myths, legends and folk-traditions of various kinds. She wrote ‘The Land of the Green Man’ and the 'Lore of the Land' series for BBC Radio 4. She is frequently on the radio talking about medieval story and traditional material.

Steven Hadley

Steven has over twenty years of experience in arts management and has worked with orchestras, opera companies, festivals and artists. He began his career in a small arts centre working with everyone from Eliza Carthy and Kate Rusby to Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas, and since then has lectured, and widely worked as a consultant. His favourite thing is to talk to audiences about their experience of the arts.

Workshops have now been announced! Take a look at what will be on offer throughout the weekend below:

Big Ballad Editing:

Fay Hield

Join Fay as she talks you through the process of turning the 6000-word Middle English story of Sir Launfal into a song to be sung. She will explore how she used ideas of content and themes, emotion and meaning, language and personalisation and of course slash and burn to whittle it into shape. You will have the chance to practice your newfound skills on a text during the session so feel free to bring along a long song you want to make your own, or you can use the materials Fay will provide.

Big Fairy Sing!:

Frances Watt

Exactly what it says on the tin - join Frances for a chance to air those lungs and come together to sing through some otherworldly group songs in harmony with each other and the little people. The sound we will make together will be magical and inspire you for the rest of the day. Just bring your selves, your lungs and your smiles.

Writing tunes for texts:

Fay Hield

Lots of song collectors were fascinated by folk song texts but didn’t bring the tunes with them, meaning there are a mass of words out there awaiting to be sung. Fay will describe her process of making new tunes for existing texts to bring them back into performance. Bring along any words you particularly like, or use the materials Fay will have to hand and have a go at writing your own tune to make a new song version that is truly yours.

Where fairies come from:

Carolyne Larrington

Hear about the different kinds of tales, songs and ballads that feature fairies and the fairy-world in British tradition and learn of some sources where you can find little-known stories. Carolyne invites you to think about the big questions that these stories ask – and answer. She'll also talk about some modern novels, stories and tv or film adaptations in which fairies and fairy-lore appear. We'll see how fairies have changed and shrunk over the centuries, and how they are reclaiming their original power and significance once more.

Songs on a theme:

Ben Nicholls

Often as musicians we want to pull together groups of songs which are thematically linked or even just find a song which is related to a particular place, event or topic. In this group, we’ll looking into methods for researching and finding songs which share a theme. The group will decide on a fairy related subject and see what can be found in terms of traditional songs and material out there in online archives. Participants are advised to bring laptop/tablet

Singing together turning the mundane into magic:

Lucy Farrell

There is something magical about a hoard singing together, so join in and create a new sound to call the otherworld. This group singing session with Lucy will focus on building techniques and range to find the spark in your own voice, and work through singing together to build confidence and skill to create real magic.

Fairies, fact and fiction:

Ben Nicholls

Using examples from Ben’s research into fairies in the RAF during WW2 for the Modern Fairies project, we’ll look into the origins of these stories and their use in propaganda of the time. It’s an interesting area as many of the references are widely available and within living memory, unlike the origins of many fairy stories and so perhaps can give us a glimpse of how a fairy story can originate. Participants will be invited to discuss their attitudes to the reality of fairies and how that impacts upon using fairy material.

What do you need to know?

Ben Nicholls, Fay Hield, Steven Hadley, Ewan McPherson

Join a panel of the artists as they ask how important the background of a song is to an audience or a performer. Should songs stand on their own feet or do they need provenance? What do audiences gain from knowing a songs background? How should that background be presented to best effect? Does knowing a songs background make a difference to a performer and how? You will be invited to ask questions and put in your twopenneth as well.

Releasing the Selkie

Terri Windling, Lucy Farrell, Fay Hield

Selkies are a magical being, sometimes seal sometimes human. In some stories one can get trapped on the land, unable to return to sea. Through this session, the group will write a cante fable with Lucy, Fay and Terri. We will explore the story of the selkie through words, pictures and discussion, then develop a storyboard and split into smaller groups to create the mythical beast. Come with imagination and excitement – confidence and skills will be provided.

Why do you like what you like?

Steven Hadley

How does a concert become more or less enjoyable for you as an audience member? Is your enjoyment the same as mine? This session invites you to think about last night’s concert and share your thoughts on what was (and wasn’t) meaningful, enjoyable, life affirming or interesting. A great opportunity to share, listen and learn from each other about what we all find interesting about this music and how it is performed.

Fairies, Loss, and the Environment:

Ewan McPherson & Terri Windling

In the 1800s, Alexander Carmichael took a trip to the Scottish Highlands and the postmaster showed him where the fairies used to live and explained why they left when the “big sheep” and the railway came. Though they have been gone some time, we still have a natural sense that some places are more magical, and closer to fairy than others. Join Ewan and Terri in a discussion to explore fairies as an analogy for mankind’s loss of connection to nature and wild places. Add your voice and see if we can find any answers or solutions.

Bringing fairyland to life:

Ewan McPherson & Andy Bell

The Modern Fairies Project has been fascinating. During the first two sessions, our minds were filled with hundreds of ideas, sparking off creative discussions and grand dreams of great works. How did we trim down these ideas to realise our project? In this world of big budget, blockbusters and ground shaking experiences, how can we make an artistic point without a huge budget and a team of hundreds? Hear about how our minds exploded and what happened next and generate ideas for organising your own artistic adventures.

Source to Song:

Marry Waterson & Ewan McPherson

Join Ewan as he probes Marry and they discus the journey of a song; from source material; be that a story, something in the news, an image, a memory, anything which provides the spark to create a song to the end product. How do you choose the poignant elements from a story? How do you forge the material once it’s been selected? Is it possible to define the point where the magic starts to happen? This workshop is not about the technical elements used to create a song, instead it provides a unique look into the instinctive, dark and secret art of a master songwriter.

Unique ways to play your instrument:

Barney Morse Brown

Join Barney on a sonic exploration to discover new and intriguing ways to play your chosen instrument. As a session musician, improviser, composer and performer, Barney has a wealth of knowledge and experience in exploring the possibilities of the cello and is keen to support other musicians on their own exploitative musical journeys. Starting from understanding the structure and sonic qualities of a single note, Barney will help you to unwrap new textures and sounds and encourage you on your journey through improvisation, regardless of your own experience.

Song writing together:

Barney Morse Brown & Marry Waterson

Through the world of fairies, Barney and Marry worked closely gaining a deeper understanding of the shared writing process, working to a brief, setting words to music and exploring the many ways these things can be done. This is your opportunity to work with these intriguing musicians whether you have song ideas, words or music or whether you come just with an interest in song writing. Working closely with you, offering ideas, helping form your own musical brief, being on hand to help with arrangements, you are sure to head home with a wealth of ideas and suggestions for your journey into song writing.

Creating musical landscapes:

Barney Morse Brown

Being closely associated with the human voice, the cello's natural ability to connect on a deep emotional level lends itself perfectly to creating emotive lines, taking the listener to the core of their emotions. Learning to strip away everything and revealing the foundation of all musical structure can be a daunting process. Working alongside Barney you will take steps to discover what is at the heart of your instrument and through this discovery, learn the techniques and ear training to place the first few building blocks to create your own musical landscapes. Improvisation need not be a scary word, let's explore!

Inspiring starting points:

Marry Waterson

How do you find something to write about? Marry will talk about the starting points and inspiration behind her own songs, from inscriptions on headstones, Aesop’s Fables and Japanese superstitions. You will then be invited to go into the wilds of Dungworth to find your own inspiration and come back to share with Marry and the group the ideas you have and all talk about how they might be developed. You will leave this session with a deeper insight into how to go about starting songs and sowing the seeds for your own compositions.

Walk to a magical to place:

Jenna Walker

Spend an hour or so taking in the glorious local countryside, walking over hill and dale to arrive at Stoneface - a magical sculpture park where a fairy exhibition will be on display showing lots of materials form the wider project. Take part in an informal group singing workshop run by Jenna where you can stretch those vocal chords along with the birds.

We are delighted to be able to offer 4 bursary places for 18-30 year olds for the weekend. If you would like to apply simply fill in the form below by the 26th April letting us know why you would benefit from the opportunity.

Fairy Gathering Singing Weekend Bursaries 1 Copy

For more information, contact helen@soundpost.org.uk.