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SRFN:  Newsletter:  Number 25 Winter 1999-2000:  The Pack

All views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily constitute SRFN policy.

Pack to Pack

One night at Whitby Folk Week I was slumbering quietly through yet another concert in a desperate attempt to get the most from my season ticket when this gang of yoofs came in...

These charmingly irreverent persons of a fresh and unsullied persuasion then proceeded to disturb my reverie with a stunningly self-deprecating performance of music and humour which frankly made me glad to have stayed awake.

Since I was seated next to the knowledgeable Mr David Ball (who, like the rest of the human race, lives in Hope) I enquired as to the origins of the said yoofful band. He kindly sent me this short electronic note, concerning....


Who are:

Emily and Sophy Ball, Ria Cheadle, Talei Edwards, Bella Hardy fiddles Photo: the Pack
Emma Hardy fiddle, viola
Michael Jary concertina
Lucy Nelson bodhran & clarinet
Matt Nelson saxophone
Chantal Noppen concertina, trumpet
Joey Oliver whistles, oboe
Sam Pirt piano-accordion
Ian Stephenson guitar

It was Gordon Hunter who gave the name 'Bratpack' to the large teenage group to be found at the back corner of the Spa Pavilion for the Whitby Festival Late Night extras. Many of this group also met annually at Folkworks Summer School, where they would play together in different bands. Soon they started getting together at various family homes for other festivals, new year celebrations, parties and so on.

Gradually they coalesced into a band playing at ceilidhs, all-night sessions and the odd concert spot. Last year they appeared together at Holmfirth Festival and were promptly spotted and booked for Whitby. The line-up was still fairly fluid - nine of them started the week at Whitby, and by the end of the week there were thirteen! In 1999 the lineup stabilised as their aspirations grew. Band members live throughout the north of England; several come from the Hope Valley, others from Holmfirth, Selby, Hull, Otley, Burley-in-Wharfedale, South Shields and Hexham. Significantly, all of them come from families with an interest in traditional music: either with family dance bands with whom they first started performing, or through involvement with Morris sides, or with parents who sang, played or were involved in organising events.

This year they have played for a number of dances and appeared at several festivals: Holmfirth, Whitby, Otley and Windy Bottom. The six youngest (using the subspecies name of 'Six Pack') entered and won the Wiltshire Folk Musician Competition for their age group, with Sophy Ball winning the overall prize for best musician. Their prize included an appearance at Chippenham Festival.

Although the Pack is primarily a concert band they have played for dances, organised sessions and run workshops. In common with many players of their age they have greater technical instrumental skills than the average player of previous generations. What makes them special is the flair and imagination of their arrangements and their delight in experimenting with new material - some of it quite theatrical. One of their Whitby highlights was a version of the Devil went down to Georgia, featuring piano accordion, a costumed devil, a chorus of dancing girls and a renditon of a Swedish polska performed simultaneously in five different keys - the entire number was written and rehearsed during Whitby week!

Next year they hope to appear at more festivals, possibly overseas. They are also planning a recording.

Editor's note:

Rumours are also rife of a major undertaking very late in December 1999, called the Best is yet to Come Concert. This is scheduled for December 30th at Calver Village Hall, Derbyshire (nr Sheffield). The Pack are sort of sponsoring this and appearing at the same time, with the following highly prestigious lineup:

The Pack

13-piece multi-instrumental from Hexham to the Hope Valley. They appeared this year at Holmfirth, Warwick, Whitby and Windy Bottom festivals.


5-piece twin fiddles, whistles, accordion and guitar were finalists in the 1999 Radio 2 Young Folk Award


An accordion and a guitar from Goole and Grindleford, and semi-finalists in the 1998 Radio 2 Young Folk Award


Fiddles, flute, whistle and guitar from Matlock. One of several bands from Highfields School.


A 6-piece a capella bluegrass/gospel group from Hope Valley, Sheffield and Leeds. Radio 2 Young Folk Award semi-finalists, 1999.

Talei Edwards & Emma Reid

Twin fiddles from Otley and Hexham. Finalists in both the 1998 and the 1999 Radio 2 Young Folk Awards.

Which, if my calculations are correct makes a total of 27 musicians from an area stretching from Derbyshire to Northumberland, and including semi-finalists from two Young Tradition awards and three sets of finalists... What I find so frustrating is that these lot actually practice regularly with travelling distnaces measured in hundreds of miles for the round trip, whereas I can think of bands who live in the same town who don't seem to be able to do likewise. Still, you've got to admit, it's a pretty impressive line-up although I wonder if the neighbours will complain about the noise in Calver that night?

If people would like to know more about the folk world's equivalent to the Glen Miller Band, they should contact Dave or Sophie Ball on (01433) 620081 or Bella Hardy on (01433) 670370.

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