December 2016

Just a few gigs left this year. The UFQ will play our final show of the year at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on 9th December, then take a short break before the Live III Album Launch Tour continues in January. We're really pleased with how Live III has come out - check it out here.

It's been a remarkable year for us. Playing with Joss Stone and Friends at The Roundhouse and sharing the bill with The Original Blues Brothers, Status Quo and Foreigner in Switzerland were gigs we'd never have imagined being booked for and were enormously enjoyable. At the folkier end of the spectrum it was great to play main stage slots at Shrewsbury, Towersey and a few other folk festivals that we made first visits to during our busiest festival season to date. In the current climate, it's also felt like a real blessing to continue spreading into Europe and Scandinavia and we've particularly enjoyed having so many gigs in France and Denmark.

I'm continuing my side-gig as an extra member of folk duos, with a couple of special band lineup gigs for BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar in December. These will in fact be with bass player Tim Yates of Blackbeard's Tea Party who also made up the rhythm section with me for the Gilmore and Roberts band a couple of years ago.

The Jim Wynn Swing Orchestra continues to go from strength to strength and I'm loving getting back into checking out the work of some of my swing era heroes for inspiration. An entirely more contemporary big band project, Jonathan Silk's Fragment, was released earlier in the year and I'm delighted to have provided some percussion for it.

I caught up with my mentor Paolo De Gregorio a couple of weeks ago when he was over with the astonishing cajonero José Montaña. They were warmly received in the UK and I'm more determined than ever to help them spread the "true cajón" message over here in any way I can.

2017 looks set to be a great year for UFQ, with festivals at home and abroad coming in already. It's also the twentieth anniversary of The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, which I've been involved with for twelve years, so there are going to be some special events, including a massive reunion gig - with the current lineup including around seventy people, who knows how many players will be on stage for that!

Joe, Paloma and I are launching a new venture in Spain in the form of a folk fusion summer school in Zamora, which I'm extremely excited about. Spaniards, check out my youtube channel for more info! Nearer to home, I'm also delighted to have been invited to be a guest tutor at Chester University over a couple of months early in 2017.

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