Sheffield’s award winning folk stars are to celebrate the achievements of the city’s Women of Steel with a concert in November to mark the finale of the £150,000 Statue Appeal.
Martin Simpson, Fay Hield, John Tams and Barry Coope, Chris While and Julie Matthews, Roy Bailey, Ray Hearne and Nat Johnson and Friends are all appearing for free at the show.
And set in Sheffield Cathedral - on Wednesday, November 26 - it is set to answer the prayers of the surviving Women Of Steel, who kept the city’s steel mills going during two world wars, when the proceeds will see the appeal target reached.
John Palmer, who with The Star’s Graham Walker is organising the event - following their all star pop and rock concert which helped to raise £64,000 at the City Hall last year, today revealed plans for The Women Of Steel Folk Show.
Writing exclusively for The Star John said: “The Appeal has caught the city’s imagination and reawakened a spirit of community in people of all ages and backgrounds. As a result, more than £100,000 has been raised in less than six months – meaning that just £14,000 is now needed to reach the total.
“We want the evening in the Cathedral to be a glorious celebration of the City of Sheffield, the Women of Steel and the country’s most appreciated folk artistes – who also happen to come from Sheffield,” said John Palmer, who with Graham Walker and Sheffield Newspapers, is organising the event.
“We’re delighted that Bishop Steven and the Cathedral Chapter are co-presenting this event with us during their own centenary celebrations, which itself is commemorating the community spirit of our city”.
“The show will take place in the round so that everyone is within a few rows of the artistes and all tickets are £18, with all the seats being unreserved.
“We want to encourage those who have not yet had the opportunity to show their support for the Statue appeal to become involved in this very special night.
“The evening will also allow the individuals, businesses and supporters who have helped the Appeal so far to join together one final time for an evening of fabulous entertainment, singing and celebration.
“Donations have been received from individuals and organisations who have either given cash or arranged their own fundraising events - ranging from coffee mornings to book and DVD sales and charity runs to quiz nights and bake-ins.
“The centre piece of last year’s fundraising was a sell-out pop concert in Sheffield City Hall, when an unprecedented number of Sheffield stars, including Tony Christie, Heaven 17, ABC’s Martin Fry, John Parr, Eliot Kennedy, John Shuttleworth, Jon McClure and John Reilly, appeared for free.
“The concert was supported by an iTunes Album featuring tracks donated by Richard Hawley, Lesley Garrett, Paul Carrick and Kate Rusby. The momentum from this raised more than £64,000
“Now the statue has been commissioned and with only £14,000 needed by the end of this year to pay for it, several fundraising events already planned in the next few months will ensure that the total will be achieved at the folk concert.
“The singers and musicians taking part in the unique show have won 17 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards between them and been nominated for dozens more.
“Fay Hield and Martin Simpson won the 2014 Best Group and Best Album Awards at the Royal Albert Hall ceremony earlier this year, with the supergroup, The Full English.
“Fay regularly performs with her own group The Hurricane Party. She was commissioned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society to form a band and create new music based on the thousands of original recordings of traditional songs made available on the internet for the first time last year.
That was The Full English project, for which she brought together outstanding musicians to record a best-selling album and undertake a sell-out tour. The band will be touring again just before Fay appears at the Cathedral to sing with Martin.
Martin Simpson picked up his third BBC Folk Best Album Award this year as part of The Full English – and he beat himself because his solo own album Vagrant Stanzas – co-produced by Richard Hawley – was also nominated.
Acknowledged as one of the finest acoustic and slide guitar players in the world, Martin has been nominated 32 times in the 13 years of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards - more than any other performer - with nine consecutive years as nominee for Musician of The Year.
His career includes collaborations on stage and record with Richard Thompson, June Tabor, Kelly Joe Phelps, Jackson Browne, Danny Thompson, Martin Carthy, Cara Dillon, , Roy Bailey, Martin Taylor, Steve Miller, Dick Gaughan - and Fay Hield.
John Tams is universally hailed as one of the country’s most influential singers, songwriters and programme makers. A member of the Albion Band and Home Service he also wrote the songs for the worldwide hit stage show War Horse. He was an Associate Director at the Crucible and spent ten years at the National Theatre. He has won six BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and is the only artiste to have won the Album of the Year Award twice.
John produced the highly rated BBC Radio 2 series Radio Ballads in 2006, working with some of the artistes in the Cathedral show. The Song of Steel programme about the decline of the steel industry in the Don Valley won a prestigious Sony Gold Radio Award. He’ll be performing with long term associate Barry Coope of Coope, Boyes and Simpson, who are well known for In Flanders Field - songs, poems and music reflecting the Great War.
Chris While and Julie Matthews won the BBC Radio 2 Best Duo Folk Award in 2009 – and the evening will particularly poignant for Julie who wrote and sang a song for Dot Slingsby – one of the women at the head of the Statue appeal - for the Song of Steel radio programme.
They, too, were members of the Albion Country Band, as singers and songwriters. They are credited with taking the band in a new direction on the iconic album Albion Heart, which started their writing partnership which continues to this day.
Ray Hearne, from Rotherham, is a former steelworker turned poet and also wrote and sang on Song of Steel. He is a highly respected singer who is a member of the No Masters Co-operative that encourages new artistes and songwriters.
He is an outstanding host, well known for his involvement with the Wath Festival – and he’s the host at the Cathedral too.
Another local favourite, Roy Bailey won the BBC Radio Two Best Live Act Award in 2003, for his rousing and heart-warming performances with the late with Tony Benn.
They performed together for more than thirty years, presenting a show under the name of The Writing on the Wall in which Tony read politically charged extracts and Roy complemented them with traditional and modern songs.
Roy has been performing for more than 50 years, throughout which he has remained committed to his life-long principles of Equality, Liberty, Justice and Internationalism
Nat Johnson and Friends Hannah and Katharine won the hearts of the City Hall audience when they appeared at the Women of Steel concert last November. Nat has just finished her first solo album, having previously recorded and performed with The Figureheads.
Rev Peter Bradley, The Dean of Sheffield, said: “Sheffield is home to some of the most iconic and exciting folk performers in the country and we’re delighted that they are committed to helping us to provide a really rousing finale to the Women of Steel Statue Appeal by performing free in the Cathedral at the final statue fundraising event.
“The appeal has captured the spirit of community in the city and this is something that the cathedral is also dedicated to, so it is fitting that we should present the concert during our centenary year.”
Sheffield Council Leader Julie Dore said: “We had a huge boost of £21,000 from the World Snooker Championship Cue Ball and then an unexpected £5,000 from Barry Hearn and the World Snooker organisation itself, which was really uplifting.
“With more money coming from dinners and other imaginative events soon to be announced, plus lots of individual donations, we know we have the momentum to hit the target.”
* Tickets for the Women Of Steel Folk Show are £18 each, subject to booking fee, and go on sale today. Buy in person from the Cathedral Shop or online at www.sheffieldcathedral.org.