Folk Supergroup; two words which when wedded together would rightly cause most people to turn the page or its more modern electronic equivalent; wait! Read on and I’ll attempt to explain what The Full English is all about.

The golden age of collecting traditional songs from the British Isles was at the start of the 20th Century; Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger and others travelled widely to record the history and stories of ordinary Britain’s through the songs sung by the people.


Their collections of notebooks, musical scores and other documents have been available to study in Cecil Sharp House in London and now the texts have been scanned into a fully searchable database called The Full English. The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) have commissioned Fay Hield (check out Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party ‘Orfeo’ released 2012) to breathe life into the archive by creating new songs from the texts.


The Full English are seven of folks finest brought together by Fay to turn a small selection of the archive into an album and a touring band.




The Full English band are Fay Hield (vocals), Seth Lakeman (vocals, fiddle, bouzouki), Nancy Kerr (vocals, fiddle), Ben Nicholls (vocals, double bass, concertina), Rob Harbron (vocals, concertina, fiddle), Martin Simpson (vocals, guitar- any guitarists need to see Martin play live to appreciate what a acoustic guitar can do), and Sam Sweeney (vocals, fiddle, cello and a nickelharp!).


The full seven-piece band takes the stage flanked by two large video screens used to illustrate the songs throughout the performance with text from the archive. The set opens, as does the album, with the a cappella ‘Awake Awake’, the seven voices blending together with a strong melody about two young lovers meeting at dawn.


‘Creeping Jane ‘ the story of a wining racehorse highlights Martin’s unique guitar and vocal style. Typically there’s a lot of instrument tuning between songs as folkies care how they sound; and plenty of banter with the audience, which makes a refreshing change.


The first half of the set ends with ‘Arthur O’Bradley’ which tells the tale of Arthur’s search for a wife, their wedding and the party afterwards “ red herrings and sprats by the dozen, to feast all his uncles and cousins” in 22 verses and 3 choruses sung in 3 minutes with alternate verses and lines sung by Fay and Nancy, a fine example of folk-rapping!


The second half includes a couple of instrumentals in which Rob and Sam cleverly play along to filmed footage from over 100 years ago of some of the collectors comedic Morris dancing, the live musicians co-ordinating their performance with the filmed footage; bringing the traditional back into life in 2013.


Two sea songs bring the main set to an end. The first is a tale of sailors leaving England and meeting Spanish girls in Valpariso Bay ‘Rounding the Horn’ sung by Ben Nicholls, followed by a naval battle song “Into the battle let’s go…into the blue our guns will blow” ‘Stand by Your Guns’ with Seth Lakeman on vocals. The latter wouldn’t feel out of place if played on electric guitar, bass and drums rather than fiddles and bouzouki.


The whole band return for the final audience sing-a-long to ‘Man In The Moon’ and as we “…sing a song for the Man in the Moon”; at least for two hours in Derby the tradition is alive and well in 2013



Alisdair Whyte


Any readers interested there’s a far better explanation of The Full English project HERE The archived material which currently stands at over 58,00 documents is available HERE so you’ve plenty of catching up to do.