Kate Rusby on returning to Norwich to celebrate 25 years on the road

Kate Rusby who will be celebrating 25 years with a special evening of songs and stories at Norwich T

Kate Rusby who will be celebrating 25 years with a special evening of songs and stories at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photot: Submitted - Credit: Submitted

Freeman of Barnsley, inveterate Yorkshire Tea drinker, Mercury Prize nominee and darling of British folk, Kate Rusby is celebrating 25 years on the road with an intimate evening of stories and songs in Norwich.


From being a nominee for 1999's Mercury prize – almost unheard of for a folk singer both then and now – for her assured second solo album, Sleepless, to last year's enthralling Life in a Paper Boat, already her 14th solo album, Kate Rusby has stayed true to her folk and acoustic roots.

This despite the temptations such early recognition placed in her path: 'Around the time of Sleepless various people waved contracts at me, all saying 'Come with us, we'll make you a star',' she recalls. 'They wanted me to cut a 'pop' record, but I'd just reply, 'you must be joking - why would I do another kind of music just as I am starting to succeed with I want to do?'

'I'm from a strong, close family in a small village just outside Barnsley: that whole celebrity, music chart, be as famous as you can hullabaloo is so far from the things I care about in life. For me it was the worst idea in the world!'

It is an attitude that has stood her in good stead. A four times winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (Folk Singer of the Year, Best Live Act, Best Album and Best Original Song), in 2014 she received the prestigious British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors' Gold Badge Award in honour of her 'unique contribution to music'.

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And it has won her a legion of loyal fans not least in Norwich where she enjoys a firm following having played the Theatre Royal on five previous occasions between 2005 and 2012.

Next week she returns for another concert will celebrate her two and a half decades of delighting fans with her mix of traditional folk songs combined with new original material.

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Joining her on stage for this special evening will be the British folk musicians who form her band - Damien O'Kane on guitar, electric tenor guitar and banjo; Duncan Lyall on double bass and moog; Nick Cooke on diatonic accordion; and Steve Byrnes on bouzouki and guitar.

The programme will include tracks from Life in a Paper Boat, alongside carefully selected much loved classics from her extensive back catalogue.

Her love of singing started early with sing-alongs in the back of the car with her siblings as they accompanied their parents to folk gigs around the country with their Ceilidh band.

She went on to perform as a solo artist, as a duo with friend Kathryn Roberts, plus stints as singer with Equation and the all-female Celtic folksters The Poozies.

She says: 'My parents passed on so many songs and continue to do so. They are always humming and singing things I've never heard before and from time to time I also remember lines from songs they used to sing. I always pop round and ask them about it and then sneakily pinch the song!

'What appeals to me about the old songs are the stories and the simple way they were written. Some are painfully sad and it is those that draw me in the most.'

The crossover between the traditional and the new has brought her the opportunity to branch out into other areas such as appearing on Later With Jools Holland or, in 2006, recording the Top 10 duet All Over Again with Ronan Keating, and other collaborations with artists beyond the folk scene such as Eddi Reader, Blur's Graham Coxon, Idlewild's Roddy Woomble and Ella Edmondson.

She has also enjoyed forays into film music (Heartlands) and television soundtracks (the BBC's animation of Jack Frost and recording Ray Davies' The Village Green Preservation Society as the theme tune for the series Jam and Jerusalem).

She says: 'I play the music I want to play, work with incredibly talented musicians and make a living from doing something I love.'

And she is relishing the chance to once again bring her talent before a local audience: 'I'm looking forward so much to returning to beautiful Norwich. I haven't been in a while and I always adore the gigs we do there! Can't wait!'

• Kate Rusby, Norwich Theatre Royal, October 24, 7.30pm, £25-£8, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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