Manchester Folk Festival 2023 – what’s hot?

Our five unmissable stop offs at 2023’s Manchester Folk Festival.

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Manchester – centre of the music universe? A ten day stretch this month might add fuel to the flames. Mayor Andy Burnham will be proudly showing off his city as the cultural icon it is, as several events bring the great and the good of the music industry to town.

From the 11th-14th, the Beyond The Music conference and events, the European Folk Network Conference on 19th and 20th, the Un-Convention Artist Development Conference on the 20th and 21st and of course the annual English Folk Expo from the 19th-21st. Manchester Folk Festival runs alongside the latter as a public event

As usual, there’s no show without Punch and we’ll be reporting back, yet the Manchester Folk Festival programme is a huge one, with nine venues (Band On The Wall, Night & Day Cafe, Stoller Hall, Halle St Peters, Halle St Michaels, Matt & Phreds, Soup, Victoria Wood and New Century Hall) playing host to the vast bill. An embarrassment of riches and whilst some element of compromise is necessary, one wouldn’t want to miss a landmark performance or two.

We do our very best to highlight a (very short – quality over quantity) shortlist of five of what we think are unmissable acts to see this year in a chocabloc programme…

Noble Jacks singer Will Page delivered a superb slot at last year’s late night Club showcase. A not-too-distant musical cousin of Seth Lakeman with his frantic fiddle play, he’s back with the full band at the Night & Day Cafe on Thursday 19th October.

They might find the stage a little cosier than some of the theatre and festival stages they’ve been working, but the intimacy is bound to create a very special (and sweaty) atmosphere.

Lucy Ward, Svavar Knútur and Adyn Townes are at the Castle Hotel on Friday 20th October. Their Unanswered album released ahead of the festival will be the focus, but fingers crossed they may even work up a highlight or two from their own catalogues. Suffice to say, as we considered Unanswered a terrific collaboration, this set is almost guaranteed a healthy crowd in a tight and intimate room.

It might be a predictable choice for which we apologise. There are, as yet undiscovered tribes in the depths of the Amazon rainforest who could see this coming, but we have to fly the flag (again) for Merry Hell who play Halle St Michaels also on Friday. Wherever the Kettle filled Wigan charabanc rolls up, the outcome is a joyous and inspirational outpouring. A band who always let the music speak for itself (cue shameless plug for their latest compilation album) fingers are crossed that the ‘under the radar’ The Gentle Man might even get rolled out.

The hallowed and refined confines of the Halle at St Michaels might not have quite the architectural splendour as its neighbour at St Peters, but the Merries are sure to have people off their seats (should there be any) and make the ornate floor bounce. Heyup.

On Saturday 21st, the place to be is at Band On The Wall bar, where from 1pm, half a dozen performers including a couple of ATB favourites. Young Folk winner Maddie Morris (brilliant in front of the 2022 Cropredy crowd and on Upstream) and Hannah Scott (we loved her Ancient Lights EP) have already won over the ATB team plus there’s the bonus of Heather Ferrier and George Boomsma from the English Folk Expo mentoring programme, who will be playing.

Yes, we appreciate it’s a cop out recommending a whole afternoon, but these musicians are the future and it’s time very well spent before the evening events kick in.

Manchester Folk Festival official website

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