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Matthew Bannister to walk from Wickham to FolkEast for charity

Folk On Foot presenter, Matthew Bannister, is walking nearly 200 miles for the Help Musicians charity. Here's how you can donate.

As we write this, the temperatures in the south of England have just passed 32°c. It’s late June, and there’s a strong sense that there’s plenty more heat where this came from. How will it feel come early August when most sensible people are running for the shade? Probably not a question to put to Matthew Bannister, the man behind the Folk On Foot podcast (as well as host of Radio 4’s Last Word and former controller of BBC Radio 1), as he sets out to walk from Wickham Festival to FolkEast, starting on August 4th, in aid of Help Musicians.

To put that into context for you, that’s over 180 miles, at high summer, over approximately two weeks. 13 miles a day in the roasting sun. Sounds fairly grueling to us, but it’s on-brand for Bannister – Folk On Foot is all about walking, usually in the company of fine musicians (we’ll come to that later). In the past, it has also been associated with fundraising, too. During the two pandemic lockdowns, the podcast raised an incredible £327,000, some of which went to the musicians involved in the Front Room Fesitvals, the rest of which went to the same charity.

Matthew Bannister of Folk On Foot

“The lockdowns may be a distant memory,” explains Bannister, “but the problems faced by musicians haven’t gone away. Many are dealing with mental or physical health issues or financial hardship and Help Musicians and its sister charity Music Minds Matter do a brilliant job of supporting them to build secure careers in what can be a very challenging and precarious industry. That’s why I’ve decided to tramp 180 miles across the South East of England to raise money and awareness. Music and musicians have been vital throughout my life, raising my spirits when I was down, helping me to celebrate important moments and bringing me joy every single day. This walk is a small way of saying thank you.”

To keep him buoyant and energised throughout the trek, Bannister has enlisted the support of a host of folk musicians along the way. They’ll be meeting him at various pubs en route to play a few tunes and try and stop him from falling asleep (see the list of pubs and musicians below). “These aren’t gigs,” he says, “just a short musical salute to raise morale, happening between 5.30pm and 6.30pm (my legs permitting). It would be great to see people there, but if they can’t make it, we’ll be recording the songs for a future podcast episode telling the story of the walk.” He’s also keen to invite people to join him on his epic journey, where they can, although he points out that you do so at your own risk. “There will be some challenging terrain, hills to climb and descend, busy roads to cross and muddy and uneven surfaces to navigate.”

The podcast host hopes to arrive at FolkEast on Friday, August 18th, just in time to kickstart the festival. All being well, members of Boss Morris will be there to dance him over the finish line.

For more information on The Big Walk, head to folkonfoot.com. Donations can be made via justgiving.com.

Folk On Foot, The Big Walk route and musicians

You’ll be able to catch up with Matthew Bannister on his Big Walk at the following locations, in the company of the following folk musicians.

Day 1: August 4th

Pub: The Thomas Lord, High Street, West Meon, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU32 1LN

Musicians: Rowan Piggott and Rosie Hodgson of The Wilderness Yet

Day 2: August 5th

Pub: The Swan Hotel, High Street, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1AT

Musicians: Steve Knightley and Johnny Kalsi

Day 3: August 6th

Pub: The Winchfield Inn, Station Road, Winchfield, Hampshire, RG27 8BX   

Musicians: Eliza Marshall and Jon Wilks

Day 4: August 7th

Pub: The Royal Foresters, London Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 8DR

Musician: Martin Simpson

Day 5: August 8th

Pub: The Crown and Cushion, Eton High St, Eton, Berkshire, SL4 6AF 

Musicians: Janice Burns and Jon Doran

Day 6: August 9th

Pub: The Coy Carp, Coppermill Lane, Harefield, Uxbridge, Greater London, UB9 6HZ

Musician: Kirsty Merryn

Day 7: August 10th

Pub: Moor Mill Pub & Restaurant, Smug Oak Lane, Bricket Wood, Colney Street, Radlett, Herts, AL2 3TZ

Musicians: Honey & the Bear

Day 8: August 11th

Pub: The Practitioner Bar, 76-78, Fore Street, Hertford, SE14 1BY  

Musicians: Megson

Day 9: August 12th

Pub: The Prince of Wales, Green Tye, Much Hadham, Herts, SG10 6JP 

Musicians: Sid Goldsmith and Danny Peddlar of Tarren

Day 10: August 13th

Pub: The Swan Inn, The Endway, Great Easton, Dunmow, Essex, CM6 2HG

Musicians: Bird in the Belly

Day 11: August 14th

Pub: The Green Man, 3 Church Lane, Toppesfield, Essex, CO9 4DR

Musician: Katie Spencer

Day 12: August 15th

Pub: The Crown Inn, Long Melford, Suffolk, CO10 9JL

Musicians: Knight and Spiers

Day 13: August 16th

Pub: The Greyhound, 2 Ipswich Road, Claydon, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP6 0AR

Musician: Bella Hardy

Day 14: August 17th

Pub: The Duck, Station Road,Campsea Ashe, Suffolk, IP13 0PT

Musicians: The Young’uns