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Jim Moray in his studio surrounded by his instruments.
Photo credit: Robin Clewley

Who is Jim Moray and why should I go to his festival?

Ahead of the Jim Moray Festival this June, we ask - who is Jim Moray and why should you be buying yourself a ticket?

The Jim Moray Festival, celebrating the folk musician’s third decade as a pro, takes place this June at Cecil Sharp House. #JimFest rumours have been circulating for a while, but the venue and Jim himself have recently confirmed the initial names on the lineup.

For Tradfolk readers perhaps making an initial foray into the world of folk culture, here’s a little summary of the man, his music, and reasons why you ought to be getting tickets for the Jim Moray Festival.

Who is Jim Moray?

Excellent question. He’d probably hate this term, but ‘folk polymath’ should do the trick. He arrived on the folk scene in the early 2000s, feted for his early, electro-driven forays into traditional music, notably his debut album, Sweet England (2003), which won a bag of awards, including a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Album of the Year. There are even photos of him with a young Amy Winehouse, both noted for being the enfant terribles of their respective genres. In the years following, he went on to forge a career that is celebrated for the cinematic vision he applies to his treatment of traditional folk music. He’s also a notable songwriter and an in-demand producer.

Which albums should I know more about?

Aside from Sweet England, the big hitters are Skulk (2012) and Upcetera (2016), although we’re quite partial to The Outlander (2019), too. His recordings of ‘Gilderoy’ [Roud 1486], ‘Horkstow Grange’ [Roud 1760] and ‘Fair Margaret and Sweet William’ [Roud 253] are classics of the genre, and his recordings of ‘The Leaving of Liverpool‘ [Roud 9435] and ‘The Isle of St Helena’ [Roud 349] are constants on the Tradfolk jukebox.

And his killer tracks?

Beyond those mentioned above, it would be remiss of us not to mention ‘Sounds of Earth’ (his own composition) and ‘Lord Douglas’ [Roud 23], both of which showcase his skills as a fingerpicking folk guitarist. You’ll find people attempting the latter, in fact, on Youtube. It looks like becoming a bit of a standard.

So, three decades you say?

Yes, although it’s important to note that he’s only just starting out on his third. But in that time he’s managed to garner plenty of attention (Iggy Pop is a known fan), and his influence has been noted by a whole raft of folkies who regularly appear on these pages, most notably Frankie Archer, known for a similarly idiosyncratic approach to the tradition. Alex Merry of Boss Morris also talks about how she was hugely influenced by his work in her early days as part of the Belles of London City.

What is the Jim Moray Festival?

To mark this most auspicious of occasions, Jim is curating the Jim Moray Festival at Cecil Sharp House on June 17th (a Saturday). A day-long event, the festival will be split into two parts and will include concerts, workshops and talks. The idea is to celebrate the artist’s achievements as well as the tradition on which he built much of his name, so if you’re into finding out more about folk culture and how it is evolving, and you’d like to find out about it from one of its key modern innovators, this one’s for you.

Who is appearing at the Jim Moray Festival?

So far, Jim has announced Kitty Macfarlane, Nick Hart and Frankie Archer as the main musicians taking the stage throughout the day. There’s also going to be a live recording of The Old Songs Podcast, featuring Jim, Nick, Jon Wilks and another special guest (yet to be announced), discussing a song from the artist’s repertoire. There are also rumours of morris dancing afoot… Jim himself is a keen dancer, after all (but, no – don’t expect him to be shaking a leg).

Why should I go to #JimFest?

Do you like traditional folk music? Do you like great musicianship? Are you in the mood to see some of the best tradfolk musicians on the English scene? Have you always fancied going to Cecil Sharp House but haven’t yet found a good enough reason? Do you find it difficult to resist London on a beautiful summer’s day? Get involved! Tickets on the link below.

Tickets for the Jim Moray Festival are available now from Cecil Sharp House and the Jim Moray official website.