Friday, 22 December 2006

Merry Yule, Happy Christmas

Hi all, I'm just off to the Guild Hall in my home city of Preston to see Ken and his Steeleye Span chums in concert. So, that means that the Christmas season has really begun. Today's the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (Summer down south), and all my pagan friends are celebrating Yule. Here's a Merry Yule to them, and Merry Christmas to those who keep it, and a "Happy Holidays" for the rest of us! All the best, Phil "I promise you, light returning...."

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Two Way Street

I hope all FolkCast listeners enjoy the show - that certainly seems to be the way of it, judging by the feedback we get at the show, which is overwhelmingly positive. No, in fact it's 100% positive. And I also like to think of all the thousands of listeners all around the world as part of the show - a big family, but without all that seething jealousy and petty violence so many families suffer from, and without the weird cousin locked in the cellar... So, you may be thinking, what can we the listeners do to help the cause of FolkCast? Quite a lot! We're quite happy to take your financial donations (see the "Begging Bowl" section on the home page at to send us your cash!), but there are other things you can do for the show for free:
  • First of all, go on to your favourite search engine and type in "Podcast directory" (or click this link). Click one of the many links to the many directories and see if FolkCast is included. If it's not, either submit the details for the show yourself (if possible) or email me at the usual address (see the website if you don't know it - can't post it here, the spammers will get us!) and let me know, so I can register. If FolkCast is there, please rate, vote for or review the show. And please, be honest - say exactly how excellent you think FolkCast is! ;-)
  • You could add a review to the iTunes site for FolkCast, too. LinkOpen your iTunes, click "Store", search for FolkCast and then add a review.
  • If you have a website of your own, please link to us (
  • If you are going to a live music event (or just popping down to the nearest record store) why not print off a few FolkCast Fliers and distribute them?
  • If you read a music-themed web board or email list, why not mention FolkCast there?
  • If you have access to a college or hospital radio station and fancy broadcasting FolkCast in some form, get in touch with us to discuss it. We'd love to hear from you.
  • Also, don't forget to send us your comments about the music and features you hear on the show. Feedback to the email address - or leave a comment here. We'll read some out on the show.
  • Join our Frappr Map, put your virtual pin in the map and leave a comment in the forum section.
  • And finally, if you do nothing else, check out the Shownotes pages and find out more about the artists we feature on the show. Let them know that their music is being heard, and where you heard it! And if your favourite artist isn't getting played on FolkCast, go to their website, find their contact details, and ask them to get in touch with us!
Thanks! Phil Widdows FolkCast

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Festive FolkCast

Things are a little different at FolkCast this month. Ken is away, on the road with Steeleye Span, so that means that the "talkie bits" (the links from Ken and me) had to be recorded before we'd actually decided on what music we were playing, which is a bit arse-about-face but needs must when the devil vomits in your kettle... That's why it's all very unspecific. The show's split in two, too. Half the first is the usual FolkCast fayre, with new music, Babba's calendar, and the Guitar Workshop, which is a "previously unheard" section of our interview with Chris While from a couple of months ago. The half the second is the Festive FolkCast Selection Box. What I thought would be really useful to listeners would be a solid block of music on a Christmas theme - something they could play instead of the usual mish-mash of Cliff, Slade and Boney M. And there's some really good stuff - including a couple of cuts from the Free Reed MidWinter box set (thanks to Free Reed for supplying that. If you've not seen this, follow the link and check it out. It's the usual superb quality set). I really like the music created by the Christmas Jug Band, too. Santa Lost A Ho is better than any Christmas song you'll hear trying to get to Number One this year, that's for sure! The same could be said for the final song in the Selection Box, Big Al Whittle's Let's Have A Drink. It's rude, it's crude, but Ken and I think it's hilarious, too! Mind you, I wouldn't fancy spending Christmas Day at Al's if that's the sort of thing that goes on... I left Big Al's polemic to the end, with a little gap beforehand, so it can be easily snipped from the rest of the Selection Box if anyone wants to transfer the file to a separate CD for the family Christmas party... Hear the show Shownotes - guide to what we play and when. PHIL WIDDOWS FolkCast

FolkCast - a brief history

I think it was in October 2005 that I first heard about podcasting, and was immediately thrilled by the prospect. "What? You can have your own radio show, and people all around the world can tune in? WOW!" I wasn't the remotest bit interested in doing what a lot of people were doing - a podcast in which their own personal thoughts about their life and the world were spewed out on to the Internet. No, if I was going to do a show it had to be about something, it had to be unique and it had to be worth listening to. What the show should be about was the easy bit. I'd been listening to, talking about and writing about folk music for years. I'd like access to more music than was being broadcast by the BBC (both nationally and locally), but it wasn't available - at least, not in a user-friendly format. There are ways round it, but both radio and streaming net stations ask that you sit down and listen when they want you to. But that was no use to me. Like most people, I'm busy, and my schedule and the broadcasters' schedules rarely coincided. But what if there was a show that I could grab off the net and play when and where I wanted? Fantastic! So I looked for such a thing, covering the music I was most interested in. Guess what? There wasn't one... And from that, FolkCast was born. Of course, there were several problems to overcome. Other than a computer (an Apple Mac G4 Quicksilver, tech fans!) I didn't have any kit. Also, I didn't have any music. What I did have was the ability to write and speak. I also had some good contacts in the UK folk world. What I needed was help - and I knew just the man for the job! I'd known Ken Nicol ever since, as a young local newspaper reporter, I went along to his home to interview him. He was living in Preston with his lovely Mum at the time, as he'd just moved back to Britain from the States, and as he'd played with the like of Al Stewart and was doing interesting things on the local music scene (which was my beat at the time) he made "good copy". And we got along. Over the years we became casual friends - Ken would ring me up with news of his latest projects, and I'd contact him for comments on other muso-connected items. When Ken joined The Albion Band his career entered a whole new phase, and I remember being pleased and impressed when, visiting his home for one reason or another (he'd by then moved out of the parental nest once again), I found Ashley Hutchings there, recording bits and pieces for the Albions' latest album in Ken's studio. And I'm enough of a fanboy to have got a buzz out of giving Ashley a lift to the railway station after he and Ken were done. So there I was, several years later, with the idea of a folk podcast and thinking "who do I know who has recording facilities and great connections in the music world.....?". The answer was obvious. Once I'd explained the concept and technicalities of podcasting to him, Ken could see the potential straight away and loved the idea. We figured out where to get music that we could play without having to pay for copyright clearance, we figured out ways of interviewing musicians remotely, via Skype - and we've almost figured out how to record such interviews properly, too! So, 12 months ago we set ourselves a deadline of the first Saturday in January, recorded the first FolkCast and prepared to release it on what we hoped would be a waiting world. Amazingly, it worked. The show started to be downloaded. We got subscribers from far and wide. As month followed month, we attracted more and more FolkCasters. Musicians willingly talked to us about their music, and we started to build up a catalogue of interviewees drawn from the biggest names on the UK folk scene. From a little studio in Preston we were reaching out around the world! Now we've got 12 shows under our belts. It has been a steep learning experience, wrestling with production techniques and technology. But it's getting a little easier now. An ever increasing number of people are finding out about podcasting - something that's still very new and exciting - and finding FolkCast. Other folk podcast have come ... and, largely, gone. We were the first in our particular niche, and we're still the best (if I do say so myself). From that first show we've developed. For instance, I was lucky enough to meet Mic-Master Merrick, who reckoned he'd be able to track down the elusive, possible-imaginary Babba to get his wise words on folk traditions. That sounded like a plan ... and it worked! And the reaction from our listeners all around the world have made all the time and, yes, money that Ken and I have invested into FolkCast worth it. Your encouraging comments have been an inspiration and added to the shows, because we don't want FolkCast to be a one-way broadcast, we want it to be a conversation between everyone who hears it. Building the FolkCast community through email and the Frappr map, and now this blog, is all important. And now FolkCast enters its second year. We have exciting plans for future shows and for further developing the podcast and the community. We'd like you, the listener, to be a part of it. But don't worry - people like the show as it is, and that's not going to change much. It'll still just be two blokes blathering on and playing some great music. Phil Widdows FolkCast