The Bagpipe Society

Blowout 2010 Preview

Yes, we’re back to the Bank Holiday weekend for this year, which gives us more time to indulge in all the qualities that have made The Blowout such a great little festival. Changes:

I have taken this opportunity to make the Saturday Bal longer and to move the now extended concert to the Sunday evening. The concert will be followed by an “open stage mini-bal”, featuring Society members. Contact me direct if you want to be part of this. All at last year’s prices too!

I am pleased to also announce The Return of the Inappropriate Tune Competition, but more of this later.

Monday will be “Chill out” time – nothing programmed as such, but a chance to wind down socialise, play wonderful music, including all those new tunes, and say goodbye

The programme is still evolving and there will be updates on our website

So, here are our main guests:

Re-fût de chêne (Saturday Bal)

Hailing from the Morvan area of Berry, we are very pleased to host the first UK appearance of this excellent young French band Re-fût de chêne. They are Julien Cartonnet on pipes, Jean Thiéry (son of Raphael) on accordéon, and Sylvain Quere on guitar.

They come highly recommended by Jon Swayne, Adam Cade and others who know, and that’s good enough for me. You can hear them on: Prepare to be impressed!

Matt Seattle Band (Sunday concert)

Matt Seattle - Border pipes, guitar, voice, Donald Knox - guitar, mandolin, voice, Lewis Powell-Reid - accordion, mandolin, guitar, and Terry Mann - (dep for Frazer Watson) - percussion

In Matt’s own inimitable words: “Music with a Border heart, welling forth in muckle springs from watershed ridges thrown skywards from the Earth’s fiery depths to where Alba and Albion touch shoulders. Melodies of strength, passion and beauty which weave new strands into the tapestry of tales and tunes of bards and minstrels, from Thomas the Rhymer of Earlston to Rattlin Roarin Willie Henderson of Teviotdale. Our sound - pipes, accordion, guitar and middle eastern percussion - has been described as “Border lamb with Moroccan spice”! Music from here, enhanced with the finest natural ingredients from around the world.”

Trouvere (Sunday Concert)

A band of musicians sharing a common interest in medieval music and entertainment, Trouvere perform on a wide variety of medieval instruments and also often include storytelling and jesting as part of their live performance, though not at The Blowout!.

Trouvere include: Mike Beeke (bagpipes, percussion and recorder), Gill Page (harp, psaltery, percussion and voice) and Paul Leigh (citole, flute, lute, percussion, bagpipes and recorder).

The band describe their music as usually ‘authentic’ in style, though they are quite happy to mix in modern sounds as well .

They have performed for The Royal Armouries, English Heritage, The National Trust, The Museum of London, Warwick Castle, The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall in York and The York Archaeological Trust.

Illustrated Talks:

Matt Seattle (day tbc)

As well as performing with his band Matt will give a talk with musical illustrations entitled “The Muckle Lowp Forrit - closing the gap with Dixon” In 1995 Matt was privileged to rediscover the William Dixon manuscript of Border pipe music, made in 1733 when that tradition was at its creative peak. Since then he has been working hard to make up for the missing centuries so that the Border piping tradition is once again at the evolving stem of piping in these islands.

Dirk Campbell (Sunday)

Dirk will give a talk with musical interludes entitled ‘The Ace and Deuce of Pipering’. This will cover: “Popping, accenting, staccato, rolls, crans, bellows, regulators and all. Learn the secrets of the uilleann pipes and the intricacies of Irish piping. “

Dirk Campbell has been playing uilleann pipes for the best part of 30 years and has featured on films, TV programmes and commercials.’

Workshops in The Vestry:

Following the success of our extended “masterclass” workshops, I am making use of the extra time to run two this year, which will alternate with each other, giving approximately 3 hours teaching time each over the two days

David Faulkner Extended workshops – Saturday and Sunday

David will be working through some of his favourite tunes, which will include traditional English and Border music plus some original tunes from the Eel Grinders English and French dance repertoire. David writes: “Through these tunes you will be looking at technique and ornamentation as well as having fun with variations. The music learnt will be useful in developing a dance repertoire.”

The workshop will be for pipes in G.

Full time community musician at Devon’s folk arts development charity Wren 13.

Music, David is at the forefront of the English pipe tradition. He is well known for his work with bands including The Eel Grinders and Zephyrus, and his solo work has included international tours and performances. He was the winner of the prestigious Trophy for Border Pipes at the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering in 2006 and 2007, and also won the Duo Performance award there in 2007. David has a wide knowledge of English and other traditional British music, as well as great enthusiasm for British and European traditional dance.

Cliff Stapleton Extended Workshops – Saturday and Sunday

Cliff is a veteran gurdy-player. An early member of Blowzabella, he has performed and recorded with The Drones, Sheila Chandra, Nigel Eaton and Primaeval. An experimentalist, he has worked extensively in theatre, plays in a free-jazz duo with saxophonist, Tim Hill, and is a member of the electro/industrial band, Cyclobe. Cliff is very busy on the dance circuit with his new band Angles.

Cliff will be exploring technique and repertoire, building on the strengths of those attending. Please note, this workshop is not for absolute beginners.

There will be number limits for these workshops, so please make sure you book a place, by ticking the box on the application form, and returning it asap.

Other Workshops in the Community Hall:

Pipewatch Special (all weekend)

This is a workshop with a difference. Originating from a vague discussion about the possibility of making a simple bagpipe using a pole lathe, a plan has evolved to turn and build a working bagpipe in two days. A live performance on the pipes in the concert is the aim.

An electric lathe will be set up in a side room and over the weekend, Jon Swayne, Sean Jones, Mike York, Dom Allan, John Tose and Tony Millyard will all contribute to building a bagpipe from scratch. You are welcome to pop in and observe the project as it evolves, a bit like Bill Oddie’s nature watch, but without the live webcam and fluffy chicks! This is unlikely to happen again, so don’t miss out.

Stephen Rowley

Stephen will be presenting: ‘Music for Mystery Plays’ - English early music From C12th to the end of C15th.

The workshop will be aimed at bagpipes, but it will be suitable for any instruments, with the possibility of producing something for the Sunday concert. Stephen says: “In The Taborers Society we have been accumulating a strong repertoire of Early English music in our role as musicians for the York Mystery Plays. When we do the plays we invite other appropriate instruments to join us - these have included bagpipes and hurdy gurdies and I would like to use this as a basis for my workshop.”

A leading exponent of the pipe and tabor, Stephen is steeped in the world of ancient and traditional music. He has performed widely both in the UK and mainland Europe. This year he has been working with Simo Busquets - the leading exponent of the Catalan bagpipe - the Sac de Gemecs.

Jean Pierre Rasle

Pipers’ surgery. Following last year’s success “Dr R” will again be offering individual (or small group) lessons where you can concentrate on one aspect of pipe playing, depending on your stage of progress/personal interest. Each session will be 30mins and can be booked on a chart, which will be available from 9.00 Saturday morning. There will obviously be limited availability, so it will be offered on a strictly “first come” basis.

John Tose

John will be presenting a joint D & G pipes harmony workshop, divided into two sessions (Saturday and Sunday)

During the past two Blowout’s a repertoire of pieces has been built up and John will be drawing from this as well as adding his arrangement of the Galician tune ‘Marcha Procesional de San Benito’ by master gaitero Xose Benito Gonzalez. Music reading ability will be needed!

The aim will be a performance in the concert on Sunday.

Terry Mann - Rhythm Workshop

Terry writes: “Not everyone likes percussion, but everyone needs rhythm. Come and explore some ideas of how to improve your sense of rhythm. Bring something to hit if you feel like it.”

Terry plays percussion for Zephyrus (the English Bagpipe Orchestra), and played for several years for contemporary dance classes at the English National Ballet School, Royal School of Ballet, The Place, Greenwich Dance Agency and The Laban Centre.

Other participatory workshops to be announced – as last year, there will be workshops for “novice” players as well as those who already know their way round the instrument. Please contact me direct if you have any requests or suggestions.

We will also be looking to run a dance workshop prior to the Bal. Details to be confirmed.


After a few years’ rest to allow memories to fade, I feel it is time for the Friday evening tune competition to return.

As before, the challenge is to perform the most inappropriate tune on the pipes. There is a 3 minute rule and the judges retain the right to terminate performances if there is a risk of permanent damage to performer or audience!

Jon Swayne has won this once with One Note Samba and the other time with All the Things You Are, which brought Julian out in a cold sweat!! Your challenge is to prevent him winning three in a row. There will be a prize…

Makers’ Stalls

The following pipe makers will be exhibiting their wares and will be glad to help you draw up your wish list: Jon Swayne, Julian Goodacre, Dominic Allen, Sean Jones, Mike York.

CD Stall and “Swap Shop”

This become quite a success and we have expanded our services, to include a small range of commercial recordings, mostly produced by BagSoc members (sold on commission only) and a selection of tune books. We will also continue with our CD swap shop – bring along your unwanted pipe CDs and swap them for someone else’s – small contribution to BagSoc funds invited. Start digging them out now!!

Enquiries to: Vicky”at”

The Venue:

Polesworth Priory has a beautiful setting among mature trees and the remains of a monastery by the river. We have unlimited access to the mediaeval church and vestry (services permitting) and we have hired the adjacent community centre from Friday pm to Monday midday. This gives us plenty of space and facilities, which include a good number of REAL MODERN TOILETS, warm dry rooms, a dance sized hall with stage, kitchen and a bar with real ales ordered.

Camping at the Blowout will be in two main areas: inside the Priory’s secure and fully enclosed walled gardens and also the adjacent field, both of which are secluded and well away from public rights of way. There is unrestricted access to the modern toilet facilities throughout the night.


We are getting an increasing number of caravans and camper vans and this is beginning to cause some space issues in the main car park round the community hall. With reluctance we will need to place a restriction on total placements, so it is most important that you pre-book as early as possible, by returning the booking form and ticking the “camper van/caravan box”.

Wash facilities are still limited to small hand basins, but I am looking into the possibility of using the shower facilities in the local sports pavilion. This facility is run by the local authority, so I am not expecting a quick response. Watch for further developments on the website.

Local Accommodation

Polesworth is not a tourist area and accommodation is scarce. There is one hotel in the village - contact me if you are considering this option. Tamworth is only a short drive away and can offer a wider range of accommodation.


Over the years, the smooth running of the festival has relied upon the hard work of a few totally unpaid volunteers who put in more time than they should. Please be prepared to lend a hand whenever you can, whether it involves collecting up empties, sweeping round, putting out or clearing chairs, wiping tables etc.

Blowout Menu

Vanessa (The Blowout’s official caterer) will again be providing all the meals for the weekend – quality, quantity and value for money! At last year’s prices too! However, in order for this to work, it is vital that we all pitch in with peeling, chopping, setting out, clearing away and general all round helpfulness.

NB All meals must be booked and paid for in advance. 16.

Fri 28th May

Supper £4.00 - Vanessa’s vegetable special! Stew, mash plus pickled cabbage, onions and gherkins, yoghurt, fruit

Saturday 29th May

Big breakfast £3.50 - Cereals, bacon & egg bap, tea, coffee, juice, toast, jam etc

Lunch £5.00 - Ham & Egg Pie, Cheese & Onion Pie, Frittata, four seasonal salads. Eton Mess i.e. Strawberries, raspberries, meringue in cream – yum!

Evening meal £6.00 - Big Vegetable Curry, raita, onion salad, chutneys, rice, lime pickles. Fruit salad, yoghurt

Sunday 30th May

Big breakfast £3.50

Lunch £5.00 - “Big Soup”, bread, salad. Fruit

Evening meal £6.00 - Greek and Italian Pasta Bakes with accompanying salads, Big Chocolate Trifle

Monday 31st May

Big breakfast £3.50

Lunch – FREE to season ticket holders! - “Big Soup”, bread, salad.


Postal address: Polesworth Priory, High Street, Polesworth B78 1DU Directions from the A5 Grendon (near Tamworth). At the Black Swan

Roundabout turn on to Spon Lane, which is the exit on the opposite side of the roundabout to the pub. At the end of the lane, turn left on to the B5000. On entering Polesworth, stay on the B5000. You will pass a Gulf garage on your right. Take the next right turn over the bridge, signed to Warton. Turn right into the Community Hall, Library and Surgery car park. On arrival and before you set up/ pitch tents etc, please walk through the park to the church and make yourself known at the reception area, where you will be directed to the appropriate camping spot.


As I write this there is restoration work being done on the gatehouse, so car access to the church may be restricted. Watch for updates on this. If you choose to park on the driveway leading up to the church, please park on the left hand side only and be aware that the gates are locked overnight – anyone wishing to use their car between 10.30pm and 9.00 am will need to park in the Community Centre car park.

  See you there

Ian Clabburn