The Bagpipe Society

Blowout 2013

Blowout 2013 – Our 21st! Were you there?

Polesworth Abbey, near Tamworth, Staffs

Friday 7th to Sunday 9th June


  • Antón Varela trio
  • Cliff Stapleton
  • Callum Armstrong
  • Vicki Swan
  • Pete Stewart
  • Heretique
  • Tom Hughes
  • Richard York

Antón Varela

(Concerts, workshops, Sat & Sun)

Antón is one of Galicia’s top gaita players, who won some of the most important gaita competition prizes in the early stages of his career, which started in the seventies. He teaches gaita playing and very often joins with some of the best folk bands in Galicia to play in international festivals. He is always willing to research, to develop new techniques, and to improve existing knowledge. Antón is also a skilled and highly respected gaita maker, having developed his professional skills at the workshop of Seivane. He will be accompanied by Carlos Beceiro (bouzouki) and Raquel Fontes (galician percussion). They will be presenting their latest musical project and new CD


Callum Armstrong

(Saturday concert, Sunday presentation) Callum comes highly recommended by Julian Goodacre, among others, as an innovative piper whose questing approach to the hitherto unexplored acoustic possibilites of the smallpipe is taking the instrument into areas most of us have never encountered!

He is currently studying recorder and Early Music at Trinity Conservatoire of Music, London with Dan Laurin and Philip Thorby. 
 He is an enthusiastic and accomplished bagpiper, having won solo piping competitions in Scotland and England and has just ventured onto the big screen appearing and playing in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse film. In October 2012 he was guest soloist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. He plays regularly with the Royal British Legion Brass Band and Godalming Brass Band. With the help of pipe maker Julian Goodacre, Callum has begun to experiment with the capabilities of the Scottish Smallpipe. He has developed a chanter that can produce almost a three-octave range, and a drone system that can play in almost any key. He also plays a double chanter, which offers many possibilities and uses it as a polyphonic instrument as opposed to a louder version of the standard smallpipe. Callum is very passionate about composing for the bagpipe, and enjoys pushing the instrument to its limits. 
He is delighted to play at this year’s ‘Blowout’.

Video 1 Video 2 Video 3

Vicki Swan

(Workshops, Sat & Sun, Saturday Concert with Jonny Dyer)

Vicki, second generation piper, is a leading exponent of the Scottish Smallpipes in England and has conducted major research into its teaching pedagogy, in 2007 creating her own Scottish smallpipe tutor book and CDrom. Vicki is half Swedish and teaches Swedish music around the country on nyckelharpa, English border pipes and also Swedish Säckpipa.


(Saturday Bal) Hérétique create fresh and innovative music based on traditional dance tunes and songs from all over Europe. Michael Beeke(Bagpipes, recorder, percussion, vocals) Michael is a European dance music specialist. He is an expert in early music studying in particular the development of bagpipe repertoire from the medieval period to its present day place in modern folk traditions. He was a member of the John Dipper Band and has worked with a huge variety of performers across the folk and early music worlds. He is currently developing his skills as a bagpipe maker.

Murray Grainger

(Button and Piano Accordions, Bandoneon, Vocals) Murray has performed everywhere from Celtic Connections to The BBC Proms. He has played contemporary classical repertoire with some of the country’s leading orchestras and opera companies but his first love is traditional music. A tutor on the “Folk degree”, he teaches regularly at UK accordion events and his DVD “Accordion: Mastering the Art” is available worldwide. He has worked in bands with members of Sin-e, Uiscedwr, Flook and Adrian Edmonson’s Bad Shepherds.

Jon Loomes

(Hurdy gurdy, guitar, vocals). Jon is renowned for his work with traditional English folk music. His debut solo album was released by Fellside Records to considerable acclaim and he has subsequently appeared as a guest musician on numerous CDs. A resident at Ryburn folk club, Jon has worked in bands with artists such as Pete Coe, Chris Coe, Nic Jones, Paul Sartin, Keith Kendrick, John Spiers, Jon Boden and Benji Kirkpatrick.

Pete Stewart

(Saturday workshop) Pete has played fiddle for dancing since the early 1970’s and various bagpipes since the 1980’s, when he became a (non-genetically linked) Goodacre Brother. Since moving to Scotland in 1992, he has written extensively on the Lowland Scottish bagpipe and its music and is editor of ‘Common Stock’, the journal of the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society. An enthusiastic exponent of the music of the Scottish Lowland bagpipes, he has uncovered numerous previously unrecognised sources from the 16th and 17th centuries. He was awarded the Martin Lowe Trophy for his contribution to the performance of Lowland and Border music at the annual competition of the Society in 2012.

Tom Hughes

(Saturday workshops) Tom works in museums, castles, churches and other historic places using his bagpipes to help interpret the past. He is intrigued by the history and folklore of bagpipes and particularly interested in medieval and renaissance music. Tom revived the Minstrels’ Court midsummer gathering in Chester in 2008, which has grown each year since.

Richard York

(Saturday workshops) Richard has worked freelance in schools, museums and heritage sites since 1992, mixing music, drama, dance and story both in workshops and performance, as a way of teaching history of various periods. Bagpiping figures regularly in this work, along with many other instruments. Having worked with Tom Hughes many times in recent years, Richard is delighted to have been involved with Tom’s recreation of the Minstrels’ Court.

Illustrated Talk by Callum Armstrong

(Sunday) ‘They’re not supposed to do that!’ Exploring what the smallpipes can really do. Callum will talk about his investigations into the further realms of the smallpipes.Prepare to be amazed! Workshops

Anton Varela

(Saturday, Sunday)

Anton says: “I will choose a tune for us to play together, it will be something simple – Muiñeira do Chao [Galician tune composed by the most popular Galician bagpipe maker: Xosé Seivane]. I will play a gaita in G, so you can use your G bagpipes, it will be a good combination… I will think about something else apart from the Muiñeira do Chao. The workshops will be interpretation skills classes, always working with tunes, not only with exercises. It’s more practical, when there isn’t much time, to work on specific tunes, and at the end of the class we’ll be able to play some Galician traditional tunes together .”

Vicki Swan

(Saturday, Sunday)

The art of the polska – workshops for G border-style pipes These workshops are aimed at finding the feel for the different types of Swedish polska and taking the mystery out of the elusive second beat, building on Erik’s workshops last year.

Cliff Stapleton - Hurdy Gurdy Workshop


Cliff returns to lead this year’s hurdy gurdy masterclass in the refectory.

Cliff is a veteran gurdy-player. An early member of Blowzabella, he has performed and recorded with The Drones, Sheila Chandra, Nigel Eaton, Primaeval and Angles. 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 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. Important: admission is by season ticket only.

Tom Hughes and Richard York - Medieval processional and Renaissance dance tune workshop for pipers and other musicians.


In these two workshops we shall be preparing music to play at the Blowout concert and, if you’re also able to be in Chester to play for the Minstrels’ Court the following week, so much the better. We shall be be exploring how and why bagpipes were so important in medieval processions and working on learning an arrangement of ‘Dum Pater Familias’ from the 12th century Codex Calixtinus. We’ll be making sure we can play it without the dots so that we can walk in procession and pipe at the same time. The tunes will be suitable for G pipes, but in order to create an impression of a medieval massed band of minstrels we will be encouraging other musicians too, if the instrument is medieval in origin that’s great, but anything that can play a tune, drone or rhythm whilst walking will be great. We’ll also bring along plenty of percussion for people to use on the day. We’ll then move on to the Renaissance and work on learning the Branle d’Ecosse from Arbeau’s Orchesographie of 1589, and then learn the accompanying dance steps so that we can pipe and dance at the same time. A challenge? Perhaps, but we’ll approach it in a relaxed way – after all we there to have fun! Musicians who want to just play the tune are very welcome, as are dancers without instruments. If time permits, we’ll also try the Branle Charlotte. Music for the workshops can be downloaded here:

Dum Pater Familias Br Escosse & Charlotte

It will also provided on the day, in order to learn and then dispense with. Recordings of the tunes are available on SoundCloud for those who prefer to learn by ear.

Pete Stewart

Diggin’ the Dird – A new look at some [very] old dance music from the Scottish Lowlands [You need three things to play for dancing – time, volume and dird’ Danny Rose, Orkney fiddler, 1928] Scottish music underwent a dramatic change around the mid-18th century. In this workshop we will explore tunes from the extensive repertoire of dance music which survives in various much earlier sources, looking at the idea of ‘dird’ and what it can teach us about playing [and dancing] ‘reels’, ‘jigs’ and ‘hornpipes’ in a different way, as well as one or two surprising dance-types not usually associated with Scotland. Music for bagpipes in A, D, or G, but all instruments welcome. The basic music we will be exploring is available for any participant who wants it.

Pat Lindop

(Saturday afternoon)

By popular request, Pat will be leading us through some of the dances likely to feature in the Bal, plus something new, no doubt!

Beginners’ Workshop

(Saturday) There will be a “drop in” session for any beginner pipers who would like some assistance with any aspect of their piping – you only have to ask…

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 Allan
  • Sean Jones
  • John Tose
  • Anton Varela

Whistle maker Phil Bleazy will also be in attendance.