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Promoting the Bagpipe Revival since 1986

The Bagpipe Society

Blowout 2023

Friday 2nd June to Sunday 4th June

(Last updated 31/05/2023. This page will be updated with any programme changes, additional resources etc, so do check from time to time)

All travel on Friday 2nd is likely to be disrupted due to the rail strikes, so please bear this in mind when planning your journey to Polesworth

Polesworth Abbey

High Street



B78 1DU

Click here to book! Last online bookings 5pm 1st June. Currently, tickets will be available on the door

Please note: Meal booking is now a separate transaction and is now closed. See the Food section for more information



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Toon Van Mierlo

Toon Van Mierlo studied oboe for several years as a child at the music academy in Turnhout. Ten years later at twenty-one, Toon fell head-over-heels for uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), French pipes, clarinet, soprano sax, and button accordion soon followed. In 2003, Toon joined the band Fluxus and after that was soon asked to join Floes, Embrun, Harakiwi, Manimoen, and other bands. Today he plays with Naragonia, Naragonia Quartet, Hot Griselda, Novar and in duo with Olle Geris. Toon has recorded many albums with these groups and played as a guest artist on many more and he loves people and nature :)

Toon van Mierlo workshop info:

Tone making on the bagpipe

Bagpipe playing must be like singing. You should feel like the sound you make comes straight out of your belly or whatever . But how do you that? Let’s discuss that in this workshop.


Bagpipe playing is like making love: If you always do the same thing with your partner, everyone will get very bored, including yourself. So, you, get up and come to the workshop for some advanced love making with your beloved bagpipe!

Suitable for all levels

Olle Geris

Olle Geris grew up in a family environment where music always played a central role. She learned to play the flute as a child, but soon discovered her love for the bagpipes that her father also played. Later, she studied with Jean-Pierre van Hees in Brussels, and at the age of 18 turned to making bagpipes. She concentrated on that craft for many years, and in 1995 received a royal scholarship with the aim of perfecting her artisanal skills. She has taught many courses on playing and reed making. When her master, Remy Dubois, retired in 2009, she took over the sole running of their workshop.
Olle has performed internationally with range of bands (Willem Schot, Swart&Co, Zefiro Torna, Camerata Trajectina, Rans en Flagel, Göze, Idool 1900). In 1995, she gained first place at St Chartier as a duo with Machteld Truyens.

Olle Geris workshop info:

Have you mastered the art of playing the bagpipes, but find yourself always using the same two fingers for embellishing your melodies? If you would like to learn melodies, with new ways of ornamenting …using “those other fingers”, then this course is exactly what you are looking for.

We will work in groups and by ear.

The sheet music provided in advance can now be found below, but wasn’t used during the workshop. It is important to know how to recognize notes by ear and to be able to reproduce them on your instrument, at least on the first chromatic octave.

Suitable for all intermediate players

Matthias Branschke

Matthias „Mattis“ Branschke is one of Germany’s best known pipers, with a uniquely intricate style full of verve, groove and expression. He has been teaching at various workshop weekends around Europe and also gives private lessons.
Mattis has a special passion for translating dance tunes from old German manuscripts into bagpipe music, but is also well-known for his own energetic compositions.

The quest for the perfect bagpipe inevitably led to making instruments in his own workshop, since 2010.

Mattis & Merit Workshop:

Harping on the pipes - or how to steal the best from other instruments

This workshop will be about how to use influences of other instruments. An example of one possible “influencer” will be present - a harp with a harpist to go with it.

Matthias “Mattis” Branschke and Merit Zloch are playing music together since the early 2000s and enjoy it immensely. So come and join them for some tricks on how to play pipes more harpy!

The first half of the workshop session will be about some ideas on the subject that we will try out and play. In the second half we will apply some of the things we´ve learned to a traditional German tune.

The workshop is for half-closed conical G-pipes. To attend the workshop you should be secure in the first octave of your instrument. A warm welcome also to everyone who just wants to come and listen.

David Faulkner

David Faulkner has been playing pipes for over 30 years. He has played with groups such as Zephyrus and the Eel Grinders. He plays solo and duets with Steve Turner. In August 2022 he played at the Fete de la Vielle in Anost, France with hurdy gurdy player Joel Turk. This last autumn David travelled to Slovakia to play at the Gajdovacka Piping Festival. David runs piping courses and teaches pipes regularly. He runs four weekly mixed instrument community folk orchestras and conducts one monthly mandolin orchestra!

David Faulkner Pipe Club info:

David will be hosting a Pipe Club. It will be a bit like a piping folk club where you can play the party piece that you have been working on; solo or with a friend or two.

You can ask people to listen or to join in, your choice. It will be a safe space to share your music and have a go at performing in front of a friendly audience.

Performance time will depend on how many people are up for doing something. We will make sure everyone feels included and that we have some fun and make good use of the time.

Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall (England) has been playing hurdy-gurdy since 2005. Fascinated by the instrument, he has been a regular festival and workshop tutor for the last decade. He has recently completed a trilogy of dreamworld instrumental “Gurdymania” albums composed using the hurdy gurdy and effects pedals. See

Scott Marshall workshop info:

Scott will be teaching the hurdy gurdy class at the Blowout focusing on good habits, synchronisation, solid trompette skills, and left hand fingering and ornamentation. All abilities welcome.

Ross Calderwood

Ross Calderwood has been playing Highland Bagpipes since the age of eight. He started playing smallpipes in 1994. Ross’ interest in bagpipes goes far beyond the superficial. He has a good in depth knowledge of the history and diversity of bagpipes. His smallpipe, borderpipe and reelpipe designs are based on the large archive of historical bagpipes that are kept in various museums in Scotland and England.

Ross Calderwood Smallpipes For Beginners info:

A great opportunity to try out the smallpipes - some loan instruments will be provided by the Bagpipe Society.

Ross Calderwood Intermediate Smallpipes info:

Tunes & technique for intermediate players

Fionnlagh Mac A Phiocair

Fionnlagh Mac A’ Phiocar’s interpretation of the music that comes from the culture of Scottish Gàidhlig, is regarded as a breath of fresh air – while being firmly rooted in the tradition he grew up in.

A native, 21-year-old Gàidhlig speaker from the Isle of North Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, Fionnlagh has been immersed in Traditional Music all his life.

Fionnlagh’s instrument is the Scottish Smallpipe, a curious set of bellows blown bagpipes, consisting of drones and a chanter. The instrument itself is a mellow blend of a nine-note scale, which is accompanied by drones tuned to different harmonics to create a hypnotising sound.

Fionnlagh combines his playing with Gàidhlig song, to create contrasting textures, which he weaves together in performance to create a euphonic, visceral sound which washes over audiences.

Fionnlagh’s recent performances include Celtic Connections, BBC ALBA x TG4 Series “Struth” and recently played a Recital at the Lowland and Border’s Piping Society Annual Collage.

Fionnlagh talk and workshop info:

This interactive talk/workshop combination will explore the relationship of traditional music with its surroundings, and how we are the voice of this connection. The focus is on the culture and music of Fionnlagh’s native culture, that of Scottish Gàidhlig. The role we play in the relationship will be examined via some audience participation, but Fionnlagh will also give examples through playing and singing Gàidhlig melodies that relate to the theme of the workshop.

Terry Mann

Terry Mann studied Early Woodwind Musical Instrument Technology at the London College of Furniture in the 1980s, but pursued careers as a musician and as an award-winning contemporary classical composer. He returned to making, and has had a workshop for the last seven years, during which he has established himself as a maker of quality mediaeval and renaissance woodwinds. His current focus is on tabor pipes based on the 16th Century Mary Rose finds, and recorders based on the 15th Century Elbląg find.

Terry’s future plans include renaissance consort recorders, a Virdung late mediaeval recorder quartet, and learning to make reed instruments (rauschpfeife, curtal, shawm and crumhorn) with master craftsman Eric Moulder, supported by a scholarship from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust. He also formed the New Cambridge Waits to perform music of the medieval and renaissance periods.

Pipers’ Surgery:

Now a regular feature of the festival, the ‘pipers’ surgery’ is principally for players of Southern English Border Pipes, but open to all, especially beginners and those at an intermediate level. Come with questions about technique, posture, repertoire, or practice and he will do his best to help!

Aisling Holmes

Aisling Holmes has been playing pipes since her teens, starting with Leicestershire smallpipes in D, then adding border/Flemish pipes in a variety of keys. She is particularly interested in English music, playing in harmony, and writing her own tunes. Over the last few years she has been involved in setting up the Sheffield Bagpipers, an informal group who get together to play a wide variety of music on pipes every month. During 2021 Aisling started a project to write a bagpipe tune every month and record it in at least two parts.

Beginners’ workshop:

All are welcome to have a go - student pipes on G are available to try out, or you can bring your own.

Saturday Bal Folk

Sawney White Bird

Sawney White Bird give an exciting, tuneful and wide ranging dance experience, based on a real love of dancing and playing for bals and ceilidhs. The Oxford-based trio draws on traditional and new repertoire from France, Brittany and England, as well as their own tunes.

Ravi Sawney plays melodeon and sings. He is known for playing fiddle and nyckelharpa in several ensembles including Pach Pi, Penumbra, Deuxhom, and he appears in a duo with Anna Pack. Ravi is an experienced instructor in balfolk and continental dance.

Heather White plays saxophone and whistle. She also plays with Mouse and Trousers, and previously with Monty’s Maggot and The Old Chapel Band, as well as being a resident musician with Black Fox Productions.

Jane Bird plays mouthorgan, Anglo concertina, bagpipes and sings. She is well known as a dance caller, appearing at festivals and ceilidhs across England.

solid ghost

Matthias Branschke & Merit Zloch ( Berlin )

A duo of bagpipes and harp? What an unusual combination! Their music impresses with plentiful energy, musical inventiveness and a rich, magical sound.

Their repertoire is clearly rooted in traditional and contemporary dance music, including arrangements of tunes from the last four centuries with a dash of popular sounds from the last 80 years. Their own compositions are also influenced by these musical preferences.

The bagpipe - the “electric guitar of our ancestors - with its fast melodies and pithy riffs - plus the harp in the role of rhythm guitar - add up to make an unmissable musical experience.

Toon van Mierlo & Olle Geris

Two of the finest bagpipers from Belgium!

Makers’ Stalls

A number of leading pipe makers will be exhibiting their wares and will be glad to help you draw up your wish list.

Confirmed so far (more will be added):

Julian Goodacre - Bagpipes & tunebooks

Terry Mann - Medieval recorders, tabor pipes

Phil Bleazey - Flutes, whistles & recorders

Nicholas Konradsen - CDs and some instruments

Jim Parr - Bagpipes

Robert Hickman - Ocarinas

Jon Swayne - Bagpipes

Gilbert & Swayne - Handmade Artisan Chocolates

The Bagpipe Society’s Secondhand Pipes, Books & CD Stall - Buy, sell, swap, donate - it’s up to you!


Catering is provided by Just Add Guests and meals need to be booked separately to the Blowout tickets. Click here to buy the full weekend meal ticket, or email for booking individual meals. There are also links from the ticket ordering page.

Meals were required to be pre-booked and are now closed

Friday Supper Meat or Vegan Chilli, Rice served salad with garlic bread
Chocolate Fudge cake or Vegan Chocolate fudge cake
Saturday Breakfast
Buffet style
Full english buffet (meat and vegan options) bacon (meat or vegan), sausage (meat or vegan) eggs or oggs; beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, toast.
Unlimited tea, coffee, orange or apple juice
Saturday Lunchtime Buffet Selection of sandwiches, sausage rolls (meat & vegan), pork pie, french onion tart, vegetable samosas, vegan onion bhaji with mint yoghurt dip, chicken goujons, vegan chicken nuggets.
Selection of salads.
Crudites and selection of dips
Crisps and cheese savouries
Saturday Supper Steak & Ale Pie served with boiled baby potatoes, vegetables & gravy.
Vegan “steak” pie served with boiled baby potatoes, vegetables & vegan gravy
Dessert - Vegan Lemon Cheesecake
Sunday Breakfast Continental style breakfast.
Bacon or vegan sausage batch/roll.
Cereals, pastries, fruit salad, yogurts.
Unlimited Tea, Coffee, orange or apple juice
Sunday Lunch Traditional Sunday Lunch meat or vegan option. Served with vegetables, roast potatoes and gravy.
Choice of desserts

Just Add Guests weekend meal ticket (prebooked only) £50.00 per person

All prices are for pre-booked meals only. Prices will increase if purchased on the day and will be subject to availability)

Remember, meals were required to be pre-booked and are now closed

The Bar

The Bar is now run by the village hall, which is a fully licensed premises. Please be aware that only alcohol purchased from the bar may be consumed on the premises.



Polesworth is not well provided with short stay accommodation and you are advised to look in Tamworth, which is no more than a 15 minute drive away. Contact for further advice.


We have the use of two alternative sites for campervans and caravans, both within a very short distance of the Memorial Hall. Spaces are limited, so it is important that you contact for practical information. Please check this page for updates before setting out or contact us if you have any questions.


The Church driveway is strictly no parking. There are only a few spaces available for cars, next to the Church, but they are solely for disabled visitors to the site. Please park behind the Memorial Hall. IMPORTANT: these spaces are for cars only and camper vans are not permitted to park there overnight.


Both camping areas are accessible via the church annex. There is no problem with dropping off and unloading, either by the Refectory door or by the garage, which offers an alternative access to the garden. After drop off, re-park behind the Memorial Hall. The first area is within the old cloisters and fills up quickly. The second area is reached though a gate diagonally across the lawn and consists of rough pasture leading down to the river. There is always plenty of space available. There is 24-hour access to toilets in the Church annex, which contain small wash basins. There is no additional charge for camping, beyond the purchase of a weekend ticket.

camping map


Postal address: Polesworth Priory, High Street, Polesworth B78 1DU

On arrival, please make yourself known at the reception area in the Memorial Hall. Ask for Kirsten.