We’ll be marking the changing of the seasons with Lisa Knapp on 2nd May! Ahead of the gig, we caught up with her to find out what she finds inspiring about this time of year, and what her plans are for the coming months.
Your album, Till April Is Dead, focuses on the changing of the seasons and the traditions of this time of year – what inspired you to explore that?
There were several things that steered me towards the idea of exploring the month of May. As a singer and avid listener to folk music, I’d come across several intriguing ‘May songs’ on people’s records, notably Martin Carthy’s May Song featuring John Kirkpatrick from his album Because It’s There and Shirley Collins’ Arise Arise.
Finding out that these songs accompany little-known traditions of door-to-door visiting with various greenery set me on a journey to find out more about these fascinating rituals. I’ve always been interested in the relationships between folk song, the traditions of particular places and old rituals and superstitions. I think the change from winter to summer is such a profound time of the year that it’s not surprising how much celebration it’s spawned, in lots of weird and wonderful guises!
I learned a lot from reading historian Ronald Hutton’s Stations of The Sun. Also, I went on a trip to Padstow to see the Oss (in fact, there are two) on May Day, which was pretty amazing and again really piqued my interest. There is some great footage from the Alan Lomax archive on this from 1953 on Youtube.
What are your favourite May Day traditions? Do you take part in any yourself?
I don’t think I could possibly pick a favourite. As I mentioned previously, Padstow is ace but there are many more including revival traditions like the Rochester Sweeps Festival in Kent and the Hastings Jack. There are events throughout the month, not just on May Day. The Abbotsbury Garland Day on 13 May looks really interesting to me.
In terms of partaking, no I haven’t partaken yet as since releasing this album I’m usually busy – though I do have an ambition to learn a stick dance for next May!
There are so many folk songs mentioning May – which are your favourites?
Too many to mention here, however there are lots that I’ve recorded on my album, Till April is Dead – A Garland of May Songs!
We’re so pleased to have you joining us for an online gig. Have you done many online events before?
Yes, over the lockdown I did my own online streaming via Youtube and Facebook several times publicly as well as for my patrons on Patreon, which was fun. I took part in the online Folk on Foot festivals, organised by Matthew Bannister, twice during lockdown (I think it may have been the first online folk festival in history)! I’ve tutored two terms of online Monday Folk Singers for the English Folk Dance & Song Society. I also had the pleasure of taking part in a songwriting event held by Ondervinden Theatre. That involved 6 songwriters writing new songs, with each one inspired by the one before, which was quite a challenge. It was broadcast online and you can still watch it (see the finished film below, featuring Lisa Knapp, Ríoghnach Connolly, Kate Young, Ellie Gowers, Gwilym Bowen Rhys and Jackie Oates!).
As we welcome in the summer, what’s in store for you in the coming months?
I was working on (and indeed finished) a new collaborative album over lockdown, which for various reasons has had to be pushed back to a 2023 release, so I’m really excitedly looking forward to that. As that’s been pushed back, I will try to use this time over the next few months to make some new music and record new work, I think.
I’ve got really into gardening over lockdown and am particularly enjoying growing things and being outside with this burgeoning and beautiful spring. I’m also pretty devastated by whats going on in the natural environment at the moment with climate collapse and species extinction and would like to pursue some of these things somehow. Musically, I’ve done a little bit of writing over lockdown and would like to explore that and well, lots of other things really!
We’re delighted to have Lisa Knapp with us to bring in the May this year. Join us on Monday 2nd May at 8pm BST!