On Friday, December 12, Selkirk plays host to the “passionate, empowering and utterly wonderful” sounds of BBC Radio 2’s Folk Singer of the Year, Bella Hardy.
Hardy’s 12-date UK tour takes her to the town’s String Jam Club at the County Hotel, where one of the most creative, prolific and original singers in the country will lend her voice to a venue that is now known as the Borders haven for acoustic music, and this special Christmas concert will celebrate the club’s first year in its new setting.
Growing up in Edale in the Peak District, with a family who sang in the local choir, book-loving Bella was drawn to the tales contained in old ballads.
But her path to a career in traditional music began with visits to folk festivals, joining a school ceilidh band, and attending the Folkworks summer school in Durham, where, aged 13, she joined the sprawling, teenage ensemble The Pack, with whom she performed for 10 years, appearing on the main stages of such institutions as Sidmouth, Warwick and Cambridge festivals.
In 2004, she entered the BBC Young Folk Award and reached the finals – for which she taught herself to fiddle-sing.
In 2007 Bella added to her BA in English Literature with a Masters degree in Music from Newcastle University; emerging from her studies with the traditional and original songs that formed her impressive debut album Night Visiting.
Accompanied by former Last Night’s Fun box player Chris Sherburn, Bella trod the folk club and festivals circuit, all the while embarking on projects as diverse as they were daunting in scale and ambition.
Be that singing the Scottish ballad Annie Laurie on Radio 2’s Titanic: Minute by Minute programme (the song was said to have been heard on the SS Californian as it sailed by the doomed ship) or performing unaccompanied in the centre of a sold-out Royal Albert Hall during The Proms.
More recently, she co-wrote with former Beautiful South guitarist David Rotheray for his concept album, The Life of Birds, and composed the music for Radio 4’s The People’s Post – a documentary on the history of the Post Office.
The 30-year-old’s captivating voice inhabits her characters and spins her stories with an equal balance of strength and sensitivity. With fiddle in hand, she presents folk songs in the best tradition; not as antiquated museum pieces, but as relevant and very human artworks. This December, she takes to the road, performing her own spell-binding songs, intertwined with a seasonal mix of festive treats from her 2012 Christmas album Bright Morning Star.
Five-time nominee at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and winner of Best Original Song in 2012 for The Herring Girl, her own songs range in subject matter from fairytales to working class history, via childhood nostalgia, myth, murder and the human condition, touching on both the fantastical, storytelling elements of Kate Bush, and the lovelorn song-writing craft of Carole King.
Tickets are £15, available in advance from the venue. For credit card bookings, phone 01750 721233.
The String Jam Club, launched by Allie Fox in 1997, is the premier monthly live unplugged music venue in the Borders, featuring headline acts from throughout Britain, as well as up-and-coming local musicians.