Remembering Judy Dinning

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With the passing of Judy Dinning in Hexham after a long and courageous fight against breast cancer, the world of folk music lost one of its brightest stars.

But also, many people in the Borders had to say goodbye to a very dear friend. Judy performed all over the region for many years in our band Real Time, and few who heard her were not touched by her wonderful singing and warm personality.

Judy’s unique talent took her all over the world, but it was to her native Northumberland and the Borders that she always returned, singing many songs steeped in our local traditions.

She was a great supporter of the Hawick Sings charity, and was always in demand for Burns Suppers and the region’s other dinners and concerts. Judy sadly lost her four-year battle with breast cancer on October 2 at the age of 59, but her family and friends are determined that her musical legacy should live on.

A memorial concert has been organised in Whitley Chapel, Hexham, on December 13, which would have been her 60th birthday, then on Saturday, December 14, a second concert will be held in Denholm Village Hall at 7.30pm. A host of top stars from the folk world will be on stage, and all proceeds will go to MacMillan Cancer Care and Tynedale Hospice At Home.

Judith Ellen Henderson was born in Corbridge into a farming family from Ryehill, Slaley, and from an early age she knew she wanted to be a singer.

After studying music in Newcastle, she teamed up with Dave Smith, releasing ‘Waiting for the Change’, and later with Bob Fox and Stu Luckley. In the 1990s, she performed in the all-female Lucky Bags, and Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies, with whom she had her proudest moment, supporting Joan Baez at Edmonton Folk Festival.

In 2002, Judy and I formed Real Time, and Judy’s voice was heard on folk circuits from Denholm to Denmark, Norway, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Denholm also became Judy’s second home, and she soon had as many friends and fans on this side of the border.

While Judy’s repertoire showed an eclectic taste in music, and also displayed her gifted song-writing abilities, the music of her native Northumberland was her abiding passion. She was proud to be part of the Northumbrian Anthology project, a 20-CD collection of songs and tunes from the North East, which led to the release of Judy’s solo album, ‘Fine Times’.

Even this year, Judy’s schedule was unrelenting. On April 18 she made what was to be her last appearance, in Real Time at The Low Lights, North Shields. With typical bravery and spirit, she kept touring up to the end, her audiences never guessing her illness was quite so serious, and her voice as strong and as moving as ever.

There are many singers who have received more accolades and achieved more fame, but when Judy sang everyone knew she was the real deal, up there with the best these islands ever produced. It could well be that the accolades which eluded her in life will come in the future, as her recordings and legacy receive wider recognition and appreciation every time her unique voice is heard.

The Hexham and Denholm concerts will launch a new charity DVD ‘Judy Dinning Live at the Sage’. Tickets are £10, from North Port Hawick, Denholm Post Office or call 01450 870664.