Win tickets to see folk fellows celebrate 25 years together

Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham stop off in Kelso as part of their 25th anniversary tour
Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham stop off in Kelso as part of their 25th anniversary tour

1986 - The year of Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’, the Chernobyl disaster, Richard Branson’s world record Atlantic crossing and Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain deciding two is better than one.

The folk legends are still together a quarter of a century on, and this summer celebrates 25 years as one of Scotland’s favourite partnerships.

A two-month tour begins on Saturday, making three stops in the Borders, including Kelso’s Tait Hall on Sunday, August 21, for which we have four pairs of tickets to giveaway.

Both Shetlander Aly and Phil of Portobello were well known musicians in their own rights before joining forces.

On arriving on mainland Scotland, fiddler Aly established folk band Boys of the Lough which counted Lauder’s Mike Whellans as a member, and the pair later worked together for three years.

Meanwhile, Phil was a violinist and classical music student at high school until leaving aged 16, when he joined Silly Wizard in the 1970s.

Alongside his late elder brother John, the accordionist arrived into a group who were already taking Scotland by storm with their energetic take on traditional music, and Phil added to the fast tempo style.

After releasing his own solo album, Phil was asked by Aly to join him in a new TV series, Aly Bain and Friends, in 1986.

It was the start not only of Phil’s television career, but also their 25-year partnership.

Aly and Phil went on to record an album, The Pearl, featuring some of Phil’s compositions, and have recorded and toured together tirelessly since then.

As ever, they have been very busy with their many other separate and joint endeavours.

Phil’s recent documentary for the BBC, The World Accordion to Phil, saw him travel the world to discover more about his beloved squeezebox, from China to Brazil and Russia.

And last year he spent a day with ex-Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler for another corporation show, where both discussed their careers and influences.

Aly has featured on TV series The Transatlantic Sessions, and last year’s Fishing for Poetry BBC programme, where he teamed up with Billy Connolly to pay tribute to poet Norman MacCaig.

Ahead of their Borders visit – which also takes in Langholm’s Buccleuch Centre (August 19) and the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles (August 24) – Phil said: “The audiences in the Borders are always enthusiastic and get right behind us.

“With a great passion for traditional music in the region, Aly and I love to perform here in a great atmosphere and to a fantastic crowd.”

Tickets for their Kelso gig (7.30pm) are priced at £18 and are available by phoning 01750 725480 or visit

To win one of four pairs of tickets to Phil and Aly’s Tait Hall show, answer this question:

In what year did Phil and Aly first appear together as a partnership?

Send your answer, name, full address and phone number by email to or post to The Phil and Aly competition, The Southern Reporter, The Hermitage, High Street, Selkirk, TD7 4DA, by Thursday, August 4.

Usual Southern rules apply.