“If I have helped to keep a tradition alive I’d be really proud, but I just play because I like it, and I like the tunes. Do what moves you.” Conveying the rugged charm of her native county through her prowess on the Northumbrian small pipes, Kathryn Tickell has also helped blur the distinctions between folk and other genres, inspiring new generations of artists. She was born today in 1967.
Northumbrian small piper / violinist Kathryn Tickell was born in the Northumberland village of Wark. Encouraged by her folk singing father Mike, Kathryn first showed a serious interest in music as a child and first attempted to squeeze a tune out of the Northumbrian smallpipes at the age of nine – although her dad advised her to stick to the piano…
Despite spending much of her childhood in Lincolnshire, Gateshead and the Newcastle suburb of Jesmond, Kathryn kept in touch with her Northumbrian roots via visits to her rurally-based grandparents.
Sweeping the board at the annual Northumbrian Gathering in the county town of Morpeth, she joined a folk group based at Wallsend’s Buddle Arts Centre and while still at school had appeared on BBC’s “Blue Peter”, accepted the ceremonial title of Lord Mayor’s Piper and released her debut album, “On Kielderside”.
Becoming a full-time musician at the age of 18 and leading her own band from 1990, Kathryn has also made guest appearances with a diverse range of other performers. These range from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra to Andy Sheppard plus fellow Tynesiders Sting and Jimmy Nail – joining the latter pair on stage at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1997.
Living in rural Northumberland, Kathryn continues to record, write and perform, in addition to lecturing on a folk & traditional music Degree course at Northumbria University. Succeeding her long-time champion Alistair Anderson as Artistic Director of Folkestra (a regional folk music development project) in 2008, she was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music a year later.
More recently she’s renewed her association with Sting, who appropriated “The Burning Babe” from Tickell’s album with ensemble mystical for his 2009 release, ”If On A Winter’s Night.” Fittingly, Kathryn contributed both fiddle and pipes to the recording and accompanied “wor Gordon” when he returned to perform the piece live at The Sage, on the banks of the Tyne.
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And here’s some footage of Kathryn in action: