Alexander Armstrong has been announced as the patron of Rothbury Traditional Music Festival.
The popular TV presenter, actor and classical singer takes on the role as final preparations are being made for the 43rd event, which takes place in various venues in Rothbury, Northumberland later this month.
Forty two years since it first filled the Coquet Valley with the sounds of fiddles, pipes and drums, the popular weekend-long celebration will return from July 19 to 21 with a packed programme featuring performances, workshops, competitions and street entertainment fit for all the family.
And Rothbury-born Alexander, best known as one half of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller and as host of the BBC TV game show Pointless, could not be happier to be cementing his support for the much-loved Festival as patron.
He said: “I am deeply proud to become patron of the Rothbury Traditional Music Festival. My father and grandfather were doctors in Rothbury (both were presidents of the pipe band!), it is where I was born and grew up and it is the place I will always call home.
“My fondest and earliest memories of live music and poetry are all from Rothbury Music Festivals of old.
“Northumberland has a madly rich folk music scene – a history that goes back seamlessly to the border minstrelsy and beyond. Rothbury’s role in keeping that history alive can not be overstated. This is an amazing honour.”
The feeling from the Festival committee is very much mutual.
Ian Stephenson, the Festival’s musical director – and one of the shining lights of the North East folk scene – said: “We’re absolutely over the moon to have Alexander become patron. We couldn’t think of a better person to do it.
“Actually, we can’t quite believe we didn’t ask him earlier – he’s the most famous person who’s ever come from Rothbury!
“More importantly though, he’s so passionate about the music that the Festival celebrates and he’s also written the words to one of the most beloved local songs, Rothbury Hills.”
It’s a song Ian knows well, having played on the recording of it for Alexander’s 2015 album, A Year of Songs.
Filming commitments are keeping Alexander away from this year’s Festival, but Ian says he’s confident its new patron will take to stage at a future event.
He said: “Alexander is entwined with the history of the Festival and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming him to perform at some point down the road. It’s really wonderful to have his support.”
Blending the best of Northumbrian music traditions and performers with those who travel from far and wide, the Rothbury Traditional Music Festival has retained its strong community feel while always offering a warm invitation to visitors of all ages.
Heading up the 2019 Festival bill is folk legend and multiple BBC Folk Award nominee Jez Lowe.
Other programme highlights include performances from the multi-generational Windy Gyle Band, which plays old and new music in the traditional Northumbrian style; winners of the BBC Radio Young Folk Awards in 1999, the 422 Dance Band; the ever popular Newcastle Kingsmen Rapper Dancers and Kingsmen Clog; Folkestra; and singer Graham Pirt.
Meanwhile the Saturday night concerts in the All Saints Church (6.30pm) and the Festival Concert in the uniquely atmospheric setting of the old Cattle Mart (8.30pm) always attract the crowds.
There’s also a host of music competitions and workshops – for both adults and youngsters – on the menu.
From ceilidhs, musical family gatherings, acoustic concerts, no end of street music and entertainment and even the chance to have a go on the Northumbrian pipes, families can be sure children of all ages will be well catered for.
- The Rothbury Traditional Music Festival takes place from July 19-21 across various venues in the town. For more information, a full programme and to buy tickets, visit www.rothburymusicfestival.co.uk