The host of the multi-award-winning Folk on Foot podcast, Matthew Bannister, will set off from Wickham Festival on a 180-mile sponsored walk to raise money for the charity Help Musicians.
The former controller of BBC Radio 1 and presenter of Radio 4’s weekly Last Word programme will start his trek at the picturesque Hampshire site on Friday, August 4 and finish two weeks later at the FolkEast Festival in Suffolk which runs from August 18-20. Click here to donate.
Matthew, who launched Folk on Foot in 2018, has invited myriad folk musicians to join him at pubs where he is staying along the trail each evening for informal, morale-boosting gatherings of songs and tunes. Confirmed artists include some of the finest names in folk The Young’uns, Martin Simpson, Bella Hardy, and Show of Hands’ Steve Knightley joining forces with Johnny Kalsi (Afro Celts, The Dhol Foundation).
There will be a rich mix of duos, from Peter Knight & John Spiers to Megson, Honey and the Bear, Janice Burns & Jon Doran, Rowan Piggott and Rosie Hodgson of The Wilderness Yet and Sid Goldsmith and Danny Pedler of Tarren.
Others joining Matthew will be flautist Eliza Marshall (Ranagri/Freedom to Roam) and traditional folk musician Jon Wilks, singer-songwriters Kirsty Merryn and Katie Spencer and Brighton band Bird in the Belly.
The route will take him from the rolling countryside of Hampshire’s Meon Valley to a finish line in the grounds of Suffolk’s glorious Glemham Hall where the FolkEast festival is staged, traversing Berkshire, Greater London, Hertfordshire and Essex en route.
He will pass novelist’s Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire, traverse Colne Valley Park on the western flank of London, stay in picturesque Eton with its famous college, follow the tree-lined Long Walk at Windsor, cross the great Roman road of Watling Street and walk along stretches of the Grand Union Canal – the principal navigable waterway between London and the Midlands.
Matthew’s final overnight stop at Campsea Ashe, Suffolk, will see him welcomed and entertained by the multi-award-winning patrons of FolkEast, The Young’uns (left).
The next day (Friday, August 18) Matthew is due to arrive at FolkEast where he will be danced over the finishing line by members of Gloucestershire’s Boss Morris. Describing themselves as ‘all-female prog Morris side’ they famously performed alongside indie rock group Wet Leg at this year’s Brit Awards.
Members of the public are invited to join Matthew along the way, leaving their footprint for just a mile or two or a whole day.
Matthew said: “During the pandemic lockdowns Folk on Foot listeners raised an amazing £327,000 to support musicians who had lost their livelihoods. Half was divided between the scores of artists who took part in our four online Front Room Festivals and the other half went to Help Musicians.
“The lockdowns may be a distant memory, but the problems faced by musicians haven’t gone away. Many are dealing with mental or physical health issues or financial hardship and Help Musicians and its sister charity Music Minds Matter do a brilliant job of supporting them to build secure careers in what can be a very challenging and precarious industry. That’s why I’ve decided to tramp 180 miles across the South East of England to raise money and awareness. Music and musicians have been vital throughout my life, raising my spirits when I was down, helping me to celebrate important moments and bringing me joy every single day. This walk is a small way of saying thank you.” Click here to donate.
Sarah Woods, Interim Chief Executive at Help Musicians welcomed news of Matthew’s quest. She said: “Folk on Foot, and folk music lovers across the U.K, have been true friends to Help Musicians, with significant funds raised to help musicians survive during the pandemic; making a positive difference to their lives and careers.
Music brings so much joy to us all, but sadly those who work in music suffer more than others from poor mental health. Music Minds Matter has seen a 200% increase in calls to its helpline during the last two years, showing how much still needs to be done to achieve positive wellbeing for all those who work in music. Demand for help continues to rise, and as a charity that relies on the generosity of donors to support its work, all funds raised from “The Big Walk” will go directly to funding support and services to support the mental health of those in real need. A massive thank you to Matthew for this inspirational fundraising initiative.”
Matthew aims to take to the stage on the opening Thursday night of Wickham Festival at the end of Show of Hands’ headline set to tell the audience about the walk starting from the site the following morning. Wickham Festival organiser Peter Chegwyn said: “We are honoured that Matthew has chosen to start his Big Walk at Wickham. It’s a great thing to do and a fantastic cause and I hope it raises a lot of money and awareness.
“We have a brilliant crowd at Wickham and I am sure they will turn out in their numbers to give Matthew a good send-off and some donations. It will be a wonderful way to start what promises to be another terrific event for us. I am just sorry Matthew won’t get to see much of it as he will be walking while we are all enjoying fantastic music and hopefully the sunshine.
“It’s just as well Matthew is not starting his walk here on Saturday night – otherwise our headliners, The Proclaimers, would have him walk 500 miles – and 500 more! We wish him all the best for this venture and hope to see him at Wickham next year for a more relaxing weekend!”
Becky Marshall-Potter, co-director of FolkEast, said the three-day festival was delighted to be part of Matthew’s epic walk and looked forward to cheering him over the finish line.
“Musicians, technical crew, promoters, venues and festivals are working together to build back an industry that was floored by the pandemic and is now facing the effects of the cost of living crisis. By supporting our musicians, we support the whole of this internationally respected industry and those who work within it. So, polish up your walking boots and tramp on!”
You can support Matthew in many ways: – Make a donation at www.folkonfoot.com/bigwalk
– Join him for part of the walk (his route map can be seen at www.folkonfoot.com/bigwalk)
– Spread the word on social media using the hashtag #FoFBigWalk23
– Click here to donate.
ROUTE STOPOVERS & ARTISTS
DAY 1: Friday 4th August: The Thomas Lord ROWAN PIGGOTT AND ROSIE HODGSON OF THE WILDERNESS YET
High Street, West Meon, Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 1LN https://www.thethomaslord.co.uk
DAY 2: Saturday 5th August: The Swan Hotel STEVE KNIGHTLEY AND JOHNNY KALSI
High Street, Alton, Hampshire GU34 1AT. https://www.greenekinginns.co.uk/hotels/swan-hotel-alton/
DAY 3: Sunday 6th August: The Winchfield Inn ELIZA MARSHALL; JON WILKS
Station Road, Winchfield, Hampshire RG27 8BX http://www.thewinchfieldinn.co.uk
DAY 4: Monday 7th August: The Royal Foresters MARTIN SIMPSON
London Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 8DR 01344596480 https://www.theroyalforesters.co.uk
DAY 5: Tuesday 8th August: The Crown and Cushion JANICE BURNS AND JON DORAN
Eton High St, Eton, Berkshire SL4 6AF https://www.thecrownandcushioneton.co.uk
DAY 6: Wednesday 9th August: The Coy Carp KIRSTY MERRYN
Coppermill Lane, Harefield, Uxbridge, Greater London UB96HZ https://www.vintageinn.co.uk/restaurants/london/thecoycarpharefielduxbridge#/
DAY 7: Thursday 10th August: Moor Mill Pub and Restaurant HONEY AND THE BEAR
Smug Oak Lane, Bricket Wood, Colney Street, Radlett, Herts AL2 3TZ https://www.beefeater.co.uk/en-gb/locations/hertfordshire/moor-mill?cid=GLBC_40015055
DAY 8: Friday 11th August The Practitioner Bar MEGSON
76-78, Fore Street, Hertford SE14 1BY https://www.thepractitionerbar.co.uk
DAY 9: Saturday 12th August: The Prince of Wales SID GOLDSMITH AND DANNY PEDLER OF TARREN Green Tye, Much Hadham, Herts SG10 6JP https://www.facebook.com/people/The-Prince-of-Wales-Green-Tye/100063664595183/?_rdr
DAY 10: Sunday 13th August: The Swan Inn BIRD IN THE BELLY
The Endway, Great Easton, Dunmow, Essex CM6 2HG https://www.facebook.com/people/The-Swan-inn-Great-Easton/100066627468551/
DAY 11: Monday 14th August: The Green Man KATIE SPENCER
3, Church Lane, Toppesfield, Essex CO9 4DR https://www.facebook.com/greenmantopps/?locale=en_GB
DAY 12: Tuesday 15th August: The Crown Hotel KNIGHT AND SPIERS
Long Melford, Suffolk CO10 9JL https://www.thecrownhotelmelford.co.uk
DAY 13: Wednesday 16th August: The Greyhound BELLA HARDY
2, Ipswich Road, Claydon, Ipswich, Suffolk IP6 0AR https://www.greyhoundpubclaydon.co.uk
DAY 14: Thursday 17th August: The Duck THE YOUNG ’UNS
Station Road, Campsea Ashe, Suffolk IP13 0PT https://www.theduckcampseaashe.co.uk