Melodeon Player Extraordinaire John Kirkpatrick comes to Halsway Manor

This week we are very excited to be featuring John Kirkpatrick on our blog as it won’t be long before he will be joining us at Halsway for a weekend workshop and a concert in the middle on the saturday night. THere is lots of information out there on John and he has one of the most informative websites I have ever seen! So please, if you would like to know more, do go to and have a look at what he is up to. Below is a bit of info on John taken in part from his biography.

John Kirkpatrick was born in Chiswick in 1947 and grew up in a family where a hearty sing song was always a part of family gathering. John was in school choirs, the Church choir and played recorder and piano, until he joined the Hammersmith Morris Men at the tender age of 12 in 1959. Whilst with the team he took up the melodeon, then the button accordion, then the anglo concertina, and got hooked on the traditional songs that were accompanied with a post-dancing pint.

John has gone on to become one of the most prolific figures on the English folk scene, performing solo, in duos, acoustic groups and electric bands, and has established an enviable reputation as an instrumental virtuoso and session musician, as well as a leading interpreter of English folk music.

John has been a member of many bands, including the Albion Country Band, the Magic Lantern, The Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope, as well as numerous ceilidh bands.

One of the things I have really enjoyed reading is some of the articles that John has published on a number of different subjects such as The British Button Box as well as responses to some of the articles he has had published. They are most amusing and briliantly written and can be found on his website under writings…

The Melodeon Workshop that John is doing for us is for experienced Melodeon players who can either read music or play by ear. It is an intensive weekend with uptempo tunes for experienced players of all ages. Some music will be supplied in advance and other tunes will be chosen at the event, in response to participants needs. Have a look at the website for further details Melodeon Workshop with John Kirkpatrick and don’t forget that it is for the Two Row G/D melodeon. 


It is not long now until midsummer is upon us

It is not long now until midsummer is upon us! It is always one of those times that sneak up on you, and as soon as it has gone, it seems like we are on the way to midwinter! So in honour of midsummer, come and be uplifted by a magical weekend singing folksongs from Somerset and beyond with two outstanding workshop leaders, Yvette Staelens and James Findlay. The focus will be on sharing delicious harmonies, joyous West Gallery and folksongs for the season.

All songs will be taught aurally and the event is suitable for singers of all ages and abilities. The weekend will feature daily singing workshops, a presentation on Somerset folksong collectors and a Saturday evening concert featuring James Findlay, Yvette Staelens and the Halsway Choir. Come and join our facebook page to keep up with the latest information.

Sophie Courtiour working with living willow

I love living in the west country as there are so many things you see here, even travelling on the A303 or the M5, that you simply don’t see in other parts of the country. I spent my early adulthood in London and had never seen a willow structure of any kind until I moved down here in my early thirties, it wasn’t long before I had living willow soaking in my bathtub, but that is another story. These days I am pretty used to seeing incredible sights like willow horses and the beasts on the Blackdowns. At least that is what I thought, until I came across the Cathedral!

Taunton Cathedral living willow hires (2 of 14)

Two weeks ago on one of those rare sunny (but windy) Sundays, my daughter and I decided to go on a bike ride. We had to do something as we could no longer hibernate. We ended up going down to French Weir in Taunton, popping into Tesco’s and then taking a funny turn which got us down to Longrun Meadows. I had heard about the regeneration project going on down there, but had not imagined it was quite as good as what we found.   Riding along a path that can only be described as a country lane with meadows of grass

and trees along either side, yet still almost in the town centre, we decided to see if we could ride along the river/stream. So a little bit further we went, until right in front of us was the most awesome sight that took us completely by surprise. It was a huge willow sculpture, bigger than any I have ever seen before, and it was living and breathing willow.

Taunton Cathedral living willow hires (13 of 14)

You could tell this because it had just started to bud and was beginning to be covered in the most beautiful green leaves. As we cycled up to it, it became apparent how much work that had gone into it. From far away it looks magnificent and awe-inspiring and as you get closer you get to see the intricacies of the way it was crafted. I was quite stunned. What was really lovely was that there were quite a few people there, having a rest from a long walk with their dog or a family out on their bikes; bikes strewn and children lying on the floor looking up at the blue sky cathedral ceiling. It was quite obviously a restful, peaceful place, somewhere you can go and contemplate and be still. It was also fun and exciting and full of laughter from children – a hub of all kinds of emotions. Apparently, the ‘green cathedral’, measures 30m by 16m (98 ft by 54ft) and is made from living Somerset willow, which means that it will continue to green up over time. It was finished in June 2011 and is of course now really coming into its own, in 2013. It is easy to see why the vision for the cathedral is that it is used for plays, performances or yoga classes as it will appeal to so many different clubs, societies, and individuals.

Taunton Cathedral living willow hires (4 of 14)

When I got home I had to look it up. I had no idea what it was called, didn’t know it was called the cathedral when I was there and didn’t know who had made it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Sophie Courtiour and Stefan Jennings were the willow artists responsible, especially since we are so lucky to Sophie coming to do an arts and crafts workshop weekend with us at Halsway Manor on Friday 24th May to Sunday 26th May 2013. Sophie is a willow sculptor based in Cheddar who has worked with willow for over 10 years and has been involved with some really big projects. She is responsible for the leaping deer on the A303, the Willow beasts on the Blackdown Hills AONB and a 7 metre reclining lady in Weston-Super-Mare. 

Sophie will be running this two day workshop using willow grown locally on the Somerset Levels. Participants are welcome to use the comprehensive folk library at Halsway Manor with a view to creating their own mythical beast though the workshop will cater to any ideas and all levels of ability. There is no need for previous experience and you don’t have to be arty but you will need to be prepared for any weather as we will be working outside.

Taunton Cathedral living willow hires (12 of 14)

I can’t wait to see the creations that people will come up with. We have no idea if they will want to make their own or do a joint piece of work, where it will go or what type of willow beasts that will suddenly be popping up on the Halsway Manor grounds, but rest assured there will be photographic evidence as I wouldn’t miss it for the world. We are very excited to be welcoming Sophie to Halsway Manor and very much look forward to seeing what the course participants come up with.

Don’t forget that you can come for the weekend or as a day visitor – there are plenty of options. So if you think you would like to learn the art of making willow structures, then contact the as soon as you can to secure your place or have a look at our website for more information Halsway Manor and if you get a chance, go and have a look at the living green cathedral. It really is very beautiful! 


Arts and Crafts Weekend Friday 24th May 2013 – Sunday 26th May 2013

One of the things we are really excited about at the moment is the Arts and Crafts weekend that we have planned for the weekend of 24th to 26th May. It should be so much fun! We are so lucky to have been able to get all these fabulous artists in the same place at the same time, and we can’t wait to share them with you.

All levels of experience are welcome. Whether you are already an artist and want to try something new, or a complete beginner wanting to ‘have a go’! Choose from five workshop options and be inspired by the beautiful setting of Halsway Manor. You can immerse yourself in the weekend by staying at the Manor, or come along as a day-visitor, whichever suits you best. All materials are provided unless stated otherwise on the website 

So, what do we have on offer? We have Printing with Jim Munniona well known, full time Somerset painter and printmaker. Felt Making with Sarah Meikle. Sarah Meikle has worked with a wide range of crafts over many years, and is an experienced teacher and creative therapist. Covering a variety of methods we will make both practical and decorative items using a wide choice of colours and wool fibers. Sculpture with Melanie Deegan who originally trained and worked as a woodcarver before the desire for a more flexible approach to sculpture led her to discover Jesmonite, a non-toxic resin that perfectly suits her requirements. Sketchbook and iPad Art with Alison Jacobs a a specialist in detailed animal studies in acrylic and, in complete contrast, is a painter of landscapes out of doors in an impressionistic, expressive style. This workshop combines her passion for the Somerset countryside with her latest obsession – inspired by David Hockney – in creating iPad art. Willow beasts with Sophie Courtiour a Somerset artist known for her large public willow sculptures including leaping deer and the beast on the Blackdown Hills, and a 7 metre reclining woman in Weston-Super-Mare!

So as you can see there is something for everyone! If you would like further information, then please don’t hesitate to give us a call or email, or just connect with us on twitter and facebook! We have a page set up for the arts and crafts weekend, as hopefully there will be all sorts of fabulous photos we can set up during and after! Arts and Crafts Facebook event 

Melodeon Workshop Weekend for the Two-Row G/D Melodeon with John Kirkpatrick

On Friday 10th May 2013  –  Sunday 12th May 2013 we are delighted to be hosting a Melodeon weekend for the Two-Row G/D Melodeon with John Kirkpatrick, because quite frankly, nobody plays the melodeon like John. John has an enviable reputation as an instrumental virtuoso and interpreter of English folk music and has played with many influential groups including the Albion Country Band, Magic Lantern, the Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope. This course is a chance to improve your skills on the Melodeon and learn from one of the true greats of the instrument. 

This weekend is pretty intensive and all of the workshops attendees will need to be able to  play folk dance tunes, up tempo from music provided or by ear. Any age is welcome, but must just be of the above proficiency level and those 16 or under have to be accompanied by an adult. The weekend starts on Friday afternoon and will finish on Sunday at 5pm.

John Kirkpatrick melodeon player extraordinaire

John Kirkpatrick melodeon player extraordinaire

We are hoping that the weather will be pretty good too and there is plenty of space to camp at Halsway, should the fancy take you!

Don’t forget that as well as the workshop, John will be playing a concert on the Saturday night (11th May) at Halsway which is open to the public. It starts at 8pm and tickets are £10 for adults and £4 for under 16’s.

If you would like to attend then please do phone Viv on 01984 618274 (+44 19 84 61 82 74) or EMAIL US with your requirements. Have a look at the website for further details and prices too.
This course is definitely not one to be missed!

A few weeks ahead…What’s on at Halsway Manor

Morning Folks!

What a lovely return to winter we are having today! I am happily tucked up in the office at Halsway where the world is warm and welcoming. It is always lovely to turn up and the open fires are blazing and the wind outside is roaring. It is pretty picture perfect!

So, I wanted to tell you about a few things we have going on in the weeks ahead at Halsway Manor. If you would like further information on any of the events, then please go to the web site

This weekend we have the Irish Set Dancing Weekend and I hope to have some photos that I can post from that, early next week. The following week we are hosting the Anglo Scottish Dance week from 15th to 19th April and are rounding a thoroughly British week off with English Folk Dance and Song Society, an Artists’ professional development weekend on 19th to 21st April. I am pretty sure these are already booked up but if you were interested, then please do call Viv at the office to see if there have been any cancellations, or to book for next year.

At the end of April – (26th to 28th) – Carin Wilkinson is hosting a Baroque Recorder Players weekend and then we have MAY! I can’t believe that we are almost in May and still looking for sunshine! On May 1st we have of course the wonderful May Day celebrations at Halsway Manor, where we greet the dawn with ritual and Maypole dancing and song. We also provide a large breakfast and in the evening we will be putting on a barn dance. This event is open to all and I will be posting some more details a bit closer to the time.

From 10th to 12th of May John Kirkpatrick is staying with us and hosting a Melodeon workshop weekend. This is very popular and will need to be booked in advance, so get booking as there are still a few places left! John will also be giving a concert on the Saturday night, which is open to anyone who would like to come. It is £10 per head and under sixteens are only £4). Kickoff is at 8pm.

May also plays host to a recorder weekend with Pat Fitzpatrick on 17th to 19th May and the American Contra Dance follows this from the 20th to 24th May. This is hosted by Meg Winters and sees the arrival of Sue and Bruce Rosen (Sue the caller and Bruce on Piano) with George Wilson on Fiddle coming all the way from the US.

Halsway Manor are also hosting an Arts and Crafts weekend from 25th to 26th May with some incredible local artists that come and stay ‘in residence’ for the weekend teaching all manner of things from print making to ipad art and sculpture. More of that in another blog soon!

As May draws to an end we have our Early music Week which includes Voices, Viols and recorders, with Michael Sharman and a folk music weekend with Dave Brown, John and  Elaine Meechan, and Christine Corkett – from 31st May to Sunday 2nd June, taking us into the summer months with song and dance!

We hope you will come and join us for some of these fantastic events. If you can’t make a whole weekend, you can always just pop along for the day, just give us a ring to arrange!

Have a great weekend!


See now, see now… A wee selection of hothouse festival photos 2013.

A small selection of images from the day! it was such fun! Apologies (of sorts) to Sam Brookes for catching him unawares towards the end of a long day, mid yawn! Couldn’t help but post it! He worked very hard as some of the other photos will show! Enjoy!


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