Bell ringing in 
a birthday gig

Alan Bell, Fleetwood folk musician and Fylde Folk Festival director.

Alan Bell, Fleetwood folk musician and Fylde Folk Festival director.

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Alan Bell, the father of folk music on the Fylde, is planning to celebrate his 80th birthday in style.

Bell and his band will be joined by a host of special guests for a concert at Fleetwood’s Marine Hall on June 28.

All proceeds will go towards the Fylde Folk Festival, which Bell launched in 1972 and which is still going strong four decades later.

Indeed, the man himself believes this year’s could be the best yet, with a glittering line-up of established stars and up- and-coming youngsters.

Tickets are on sale now – and those who book before Monday, March 31 can get a hefty discount.

Bell is looking forward to both the festival, and to his birthday celebrations.

“The festival should be terrific this year,” he said.

“What I’ve tried to do is mix the old styles, the established artists like Roy Bailey and Isla St Clair, with the up-and-coming crowd such as Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman.

“We’ve got a five-piece coming from Poland who are superb, we’ve got a band which is half-Irish, half-Hungarian ... so it is an exciting mix.

“Before that, in June, we have this birthday celebration night at the Marine Hall, and the plan is for my band to do a show, which will feature a lot of specials guests.

“We are also going to record a CD of my songs. There are 10 or 12 which we do in our stage shows and hopefully we will get that album released later in the year.

“All in all it is a nice way to celebrate my 80th.”

Bell has been one of the leading folk voices in the UK for a long time and is particularly well known on the Fylde where his group the Taverners were based.

He has written several songs about the local area – like Blowing Sands and The Packman (about a travelling man on the Fylde coast) – though his most famous work is Bread and Fishes, which has become a staple of the folk music scene.

He started the Fylde Folk Festival in the 70s because there was nothing else like it in this part of the world.

“I was playing gigs elsewhere, and doing other festivals, but none of them were very close to home,” said Bell. “It struck me that we should have a festival round here so that’s why it began.”

The first, in 1972, took place over one night at the North Euston Hotel.

This year’s, by contrast, will consist of 137 events over four days – 300 hours of entertainment provided by more than 200 artists at 10 venues across Fleetwood.

It is now in the top 10 of the country’s best folk festivals.

“I didn’t start it for it to become this huge thing, it has just happened. We’ve just had to keep growing it to meet the demand,” added Bell.

Tickets for this year’s festival, which takes place from Friday, August 29-Sunday, August 31, are available from www.marinehall.co.uk and www.fylde-folk-festival.com.

There is a 12 per cent saving for those who book before March 31.