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Free Reed Band celebrates 30 years of Folk

John Freeman
Respected Lancaster-based folk dance band Free Reed Band is to hold special celebrations to mark its 30th anniversary during 23 – 25 June 2011.

The main event will be a special ceilidh on Saturday 25th June 2011 at the Gregson Centre, Moor Lane, Lancaster when current band members Tony Cooke, Charles Ely and Andy Hornby will be joined on stage by former members of the band and the dancing will be directed by various Dance Callers – notably Mark Davies, who now lives in Budapest. This is a public event from 8.00pm to 12 midnight and tickets cost a mere £8 (£5 concessions).

Everyone is welcome. The more the merrier. The dancer you are, the player we get.

Based in Lancaster and formed in 1981 Free Reed Band is the region’s oldest-established Ceilidh band and has a well regarded pedigree of musical ability and experience, playing for ceilidhs and barn dances across the UK and France. The three band members, Andy, Charles, and Tony, are widely acknowledged as some of the finest folk music players in the area and play combinations of accordion, bass, mandolin, banjo, whistles and guitar - with an occasional song thrown in for good measure.

The band has always prided itself on being a community band – playing mostly for family celebrations and special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries; at social events for community groups such as churches and village halls; at charity fund-raisers and the like – although it has also been featured at a host of festivals, conferences, university and college dances, annual dinners, etc.

During its life, however, the band has also busked its way around England four times, built a diatonic rocket-launcher and carted it along to play at ceilidhs for two years, played a barn dance for passengers stranded at Heysham ferry terminal, constructed seagulls, lanterns and huge fifty-pence pieces with the band’s name emblazoned in Latin for no apparent reason and built the world’s largest stringed instrument from a tree trunk and pieces of rope on the banks of the River Lune.

Tony Cooke was a founder-member of the band, along with Sue Biddle, Barry Dalton and Frank Farmer – he was the only one not to escape. Barry, now living in Wales, and Frank, a resident of Cozumel in Mexico, will both be present on the 25th to play alongside a further six (or more we hope!) former band members to assist in making a bloody row. For ten years the band worked exclusively with dance caller Mark Davies.

Prior to the main celebration event at the Gregson, Free Reed will also be performing at The Robert Gillow pub (64 Market Street, Lancaster) on Thursday 23 June, from 9.00pm – 11.00pm. This will be one of the Gillow’s usual Thursday evening Folk Nights and is free of charge. Come and have a drink, relax and just enjoy the music.

On Friday 24 June the band will host an informal session in the Olive Bar of the Gregson Centre. It will start at about 9.00pm and all folk musicians are invited to bring instruments and join in.

"We're hoping for a big turnout, a reunion of friends and musicians from around the country - and much further afield," says Tony, "recreating the old Crown Inn sessions of the 1980’s or perhaps the Pan Celtic sessions of the 1990’s."

For information visit the Free Reed Band website