Alexander Armstrong welcomes decision to pay performers after Rothbury festival postponed

Rothbury Traditional Music Festival, which was due to take place in July, has been postponed.

Monday, 20th April 2020, 5:26 pm
Updated Monday, 20th April 2020, 5:27 pm

The festival, which had been due to celebrate its 43rd anniversary, has joined the long list of events called off due to coronavirus.

However, unlike a lot of events, the acts and artists who were booked to play will all be offered their fee, paid in advance of the rescheduled festival in July 2021.

Festival patron, Rothbury-born actor and presenter, Alexander Armstrong, who recently recovered from what he’s sure was a two-week bout of coronavirus, said: “I’m so sorry that Rothbury, the Turks Head and Jubilee Hall won’t be thrumming to the sound of music and vitality as it always does the second weekend of July.

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“But I’m pleased to say all of the performers are submitting filmed performances, so we’ll have this lovely online record - in perpetuity - of the 2020 festival.

“It’s a nice way of sharing the music and not closing the festival down completely and I’m very proud that the festival will be paying all of its performers up front to help see them through these difficult testing times when there’s no professional engagements.

“There’s plenty to look forward to and my goodness what a party we’ll have in 2021!”

Performers including Martin Carthy, Cathal Hayden, Northern Company, 422 and the Newcastle Kingsmen had been lined up for this year’s event.

Folkestra on stage at Rothbury Traditional Music Festival Picture by Jane Coltman

Musical director Ian Stephenson, said: “As soon as stuff started getting cancelled when the lockdown restrictions came into force, my social media was flooded with musicians saying they’d lost all the work they had booked in for the coming months and they were obviously worried about money.

“At first, we thought we might be able to get each of the artists we’d booked for the festival into my recording studio to stream the performances they’d planned.

“But as the lockdown became more strict, we realised that wasn’t going to be possible and we were going to have to postpone the festival until next year.”

It was at that point Ian had the idea to frontload payments for the people who would have been taking to the stage this year.

Alexander Armstrong at the Glendale Show in 2017. Picture by Jane Coltman

He said: “We’ve got enough money in the festival account to subsidise a really bad year.

“So we thought that if these acts were happy to come back and play in a year’s time, then all we’re really doing is giving them a cash injection at the point at which they need it, rather than the money just sitting in our bank account.

“We thought that might be a helpful thing to do.”

Ian says all the musicians have welcomed the gesture.

Making music in a pub at Rothbury Traditional Music Festival Picture by Jane Coltman

“Some of the musicians have said ‘thanks but we’re okay at the moment’, others have said ‘yes please and thanks very much!’”

As well as making sure the performers can get paid in advance, the festival team are also planning a string of streamed performances on the festival website and social media channels between now and July.

“We’ll be posting performances from all the musicians who were going to play,” said Ian. “Everyone has been really enthusiastic about making something happen.”

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