A musical oasis firmly rooted in Rothbury

Maz O'Connor
Maz O'Connor

From blues to folk, bluegrass, singer-songwriters and more, Rothbury Roots has firmly established itself as one of the county’s most popular music sessions.

And this year the monthly event celebrates 15 years in the business with a packed schedule of live music to mark the occasion.

Taking place at the Queen’s Head Hotel in the village it is named after, Rothbury Roots was first launched in September 2001 by Bill Brown and Terry Wilson, the then licensees of the venue. They invited a group of local musicians and enthusiasts, including resident and ex-Lindisfarne guitarist Rod Clements, to set up a series of live music nights.

Since then Rothbury Roots has gone from strength to strength and prides itself on presenting 
a wide genre of musicians in a friendly, intimate setting.

From the start of 2006 it was run by residents Kevin Roberts and Andy Heywood. Kevin’s role was taken on by Andy Craig in 2012, while Andy Heywood remains in the hugely important role of soundman.

All the people involved are music-lovers whose passion for bringing top quality live music to Rothbury ensures that Roots remains at the forefront of acoustic music in Northumberland.

Artists appearing have included Billy Mitchell, The Coal Porters, Boo Hewerdine, Megson, Jez Lowe, Gilmore and Roberts, Brooks Williams, and many other performers, both well-known and up-and-coming.

Local artists are regularly featured, along with artists from elsewhere in the UK and USA.

Rothbury Roots is non-profit making, with door takings used to cover artists’ fees and technical and promotional expenses.

Music nights are held on a monthly basis and advertised via the local press, social media, email newsletters, the website and, of course, old-media such as posters and word of mouth.

Mr Craig said: “Our audience is loyal and discerning, and I am too. After all, I’m part of the audience. I came across Rothbury Roots when we first moved to Northumberland from Edinburgh in 2008. I was amazed and delighted to find such an oasis of top quality music in this rural county of ours. I am very motivated by the tradition of 15 years of this club being in Rothbury, supported by the locals in the audience, by local musicians, and, of course, by Terry and Bill at The Queen’s Head.

“I love the atmosphere of the club. It’s polite, quiet, respectful and attentive, but above all it’s a knowledgeable audience who can’t have the wool pulled over their eyes. I pity any visiting musicians who get their facts wrong about Northumberland.

“The audience loves to singalong and I’ve seen genuine surprise and delight written across the faces of the musicians when they hear the audience creating new harmonies to their choruses.

“I could choose acts every month that I know will go down well, but I hope the audience trusts me to bring great new names to Rothbury that they might not have heard before. I also welcome suggestions from the audience for acts that I should listen to and/or invite along. I try to support artists who are earning a full-time living from their music. As an amateur musician myself, I appreciate how hard these people work to bring us their music and songs.”

He added: “I never take the audience for granted, there are plenty of other things to do on a Thursday night these days and I work hard to bring acts to Rothbury that I hope will entice the regulars and new audience members out to The Queen’s Head for a great night of live music in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.”

The month sees singer-songwriter Maz O’Conner performing on Thursday, January 28. She will be performing songs from her new album, The Longing Kind, which is released next month. It explores the tensions and conflicts of a young woman living in London, yearning for an undefined elsewhere. Her songs turn intimate and true tales into poignant examinations of our relationship to others, to home and the notion of identity. Admission is £10, doors open at 7.30pm, and performances start at 8pm.

To find out more about Rothbury Roots visit the website, which is run by Malcolm Burke, at www.rothburyroots.net