Category Archives: General

The Spring Heeled Jacks ceilidh for Oasis UK

I’m delighted to announce that The Spring Heeled Jacks ceilidh band will be hosting a fundraising ceilidh for Oasis UK on Friday 17 June in Lambeth North, London.

Oasis UK work in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK, providing Foodbanks, debt advice centres, youth and children’s projects, anti-trafficking awareness and much more. Given the current economic climate, Oasis is often called on to step in where local councils are unable to provide support so their work really is a vital lifeline for many.

I’ll post more details of the event soon.

Ceilidh to the rescue!

A friend of mine’s sister was getting married up in Newcastle last week. Unfortunately the band she’d booked for the ceilidh at the reception had to pull out the evening before. I got a message asking if I could possibly help. The wonderful Becky Graham put together and led a great band with Simon Stephenson and Hannah Norman, and I called the dances. We had a lovely evening, and everyone had a good time.

I was flattered with the compliment, “I go to a lot of ceilidhs, and you were the best caller we’ve come across in a long time.” Thank you very much, it’s much appreciated! x

Durham Miners’ Gala

Very much enjoyed taking part in the Durham Miners’ Gala again this year with the Sallyport Sword Dancers. Whatever your politics, it is fantastic to be involved in such a proud, lively event full of people wanting to stand up for their heritage, culture and beliefs whilst having a good time. Loads of great music, including many brass bands! I highly recommend a visit next year.

The Helen Orchestra

I mentioned that for the celebration of my mum’s life, back in February, we put together an orchestra with musicians attending and played a movement from a Haydn symphony. Anyone who played an instrument was invited to join in, so we had accordions, whistles, recorders, melodeon, concertina and a piano duet alongside more ‘traditional’ Haydn instruments. She regularly put together collaborative, community ensembles like this for things like Christmas carol services. She was all about getting people of all abilities to make music together.

I’ve managed to track down a video of the Helen Orchestra – mum would have been very proud, and I’m really proud of everyone who took part and of what we achieved together!

A life of music

As you may know, my mum died last October following a cycling accident. My dad, brother and I recently held a celebration of her life in Matlock, Derbyshire. Over 230 people took part in an afternoon of music and words, including playing a movement from a Haydn symphony and singing this rousing rendition of Elgar’s “As torrents in summer”. Chris Harrison and I wrote a strathspey and reel for the event, dots here, and you can see a video of them being played.


My mum lived adventurously, and brought me up to do the same. For example, when I was four and my brother two, my parents cycled across Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania with my brother and me on the backs of their bikes. She has climbed Kilimanjaro, been to Everest base camp and stayed in unstaffed mountain huts in Norway in the middle of winter.

Aside from travelling, she was an excellent cellist, and was focused on helping people make music together. She was the Business Manager for the National Association of Music Educators, and known for her work throughout the music teaching world.

She was thoroughly caring, positive and committed in everything she did.

My parents have supported the charity Practical Action over the years, including visiting projects in Sudan. Practical Action “helps poor communities to produce sustainable and practical solutions – transforming their lives forever.” We have set up a JustGiving page if you would like to donate.

I invite you to take a look at #thankshelen on Twitter, where people had an opportunity to talk about how Helen influenced their lives.

That’s my mum.

Keith Roe

Very sad to hear yesterday of the death of Keith Roe, a fantastic mathematician, musician and leader. Keith was my maths teacher through GCSEs and A levels.

He spent all the time that I knew him helping others, raised over £100,000 organising musical events for charity and is one of the most inspirational people I’ve known. It’s great to see so many similar messages from others who also knew and have been inspired by him. He will be greatly missed.

IT support

I’m visiting my parents over Easter. As normal, when I arrive I’m presented with a list of jobs they need me to do, which mostly involve fixing their computers!

In particular, mum’s desktop computer still runs Windows XP, and now it’s no longer supported, she is interested in moving to Linux! This is music to my ears.

(I’ve used Ubuntu Linux since 2006 and have never looked back.)