ISLA St Clair was introduced to folk music as a child, by her mother, and she has loved it ever since.
“My mother was a founding member of The Aberdeen Folk Club in the 1960s so I grew up with it. I just loved to sing,” she says.
By the time she was 13, Isla had her own BBC radio show, Stories Are For Singing, in which she explored the stories behind traditional folk songs.
“By telling the story it makes the song more true.
“They were written because that is what people were going through – it wasn’t to make money,” she explains.
“It’s very entertaining; people think folk songs are boring but they’re not. They’re fabulous stories and, performed correctly, they can really engage audiences.”
Isla is giving a concert at Compass Theatre as part of Ickenham Music Festival, at the end of a day packed with song, dance and other performances.
She will be singing many of her favourite songs, such as Bonnie Dundee, Like a Red Red Rose, and including a selection of Scottish laments. St Albans folk duo Christine Connolley and Steve Last – known on the circuit as Moses and The Ref – are the support act.
“People can join in as well – it’s about having fun,” she adds. “It’s not about taking it too seriously and that’s how the people who wrote the songs would have wanted them to be performed.”
Isla says it is important for everyone to be aware of folk music as it tells stories about the UK’s history.
“When it began, there was no money in folk music. It wasn’t about commercialism like music is today,” she says. “It was about getting through the day in the field cutting down the corn.
“People worked better when there was music around – it’s like listening to the radio today.”
Isla hopes events like this weekend’s festival will help to introduce a younger audience to folk music.
“It’s important these songs get heard. There’s no point them sitting in a library.
“These are the songs and music of our ancestors and tell the stories of how our country used to be and it’s great to join in with them. We’re keeping the threads alive; without the past we’re nothing. We must understand it.”
Although many of the songs performed today are up to 500 years old, according to Isla, this is because they are about the human emotions that everyone still experiences.
“These stories don’t change, just the players,” she adds.
“There’s no country or race that doesn’t dance or sing. It’s universal and a great form of expression.”
? Tomorrow (June 6), Uxbridge Folk Club is getting Ickenham Music Festival going with a show at its base in Hillingdon, and there is a ceilidh at Ickenham Village Hall on Friday.
On Saturday, there is a full programme of events in and around Compass Theatre, starting at 10am with folk dancing by local schoolchildren, folk singing, morris dancing and an ad-lib drama sketch titled Nowt as Queer as Folk from 360 Theatre, and ending with Isla’s concert with Moses and The Ref at 7.30pm.
The celebrations continue into Sunday, with a lunch-time canal boat cruise setting off from the Packet Boat Marina at 2pm, with folk group Gerard and The Watchmen on board to entertain guests.
Throughout the following week, school choirs are giving lunchtime concerts at St Giles Church and nearby restaurants and pubs are hosting free folk-themed events.
The historic grounds of Swakeleys House are the setting for a grand finale on Saturday, June 15. Stardust Big Band and Vyners School Swing Band provide the music, and the evening will end with a grand fireworks display.
You can take a picnic to enjoy in the open air before the entertainment beings.
For more information and tickets, email Douglas.Neilson@btinternet.com or call 01895 633 217.
A full list of events can be found at www.ickenhamfestival.org.uk.