This Is How It Starts

Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground; the Cunning Folk album will be released on March 24 2017. The album is my journey through some of the ritual landscapes of Britain. In the run up to the album release I will be writing a blog about each song & will put out snippets of each song for your listening pleasure.

The first song is called “This Is How It Starts”

We live in a world of rituals.
A ritual is a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. It may have a religious significance.
If you have been to a wedding or a funeral you have taken part in a ritual.

A ritual can also be an action arising from the habits of an individual or group at work or at home.

For example I have a morning coffee ritual which I start my day with.
I put water in the espresso maker & switch on the machine, spoon espresso coffee into the dripper & get a small cup to place under the dripper. While waiting for the water to heat up I switch on the radio. Naturally I am a Radio 4 listener. The dripper is switched on & I fill my cup & listen to the Today show for a while.

On one occasion, while listening to the radio, I heard a gentleman called Robert Macfarlane reading excerpts of his book, “Landmarks”. Landmarks is a series of essays about folk who have interacted with British landscapes through art, walking, swimming & ornithology. It also has extensive glossaries of language specific to particular geographies.

I found the book relevant because over the past few years I have been troubled by the rise of nationalist identity politics & these essays & discussions felt like a way of finding an identity defined by landscape & our relationship with it. Identity not confined by borders on maps but by shared heritages refined by our environments & how we relate to them.

Those of you who have heard my songs may know that they are often site specific. The first location is my kitchen chair next to the radio at the moment when I decide to make a journey.

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Ritual Land Uncommon Ground. Album preview at South East London Folklore Society on December 8


For the December South East London Folklore Society meeting, Cunning Folk will be performing songs from the upcoming album, Ritual Land Uncommon Ground, & talking about themes which inspired the piece.

Britain has been settled for millenia. From time to time we leave evidence of our part in this island story. This presentation will  address our relationship with the land, how our identity is shaped by geography & the magic which springs up in forgotten corners as a result

Thursday, December 8 at 8 pm at The Old King’s Head, King’s Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High Street SE1 1NA
Entrance is £3/1.50 concs

you can stroll up on the night or email to guarantee a place


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I am currently collaborating with film-maker Richard Mansfield to make a soundtrack for his upcoming folk horror film entitled “Scare Bear”

img_1199Acoustic guitar, electric bass, synthesizers & voice combine into a folk synthesis of strangeness. I look forward to the premiere screening early next year…20160719-1The new Cunning Folk album, “Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground”, will also be released in 2017, with a preview performance in early December…

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Congleton Bear

For several weeks now I have been obsessing about this song. It is about a town in Cheshire called Congleton which is about 20 miles south of Manchester.In the 17th century  Congleton also went by the name of “Beartown” as it was famous for bearbaiting (likely) or for a dancing bear (less likely,marginally more humane). It is a matter of public record that on one occasion the town bear died just before one of the annual town “Wakes” (holidays) & money was lent to buy a new bear. The loan to the bearward was 18 shillings & came from the town’s church bible fund!

The song was written by Derbyshire folk artist John Tams in the early 1970s. The version I have included is by a 70s English Folk band called “The Druids”.

I believe this song may find it’s way into the Cunning Folk repertoire…

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Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground

George Nigel Hoyle – Wiltshire, July 2016 from S P Collins on Vimeo.

Cunning Folk, A.K.A George Hoyle, is looking forward to releasing an album of songs about the land we live in. People have made parts of Britain into ritual landscapes: the video shows Cunning Folk walking through Wiltshire in high summer. West Kennett Long Barrow seemed an appropriate place to sing a song about Alfred Watkins. Before entering West Kennett Long Barrow it is advisable to show respect with a libation. A beer which you would really want to drink yourself is poured at the threshold in order to honour those whom have been here before.

Cunning Folk learned this ritual a few years ago when employed to install a sound art project in a catacomb in a London cemetery. None of the electrical equipment would work & the mp3 player was unresponsive for a number of days until a bottle of Old Thumper was bought & brought to the threshold of the catacomb whereupon it either leaped from the hand of it’s own accord & smashed, or was dropped by a nervous fellow hoping to appease restless bones. Whatever the cause of the falling bottle, the desired effect was achieved & the installation worked without hitch for the duration of the art project.

Poetic truth.


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Cunning Folk Activities


After a busy & successful Bermondsey Folk Festival. Cunning Folk are not resting on laurels. There is a chance to see Cunning Folk perform on the Golden Hinde on Friday October 7th as part of the bill of the wonderful Tiller Flat Folk Club. There is also a talk called “A Beginner’s Guide To Folklore”, promoted by Cunning Folk, on Thursday October 13th. Follow the link for more details…

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Off to Avebury


This is London. Interesting & exciting. Vibrant with a whiff of danger. Cunning Folk love London, however Cunning Folk crave the peace of the countryside. Tomorrow we go to Avebury in Wiltshire to take pictures of the Stone Circle, Silbury Hill & West Kennet Long Barrow for the purposes of promoting the upcoming album, Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground. This part of Britain close to the Ridgeway is special. Libations will be given. Scones will be eaten.

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Bermondsey Folk Club


As well as organising the annual Bermondsey Folk Festival which is going to be the best free folk festival in London this September, Cunning Folk are starting up a monthly folk club in Bermondsey starting in October. Expect to hear more very soon…

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Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground


As well as putting on the Bermondsey Folk Festival, running interesting folk nights & days & running the South East London Folklore Society, Cunning Folk is also an folk artist. There is an album waiting in the wings called “Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground”, a musical celebration of the lands in which we live. Expect songs about chalk horses, Pendle witches, Augustine’s letter to Pope Gregory, birdwatching & Nan Shepherd.

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Bermondsey Folk Festival 2016


So here it is. The 2016 Bermondsey Folk Festival is going to be from the 6th to the 11th of September. A week of free folk events in the heart of South East London. Eventbrite links will be provided shortly.

Watch this space for exciting news about the Bermondsey Folk Club which will be starting in October….

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