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Bellowhead live at 2013 Celtic Connections
Bellowhead live at 2013 Celtic Connections
Background information
Years active2004 (2004)–2016 (2016), 2020 (2020), 2022 (2022)
Past members

Bellowhead is an English contemporary folk band, active from 2004 to 2016, reforming in 2020. The eleven-piece act played traditional dance tunes, folk songs and shanties, with arrangements drawing inspiration from a wide range of musical styles and influences. The band included percussion and a four-piece brass section. Bellowhead's bandmembers played more than 20 instruments among them, whilst all performers provided vocals.

Their third album, Hedonism (2010), is the highest selling independently released folk album of all time, having sold over 60,000 copies and earning the band a silver disk.

The band parted after their final gig at Oxford Town Hall in May 2016. In 2020, the band reformed for a reunion concert and, as of 2022, are undertaking a reunion tour, visiting Portsmouth, Oxford, Leicester, Cambridge, London, Brighton, Southend-on-Sea, Ipswich, Bath, Plymouth, Cardiff, Birmingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Harrogate, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester. [1]


Early years and Burlesque: 2004–2007[edit]

The idea for the band came to Spiers and Boden while the duo were in a traffic jam on tour. The longer they sat in traffic, the more friends they thought to invite to join. This led to the formation of a ten-piece band, with Benji Kirkpatrick, Rachael McShane, Paul Sartin, Pete Flood, Brendan Kelly, Justin Thurgur, Andy Mellon and Giles Lewin completing the initial line-up.

Before they had time to rehearse, the fledgling band were invited to play the first Oxford Folk Festival in April 2004, earning critical approval.[2]

In 2004, the band independently released a five-track EP, publicised as "English World Music", called E.P.Onymous, which generated positive reviews.[citation needed]

In 2006 Gideon Juckes joined the band, primarily playing the tuba, and they released their first full-length album, Burlesque, featuring material from the Napoleonic Wars, the American minstrel movement and sea-shanties from Brazil.

Towards the end of 2007 they became Artists in Residence at the Southbank Centre,[3] making their inaugural appearance with a Christmas Revels event.

Matachin: 2008–2009[edit]

In 2008 Bellowhead released their second album Matachin,[3] and a live performance at the Proms followed, which was broadcast live on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.[4] Sam Sweeney joined the band on fiddles and bagpipes following the departure of Giles Lewin. The following year in August the band were approached about recording music for a 20th anniversary episode of The Simpsons.[5]

Hedonism: 2010–2011[edit]

In 2010, Ed Neuhauser replaced Gideon Juckes on helicon and sousaphone.

In October 2010, Bellowhead released their third studio album, Hedonism, which had been recorded in Abbey Road Studios. The album was produced by John Leckie.[6] In honour of the new album, the band developed a new ale also named "Hedonism", with several band members being involved in the brewing process.[7]

Broadcast from April 2011, The Archers spin-off Ambridge Extra[8] featured a revised version of Archers theme tune "Barwick Green", arranged and performed by Bellowhead.[9]

In May 2011, at the 02 Academy in Bournemouth, the band recorded a DVD, Hedonism Live, which was released in late November.[10]

Broadside: 2012–2013[edit]

The band recorded a new album, Broadside, in March 2012 at Rockfield Studios with John Leckie which was released mid-October 2012.[11] The album generated generally positive reviews and went straight to number 16 in the UK official album charts[12] and number 1 in the UK independent album charts.[13]

In early 2012 the band undertook a European tour and in November 2012 toured the UK. In early 2013 the band toured the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.

In October 2013 they recorded a jingle for the flagship BBC Radio 2 folk music show The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe.

During 2013 they recorded a double A-sided single, Christmas Bells / Jingle Bells which was released on 1 December in digital-only format.[14]

Tenth anniversary, Revival and separation: 2014–2016[edit]

In 2014 the band celebrated ten years performing together with two 'Bel10whead' performances in April: Bridgewater Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.[15] A new studio album, Revival, followed, released on 30 June 2014 by Island Records.

Bellowhead headlined the concert in July 2015 to celebrate the opening of the refurbished Cardigan Castle.[16]

The band announced their intention to go their separate ways following a decision by Jon Boden to step down as frontman. Bellowhead played their final gig at Oxford Town Hall, also the venue for their first concert twelve years earlier, on 1 May 2016.[17]

The band announced a one-off reunion concert to be streamed on the 5th December 2020, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hedonism. They then followed this up with a nationwide tour in November 2022. Prior to the tour beginning, Paul Sartin died suddenly of a heart attack on 14 September 2022 at the age of 51. [18] However, the tour was continued despite his death, and in some shows they sang specifically in memory of Sartin. One audience member who went to the Cambridge show in the Corn Exchange remembers that 'They had a song with Paul Sartin's voice, and the rest of the band played behind it. It was a really tear-jerking moment. I remember being so impressed at the band, for going on with the tour after a friend had died.'

Band members[edit]

From left to right: John Spiers, Ed Neuhauser, Benji Kirkpatrick, Jon Boden.
From left to right: Rachael McShane, Sam Sweeney, Paul Sartin.


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
2006 Burlesque
2008 Matachin
  • Released: 22 September 2008
  • Label: Navigator
2010 Hedonism
  • Released: 4 October 2010
  • Label: Navigator
2012 Broadside
  • Released: 15 October 2012
  • Label: Navigator
2014 Revival
  • Released: 30 June 2014
  • Label: Island

Live albums[edit]

  • Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour (2016)
  • Reassembled (2021)


  • "New York Girls" (2010)
  • "Cold Blows the Wind" (2010)
  • "10,000 Miles Away" (September, 2012)
  • "Roll the Woodpile Down" (February, 2013)
  • "Betsy Baker" (July, 2013)
  • "Christmas Bells / Jingle Bells" (December, 2013)
  • "Gosport Nancy" (16 June 2014)
  • "Let Her Run / I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" (22 September 2014)
  • "Roll Alabama" (20 April 2015)

Extended plays[edit]


Other works[edit]

  • Umbrellowhead (2009)
  • Pandemonium – The Essential Bellowhead (2015)

Awards and nominations[edit]

At BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards[edit]

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards are an annual awards ceremony held to celebrate achievement among folk artists that year. During their 12 years together, Bellowhead won eight of these awards, including Best Live Act on five occasions.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2014 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
2013 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Broadside Best Album Won
2012 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Nominated
Bellowhead Best Group Won
Best Live Act Won
Hedonism Best Album Nominated
New York Girls Best Traditional Track Nominated
2010 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Won
Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Nominated
Fakenham Fair Best Traditional Track Nominated
2008 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Won
2007 Bellowhead Best Group Won
Best Live Act Won
2006 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Nominated
2005 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Won


  1. ^ "November 2022 Tour". Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  2. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (19 September 2008). "Folk has a new sex appeal". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b Spencer, Neil (14 September 2008). "Folk review: Bellowhead, Matachin". The Guardian. The Observer. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  4. ^ Prom 5: Folk Day 2 and Ceilidh. Retrieved 2008-07-24
  5. ^ "Intro to The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special". 11 January 2010. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2011 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ Lewis, John (4 October 2010). "Bellowhead's Sam on recording at Abbey Road". BBC. Archived from the original on 14 February 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  7. ^ Smith, Casper Llewellyn (26 September 2010). "Bellowhead: 'We're a party band with serious intellectual pretensions'". The Guardian. The Observer. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  8. ^ "Bellowhead in Ambridge… » Properganda". 5 April 2011. Archived from the original on 23 April 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  9. ^ Anita Singh (5 April 2011). "Folk-rock Archers theme tune fails to charm listeners". The Daily Telegraph.
  10. ^ iWeb. "Bellowhead - Hedonism Live (DVD) at". Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  11. ^ "November Tour 2012".
  12. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company".
  13. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50 | Official Charts Company".
  14. ^ "Bellowhead releasing Christmas single". 4 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Special 10Th Anniversary Dates". Archived from the original on 4 October 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  16. ^ "Festival favourites Bellowhead to headline Cardigan Castle opening concert". Tivyside Advertiser. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  17. ^ "THAT'S ALL FOLKS...!".
  18. ^ "Paul Sartin obituary". the Guardian. 2 October 2022. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  19. ^ "Bellowhead | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 2011-11-12. Note: User needs to scroll down and enter "Bellowhead" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]