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Bellowhead live at 2013 Celtic Connections
Background information
Genres English folk, folk jazz, electric folk, progressive folk
Years active 2004–16
Labels Island, Navigator, Westpark
Associated acts Spiers and Boden, Belshazzar's Feast, Hannah and Sam
Members John Spiers, Jon Boden, Benji Kirkpatrick, Paul Sartin, Rachael McShane, Ed Neuhauser, Pete Flood, Andy Mellon, Brendan Kelly, Justin Thurgur, Sam Sweeney
Past members Giles Lewin, Gideon Juckes

Bellowhead are an English contemporary folk band. The eleven-piece band plays traditional dance tunes, folk songs and shanties, with arrangements drawing inspiration from a wide diversity of musical styles and influences. The band includes percussion and a four-piece brass section, and is known for its energetic live performances. Bellowhead's musicians play more than 20 instruments between them with all members providing vocals.

Their third album, Hedonism, went silver (selling over 60,000 copies) and is the highest selling independently released folk album of all time.

In June 2015, Bellowhead announced via their website that they would split up following lead singer Jon Boden's departure from the band in May 2016.


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 band were invited to play the first Oxford Folk Festival in April 2004, which went successfully.[1]

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,[2] making their inaugural appearance with a Christmas Revels event.

Matachin: 2008-2009[edit]

In 2008 Bellowhead released their second album Matachin[2] and performed at the Proms which was broadcast live on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.[3] 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.[4]

Hedonism: 2010-11[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.[5] In honour of the new album, the band developed a new ale named after the album. Several band members were involved with the brewing process.[6]

Bellowhead recorded the theme tune on the new The Archers spin-off, Ambridge Extra.[7]

In May 2011, at the 02 Academy in Bournemouth, the band recorded a DVD, Hedonism Live, which was released in late November.[8]

Broadside: 2012-13[edit]

The band recorded a new album, Broadside, in March 2012 at Rockfield Studios with John Leckie which was released mid-October 2012.[9] The album generated generally positive reviews and went straight to number 16 in the UK official album charts[10] and number 1 in the UK independent album charts.[11]

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.[12]

Tenth anniversary, Revival and separation: 2014-present[edit]

In 2014 the band celebrated ten years performing together with two 'Bel10whead' performances in April: Bridgewater Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.[13]

In early 2014 the band recorded a new studio album, Revival, which was 30 June 2014 on Island Records.

It was announced in March 2015 that the band would headline the concert in July 2015 to celebrate the opening of the refurbished Cardigan Castle.[14]

On 3 June 2015, the band announced their separation following a decision by Jon Boden to step down as frontman. Their farewell tour will begin in November 2015 and end in May 2016.[15]

Band members[edit]

From left to right: John Spiers, Ed Neuhauser, Benji Kirkpatrick, Jon Boden.

Current members[edit]

From left to right: Rachael McShane, Sam Sweeney, Paul Sartin.

Former members[edit]

  • Giles Lewin (2004–2008) - fiddle, bagpipes
  • Gideon Juckes (2006–2010) - sousaphone, helicon, tuba


Studio albums[edit]

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


  • 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]

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. To date Bellowhead have won 8 of these awards.

Year Recipient/Nominated 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
2009 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act 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. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (19 September 2008). "Folk has a new sex appeal". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Spencer, Neil (14 September 2008). "Folk review: Bellowhead, Matachin". The Observer. The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Prom 5: Folk Day 2 and Ceilidh. Retrieved 2008-07-24
  4. ^ "Intro to The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special". YouTube. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Smith, Casper Llewellyn (2010-09-26). "Bellowhead: 'We're a party band with serious intellectual pretensions'". The Observer. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  7. ^ "Bellowhead In Ambridge… » Properganda". 2011-04-05. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Festival favourites Bellowhead to headline Cardigan Castle opening concert". Tivyside Advertiser. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "That's All Folks - Bellowhead Call Time". Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "Chart Stats - Bellowhead". Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  17. ^ 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]