Kathryn Tickell

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Kathryn Tickell
Kathryn Tickell in Lorient, Brittany, 2004
Kathryn Tickell in Lorient, Brittany, 2004
Background information
Born (1967-06-08) 8 June 1967 (age 56)
Walsall, Staffordshire, England
GenresTraditional, folk, Celtic
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Northumbrian smallpipes, fiddle
Years active1984–present
LabelsBlack Crow, Park, Resilient

Kathryn Tickell, OBE, DL (born 8 June 1967) is an English musician, noted for playing the Northumbrian smallpipes and fiddle.[1]

Music career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Kathryn Tickell was born in Walsall, to parents who originated from Northumberland and who moved back there from Staffordshire with the family when Kathryn was seven.[2] Her paternal grandfather played accordion, fiddle, and organ. Her father, Mike Tickell,[3] sang and her mother played the concertina. Her first instrument was piano when she was six.[4] A year later, she picked up a set of Northumbrian smallpipes brought home by her father, who intended them for someone else. Frustrated by fiddle and piano, she learned that the pipes rewarded her effort.[5] She was inspired by older musicians such as Willy Taylor, Will Atkinson, Joe Hutton, and Billy Pigg.[6]

Performing and recording[edit]

Tickell on stage in 1985, shortly after the release of her first recording

At thirteen, she had gained a reputation from performing in festivals and winning pipe contests.[4][7] When she was seventeen, she released her first album, On Kielder Side (Saydisc, 1984), which she recorded at her parents' house. During the same year, she was named Official Piper to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, an office that had been vacant for 13 years, since George Atkinson's appointment for a single year in 1971[8].[4][7] She formed the Kathryn Tickell Band, with Karen Tweed on accordion, bass, and Ian Carr on guitar, and released the band's first album in 1991 on Black Crow Records.[4] Later, the band comprised Peter Tickell on fiddle, Julian Sutton on melodeon, and Joss Clapp on guitar.[7] In 2001, the Kathryn Tickell Band was the first band to play traditional folk music at the Promenade Concerts in London.[7][9]

She recorded with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra when it was led by Simon Jeffes. She met Jeffes while she was in her teens, and he wrote the song "Organum" for her. After Jeffes's death, she played with the Orchestra again over a decade later when it was run by his son, Arthur.[5]

Tickell has also recorded with The Chieftains, The Boys of the Lough, Jon Lord, Jimmy Nail, Linda Thompson, Alan Parsons, and Andy Sheppard.[9] She has performed live with Sting, who is also from Newcastle upon Tyne, and has recorded with him on his albums The Soul Cages (1991), Ten Summoner's Tales (1993), Mercury Falling (1996), Brand New Day, (1999), If on a Winter's Night (2009), and The Last Ship (2013).

Two ex-members of the North East England traditional music group the High Level Ranters have appeared on her albums: Tom Gilfellon on On Kielder Side and Alistair Anderson on Borderlands (1986). The latter album included to a tribute to the Wark football team. Several other pipers have appeared on her albums: Troy Donockley on Debatable Lands, Patrick Molard on The Gathering and Martyn Bennett on Borderlands. Debatable Lands included "Our Kate", a composition by Kathryn Tickell dedicated to Catherine Cookson.

In 2011, she took part in the Sunderland A.F.C. charity Foundation of Light event.[10]

She formed Kathryn Tickell and the Side, with Ruth Wall on Celtic harp, Louisa Tuck on cello, and Amy Thatcher on accordion. The group plays a mixture of traditional and classical music. They released an eponymous album in 2014.[11][12]

In 2018 Tickell established a new band, Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening, with whom she released the album Hollowbone in 2019. This project signals a different approach, with new material. There is a semi-imaginary incursion into the prehistory of Northumbrian music in the track "Nemesis" based on Roman-era texts and a melody by Emperor Hadrian’s court musician Mesomedes. There is a foray into a world of ancestral shamanism in "O-u-t Spells Out". The album was greeted with critical acclaim, with four-star reviews in The Observer and the Financial Times, as were the band's various national tours in its first two years of existence.[citation needed]

Other projects[edit]

In 1987, the early part of her career was chronicled in The Long Tradition, a TV documentary. Kathryn Tickell's Northumbria, another documentary, appeared in 2006. In 1997, Tickell founded the Young Musicians Fund of the Tyne and Wear Foundation to provide money to young people in northeastern England who wanted to learn music. She founded the Festival of the North East and from 2009 to 2013 was the artistic director of Folkworks.[6]

Awards and honours[edit]


Kathryn Tickell

  • On Kielder Side (Saydisc, 1984)
  • Borderlands (Black Crow, 1987)
  • Common Ground (Black Crow, 1988)
  • The Gathering (Park, 1997)
  • Debateable Lands (Park, 2000)
  • Strange But True (2006)
  • Northumbrian Voices (Park, 2012)[19]

Kathryn Tickell & Corrina Hewat

  • The Sky Didn't Fall (Park, 2006)

Kathryn Tickell & Ensemble Mystical

  • Ensemble Mystical (Park, 2001)

Kathryn Tickell & Friends

  • The Northumberland Collection (Park, 1998)
  • Water of Tyne (Resilient, 2016)[20]

Kathryn Tickell & Peter Tickell

  • What We Do (Resilient, 2008)

Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening

  • Hollowbone (Resilient, 2019)
  • Cloud Horizons (Resilient, 2023)

Kathryn Tickell & the Side

  • Kathryn Tickell & The Side (Resilient, 2014)

The Kathryn Tickell Band

  • The Kathryn Tickell Band (Black Crow, 1991)
  • Signs (Black Crow, 1993)
  • Air Dancing (Park, 2004)
  • Instrumental (Park, 2007)

With Sting

With others


  1. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 282. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  2. ^ Hickman, Pamela (26 September 2015). "Kathryn Tickell talks about Northumbrian music, about the fiddle and the Northumbrian pipes". Pamela Hickman's Music Interviews. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  3. ^ Javin, Val (7 September 2012). "Music: Folk rooted in Northumbria". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Stambler, Irwin; Stambler, Lyndon (2001). Folk and blues : the encyclopedia (1. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 615. ISBN 0-312-20057-9.
  5. ^ a b Tilden, Imogen (2 September 2010). "Kathryn Tickell: 'This is so much more to me than just a band'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Kathryn Tickell". Kathryntickell.com. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d Nickson, Chris. "Artist Biography: Kathryn Tickell". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  8. ^ Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Tuesday 14 September 1971
  9. ^ a b Hamilton, Michael (16 November 2009). "Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell calls the tune". NE4me (North East England). Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Carols of Light charity fundraising event - Durham University". Dur.ac.uk. 9 November 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  11. ^ Wilkinson, Allan (17 February 2015). "Kathryn Tickell and the Side". Northern Sky Magazine (live review). Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ Zierke, Reinhard. "Kathryn Tickell & The Side". Mainly Norfolk. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Queen's birthday honours list 2015: OBE". The Guardian. Press Association. 12 June 2015. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Kathryn's award in the queen's birthday honours". Kathryn Tickell. 12 June 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  15. ^ Tackley, Catherine (20 November 2015). "Musicians receive Honorary Awards from the Open University". Open University. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  16. ^ "Carol and Kathryn are new Deputy Lieutenants". Northumberland.gov.uk. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Leading musician and renowned inventor honoured in winter graduation ceremonies". Durham University. 9 January 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  18. ^ "Honorary degrees celebrate excellence". Newcastle University. 17 July 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  19. ^ Gallacher, Alex (18 September 2012). "Interview: Kathryn Tickell - Northumbrian Voices". Folk Radio UK. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Kathryn Tickell | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Kathryn Tickell | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 December 2016.

External links[edit]