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Mike Harding

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Mike Harding
Harding at Fairport's Cropredy Convention in 2007
Background information
Born (1944-10-23) 23 October 1944 (age 79)
Crumpsall, Manchester, England
GenresFolk music
Easy listening
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, author, poet, broadcaster
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, concertina, harmonica, hammer dulcimer, autoharp, cittern, tin whistle
Years active1965–present
LabelsRubber Records
Philips Records
Moonraker Records

Mike Harding (born 23 October 1944)[1] is an English singer, songwriter, comedian, author, poet, broadcaster and multi-instrumentalist. Harding has also been a photographer, traveller, film maker and playwright.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Harding's father, Louis Arthur "Curly" Harding, a navigator in the RAF,[3][4] was killed in the Second World War, a month before his son's birth.[5] Harding is of Irish Catholic ancestry on his mother's side.[6][7]

Flight Sergeant Louis Arthur Harding (RAF/574158) was a prewar RAF airman. A navigator on Lancasters, his No. 9 Squadron RAF aircraft LL901 (WS:V) was lost on an operation to Munster, 23/24 September 1944. From the seven crew, six were killed and lie at Holten General Cemetery in the Netherlands. The seventh airman evaded capture.[citation needed]

Harding was educated at St Anne's, Crumpsall, and St Bede's College, Manchester. He has written of the abuse inflicted on pupils at St Bede's, a Roman Catholic school.[7] After a varied career as a road digger, dustbin man, schoolteacher, steel erector, bus conductor, boiler scaler and chemical factory worker, he took a degree in English and Education at the University of Manchester.[5][8]

Professional career[edit]

Harding began performing as a folk singer and as a member of several local Manchester bands in the 1960s, making his first recordings for the Topic label. He began telling jokes between songs, eventually extending them into longer humorous anecdotes which became the main focus of his act. He released his first album, A Lancashire Lad, in 1972, followed by Mrs 'Ardin's Kid in 1974. In 1975, the single release of "The Rochdale Cowboy" reached No. 22 in the UK Singles Chart, and brought him national attention.[5][9]

As a stand-up comic he made several series for the BBC and appeared on numerous television and radio programmes, including two series of travel films in Ireland and the Appalachian Mountains of America.[10] He also played rock and roll with his band, the Stylos, with the Lowe Brothers. He has had many albums and singles released, whilst the latter included "Man 'nited Song".

As well as comedy, he has released albums of serious songs, most notably Bombers' Moon,[10] the title track of which tells of his father's death.[5] The album also includes "The Accrington Pals" and cover versions of Bruce Springsteen's "Factory" and Eric Bogle's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda".

Harding composed the music scores for DangerMouse, Count Duckula[10] (he also sang the main and end titles with Manchester native Doreen Edwards), The Reluctant Dragon and The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship for Cosgrove Hall Films.[10]

As well as being an acclaimed musician and comedian, he wrote The Armchair Anarchist's Almanac, a humorous A to Z book; two collections of anecdotes, jokes and songs entitled The Unluckiest Man in the World and The 14½ Pound Budgie; and a comedy/thriller/fantasy, Killer Budgies.

His other books include a series covering aspects of his interest in British folklore and history – The Little Book of the Green Man, The Little Book of Stained Glass, The Little Book of Gargoyles, and The Little Book of Misericords; and the loosely factual autobiography, You Can See the Angel's Bum, Miss Worswick! He has also read two of his short stories for Afternoon Story on BBC Radio 4.[8] In 1986, Harding wrote the foreword to Barry Pilton's book, One Man and His Bog.

He made a series of fourteen short films on minority religions in England for the BBC's Heaven and Earth show. Harding has presented the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and from 1997 to 2012 he presented the weekly BBC Radio 2 flagship folk and roots programme, The Mike Harding Show.[11] His last show was on 26 December 2012. According to Mark Radcliffe, who took over Radio 2's Folk Show, Harding had left reluctantly, stating that the BBC had "sold the folk world down the river".[12] Four days later, on 30 December 2012, Harding launched his own internet radio show, called The Mike Harding Folk Show broadcast at 5pm every Sunday and available as a podcast and on iTunes afterwards.[13] The show went on a very short break during November and December 2017, after 252 regular weekly episodes, with a Christmas episode #253 published in December 2017 and the next episode (#254) published on 24 February 2018. Thereafter, commencing on 18 March 2018, Harding was back with a regular monthly slot. On 4 October 2022, after 309 shows, Harding announced that #309 was his final show.

Harding is a dedicated hillwalker and a former president, and now life vice president of the Ramblers' Association.[6] He wrote, until a new format was sought for the magazine in 2008, a regular column for hiking magazine The Great Outdoors and campaigned for 'Right to Roam' legislation in the United Kingdom. He is one of the patrons of the Wensleydale Railway, a group set up to re-open the once mainly derelict line between Northallerton and Garsdale in Yorkshire, near where he now lives.[citation needed]

He is also the patron of Settle Stories, a charity based in Settle, North Yorkshire, that promotes traditional storytelling and runs the annual Settle Storytelling Festival.[14] Harding contributed to a promotional leaflet for the Settle tourist board.



  • A Lancashire Lad (1972, Trailer LER 2039)
  • There Was This Bloke (1974 Rubber Records RUB 010) with Tony Capstick, Derek Brimstone and Bill Barclay
  • Mrs 'Ardin's Kid (1975, Rubber Records RUB 011) – UK No.24
  • The Rochdale Cowboy Rides Again (1975, Rubber Records RUB 015/016)
  • One Man Show (1976, Philips 6625 022) – UK No.19
  • Old Four Eyes is Back (1977, Philips 6308 290) – UK No.31
  • Captain Paralytic & The Brown Ale Cowboys (1978, Philips 6641 798) – UK No.60
  • On The Touchline (1979, Philips 9109 230)
  • Komic Kutz (1979, Philips 6625 041)
  • Red Specs Album (1981, Polydor 2383 601)
  • Take Your Fingers Off It (1982, Moonraker MOO1)
  • Rooted! (1983, Moonraker MOO2)
  • Flat Dogs and Shaky Pudden (1983, BBC Records REH 468)
  • Bomber's Moon (1984, Moonraker MOO3)
  • Roll Over Cecil Sharpe (1985, Moonraker MOO7)
  • Foo Foo Shufflewick & Her Exotic Banana (1986, Moonraker MOO8)
  • The Best of Mike Harding (1986, Rubber Records RUB 047)
  • Plutonium Alley (1989, Moonraker MOO9)
  • God's Own Drunk (1989, Moonraker MOO10)
  • Footloose in the Himalaya (1990, Moonraker MOOC11)
  • Chinese Takeaway Blues (1992, Moonraker MOO11)
  • The Bubbly Snot Monster (1994, Moonraker MOO14)
  • Classic Tracks (1995, Moonraker CD MOO13)[9]


  • "Rochdale Cowboy" / "Strangeways Hotel" (1975, Rubber Records ADUB 3) – UK No.22
  • "My Brother Sylveste" / "Uncle Joe's Mint Balls" (1976, Rubber Records ADUB 4)
  • "Talking Blackpool Blues" / "Bogey Man" (1976, Rubber Records ADUB 10)
  • Guilty, But Insane (EP): includes "Born Bad" / "Jimmy Spoons" / "Manuel" (1977, Philips CLOG 1)
  • "Christmas 1914" / "P.S. God" (1977, Philips 6006 585)
  • "Disco Vampire" / "For Carlo" (1977, Philips CLOG 2)[9]

Other recordings[edit]

  • "Ale is Physick for Me" / "Ten Per Cent" on Deep Lancashire (1968, Topic 12T 188)
  • "Sammy Shuttleworth" on Owdham Edge (1970, Topic 12T 204)
  • "Ale is Physick for Me" / "Ten Per Cent" / Sammy Shuttleworth" on Deep Lancashire (1997, Topic TSCD 485)
  • "Ale is Physick for Me" on And We'll All Have Tea (2000, Retro R2CD)



  • Napoleon's Retreat From Wigan (1976, EMI Music Ltd)
  • The Unluckiest Man in the World (1979, Robson)
  • The Singing Street (1979, Moonraker)
  • The Witch That Nicked Christmas (1979)
  • Folk Songs of Lancashire (1980, Whitethorn)
  • Fur Coat and No Knickers (play) (1980, Samuel French)
  • Barnaby Barnaby Boy Wonder (1980, Robson)
  • The 14½ lb Budgie (1980, Robson)
  • Up The Boo Aye Shooting Pookakis (1980, Savoy)
  • The Armchair Anarchist's Almanac (1981, Robson)
  • One Night Stand (play) (1981)
  • Hell Bent (play) (1981)
  • Dead Ernest (play) (1982)
  • Not with a Bang (play) (1983, Samuel French)
  • Killer Budgies (1983, Robson)
  • When The Martians Land in Huddersfield (1984, Robson)
  • You Can See The Angel's Bum, Miss Worswick (1985, Robson)
  • Rambling On (1986, Robson)
  • Walking The Dales (1986, Michael Joseph)
  • Cooking One's Corgi (1988, Robson)
  • Bomber's Moon (1988, Michael Joseph)
  • Footloose in the Himalaya (1989, Michael Joseph)
  • Last Tango in Whitby (play) (1990, Samuel French)
  • A Free Man on Sunday (play) (1992)
  • Daddy Edgar's Pools (1992, Peterloo Poets)
  • Walking the Peak and Pennine (1992, Michael Joseph)
  • Tales from the Towpath (1992, Central Manchester Development Corporation)
  • The Virgin of the Discos (1993, Robson)
  • Hypnotising the Cat (1995, Robson)
  • Buns for the Elephants (1995, Penguin Viking)
  • Footloose in the West of Ireland (1996, Michael Joseph)
  • Crystal Set Dreams (1997, Peterloo Poets)
  • Comfort and Joy (play) (1997, Samuel French)
  • A Little Book of the Green Man (1998, Aurum Press)
  • A Little Book of Gargoyles (1998, Aurum Press)
  • A Little Book of Stained Glass (1998, Aurum Press)
  • A Little Book of Devils and Demons (1998, Aurum Press)
  • A Little Book of Misericords (1998, Aurum Press)
  • Yorkshire Transvestite Found Dead on Everest (2005, Hayloft)
  • A Little Book of Angels (2008, Aurum Press)
  • A Little Book of Tombs and Monuments (2008, Aurum Press)
  • A Little Book of Miracles and Marvels (2008, Aurum Press)
  • The VW Camper Van A Biography (2013, Aurum Press )
  • The Adventures of the Crumpsall Kid (Biography) (2015, Michael O'Mara Books Ltd)


  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
  • Shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountaineering Literature
  • Ralph Lewis Poetry Award (University of Sussex)
  • 1991 Outdoor Writers Guild Award for Excellence for Footloose in the Himalaya (broadcast)
  • 1996 The Signal Award for Children's Poetry[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mike Harding official website - The Life, retrieved 29 October 2015
  2. ^ "Pride of Manchester's guide to Manchester music - Mike Harding". Pride of Manchester. Archived from the original on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  3. ^ Mike Harding official website – Bomber's Moon info, retrieved 28 October 2015
  4. ^ Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry for Louis Arthur Harding, retrieved 19 September 2009
  5. ^ a b c d "Biography by Steven McDonald". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  6. ^ a b "accessed March 2009". Mikeharding.co.uk. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  7. ^ a b Harding, Mike. "School of savagery: 'Stuck forever in that room in Manchester with my trousers round my ankles'". Irish Times. No. 11 September 2021. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "Radio 2: Mike Harding". BBC. 6 May 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  9. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 243. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  10. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1081/2. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  11. ^ Plunkett, John (17 October 2012). "BBC Radio 2 folk DJ Mike Harding hits out at boss after sacking". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  12. ^ Mark Radcliffe, interview with Pete Paphides in Radio Times, 15–21 February 2014. Radcliffe recalled that he contacted Harding about his appointment and that he was "utterly decent about it".
  13. ^ "The Mike Harding Folk Show". Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  14. ^ "New high profile patron for Settle Stories : Cumbria Crack: News for Penrith, Eden Valley, Keswick, Workington, Whitehaven, Maryport, Barrow, Kendal, Carlisle, Lake District & Cumbria". Cumbria Crack. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  15. ^ "Jump Ararnd | The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican". Thebarstewardsons.bandcamp.com. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  16. ^ "The Devil Went Darn To Barnsley | The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican". Thebarstewardsons.bandcamp.com. Retrieved 16 May 2020.

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