FWO Team

Rachel Williams

After teenage years at the back of an orchestra (and in school!) becoming gradually more enthusiastic about Elgar, Mahler, and Shostakovich, I headed to Birmingham University to develop my skills as a percussionist and musician. Having spent 5 years there taking every opportunity to make music, be it crazy contemporary with anything one could hit, or early Baroque choral music as part of an ‘alternative’ choir, I decided to head somewhere different altogether and took a role in a school in the Indian Himalayan foothills as a music and English teacher.

A transformational time there meant that I headed back after a couple of years and trained as a music teacher and then embarked on what would become a 22-year career in secondary schools in the Midlands and Oxfordshire.

During that time, my musical world expanded – not all teenagers were as excited by Mahler as I was. Whilst I was forced to delve into the world of pop music to get down with the kids, a free ticket to the Cambridge Folk Festival sparked a love of folk music and Morris dancing that I had never previously dreamed I would have! I picked up a whistle and a melodeon and put on some bells. Folk music began to take over!

As I began this folk journey, I brought it into school, starting my folk group ‘What’s Up Folk!’ which went from strength to strength, taking part in the Oxford Folk Festival, Towersey festival, and Folk Weekend: Oxford. Finally leaving the classroom 3 years ago meant that I could branch out joining FWO, first as Morris co-ordinator, then joining the staff as Executive Assistant to festival boss Cat McGill and then taking on the job of co-producer. As well as this rewarding role with FWO I also teach at home, run local choirs, do a bit of supply teaching, and even a bit of gardening.

Jim Driscoll

I joined Folk Weekend Oxford in January 2021 and work closely with Rachel as co-producer to develop the programme for Folk Weekend and its satellite events. 

I came to Oxford in 1990, and apart from a short stint in the West Country, have been here ever since. I mis-spent the 90s playing and recording with a range of Oxford bands, including The Drug Squad, The Bigger The God, Idiots Savants, and The South Sea Company Prospectus, and organising the legendary Hardcore Jollies festival near Witney in 1997. A long-term residency at what is now the Library on the Cowley Road as one half of the guitar/banjo duo The Mullet Brothers led to my increasing interest in first American, then Irish, and finally English folk.

During my time in the West Country, I was the creative director of the Ashley Wood Festival, a multi-arts festival specialising in music and theatre, and which put on acts as diverse as Guillemots, BJ Cole, Lady Maisery, and Sioned Williams.

As well as working for Folk Weekend Oxford, I work as an assistant to the classical composer Michael Stimpson, a job which recently has involved helping with the release on CD and (very excitingly for me) LP of his choral work The Angry Garden, inspired by environmental themes. I play guitar with the Americana band The Holy Fools and folk trio The Hex Collective, as well as going to as many local sessions as my wallet will permit. As well as playing guitar, banjo, and piano, I am learning concertina. I am also one half of the Boondoggle podcast on American politics.

Jane Bird, Social Dance Co-ordinator

I am generally involved the social dance of FWO, through long term partner Oxfolk Ceilidhs, who have organised dance since the beginning of FWO. I am also a caller, with a real interest in including everyone who wants to dance, and am very proud to have been involved with the SEN and family ceilidhs. 

I dance and play for Owlswick Morris and can often be found playing mouth organ and concertina in music sessions. During the festival, I am either making cups of tea for people or am on a bike, cycling between dance venues.

Jack Evans, Sessions Co-ordinator

Hi there! I am Jack and I am delighted to be taking over as Sessions Co-Ordinator for the Folk Weekend. I previously ran a session weekend in Oxford in 2019 during a year off for the festival, and I’m absolutely delighted to be joining the brilliant FWO committee now.

I grew up as a classical musician. I studied music at Oxford and sang as a choral scholar at Norwich Cathedral and Merton College, and as a lay clerk at Magdalen College. While I always had a basic knowledge of folk through my Welsh-Irish mother, it’s not until I ran headfirst into a whole weekend of sessions at the 2018 festival that I got hopelessly captured by Oxford’s folk scene and most thoughts of my old musical life soon flew out of the window! Currently, I run the monthly singaround and weekly Irish sessions at the Half Moon, as well as turning up at any other session that will have me with my guitar and fiddle. As someone that sings, plays, and enjoys music from all of the many traditions on offer in the city, I’m really looking forward to creating a fantastic session experience for musicians and listeners of any and all backgrounds this April.

Calum Scott, IT Wizard

New to FWO in 2021, I was lightly press-ganged in to help pull together and look after the digital aspects of the operation, a far more creative outlet for my experience than my actual job! More recently I’ve been working as part of the team developing hybrid, in-venue and online live gigs with Live To Your Living Room bringing our music to a global audience.

I grew up with the sounds of The Corries, Dick Goughan, Matt McGinn, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull alongside a healthy(?) mix of 70s heavy rock. No surprises then that my musical tastes still revolve around traditional, folk and rock genres. On returning to playing music, having all but given up post-University, a folk club was touted and I became a founding member of what is now Bampton Folk Club. With help from BFC members I soon realised the folly in continued attempts to be a competent guitarist and now enjoy a collection of typically Celtic instruments: mandolin; octave mandola; Irish tenor banjo; bouzouki etc. and have found my happy place learning and playing traditional and contemporary melody.

Ginnie Redston, Friends Co-ordinator

Like Calum, I am new to FWO. I sang at folk clubs around Oxford back in the early 70s, having got hooked on folk and blues in my teens. First LP: Davy Graham’s Folk, Blues and Beyond, shortly followed by Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues, and discs by Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, John Mayall and others.  After living abroad, then raising a family, all music neglected, I finally got back to folk. I’m a committee member of Chippy Folk, played and sang regularly at the Witney Acoustic Room, and helped a bit with Bampton Folk during lockdown. Some 4 years ago friend Rachel Fox and I started a regular session, Finstock Unplugged (ie eclectic acoustic), on the last Monday of the month, originally at The Plough, Finstock, but currently based at Wilcote Art Studios. Now I’m very much looking forward to supporting and developing links with the FWO and its Friends.

Jen Cox, Morris Co-ordinator

As the current Chair of Open Morris, and long-standing dance organiser at Wallingford BunkFest, I’ve got a bit of experience with running Morris events! I’ve been dancing at Folk Weekend for years, but this is my first year as part of the FWO committee, and it’s lovely!

I have been involved behind the scenes in the past as an Oxfolk Ceilidhs Committee member, and with the brilliant online events in 2020 and 2021, but I’m really looking forward to bringing the streets of Oxford alive again with Morris in 2023!

Sophie Boon, Morris Co-ordinator

“I was raised in the folk scene of 90s Devon, youngest daughter of a Morris dancer, ceilidh caller, and musician (all the same person). My Mother was also a Northwest clog dancer, so there really was no hope for me. Steeleye Span, Tiger Moth, and La Bottine Souriante were the soundtrack to my childhood, interspersed with the sound of jingling bells.
I dance with a Border Morris side based in Cheltenham (The Tattered Court), and attempt to wrangle emails and admin for them.
I’ve previously stewarded at FWO, and am delighted to have the chance to be involved with organising this year.
As well as Morris-herding, I’m a keen session singer, so I’ll see a lot of you in either the streets or the pubs of Oxford! Roll on April!”

Erica Saracino,Finance

Oddly, I am not really a folkie. My musical background is steeped in 1970s rock and in the cantautori scene of the same decade in Italy, where I grew up. Music was my one reference point, and my source of strength, throughout my teen years and my early twenties. It took a backseat whilst raising a young family, and I bless the day I rediscovered it, about a decade ago, when watching the broadcast of Reading Festival. I joined Folk Weekend Oxford having spent an eye-opening and inspiring weekend at FWO2014. Since then I have had huge amounts of fun working with my fellow committee members, all quite extraordinary and kind people; there’s nothing like running an event over 72 hectic hours to forge a true bond between us! I am proud of the community-oriented aspect of FWO’s activities and of our continued work to make the arts that we offer as accessible as possible to all – music is very much for everyone, whatever the genre!

Jon Price, Local Acts Organiser

I was told that I pressed to join the village choir but was not allowed to do so until I was 4. Gained a lot of musical experience and enjoyed performing in village choirs and later choral societies. Earliest non coral experience was ‘Green Door’ – rock and roll. Listened to early musicals like Oklahoma without much idea of the narrative, same true of G&S records. In South Africa did much square dancing, later inspired by Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and an African musical called King Kong. Weekends spent watching Mine Dancing. Completely bowled over by the Poozies and in particular Karen Tweed, who I first met with Kathryn Tickell. Still following Karen as she does more on the artistic side. I think the Ambrose quartet and Andy Cutting are my current favourites in the folk circuit. Was recruited into Charlbury Morris and have danced with them for over 30 years. Helped set up Wolvercote Morris which is now almost completely female. Set up and ran ‘White Hart Sounds’ until COVID struck – a chance for local Folk Musicians to perform. 

Met Cat at a Folk Camp when she and my daughter fell in together.  She recruited me and I ran the Box Office for FWO for the first three years.  Have enjoyed doing various roles in FWO, currently finding outlets for local musicians.

Beci Kijco, Social Media Co-ordinator and Hub Manager

My parents were heavily involved in the folk scene, so I took part in festivals and Folk Camps from childhood. I ‘play’ (as in had lessons and can now roughly form music on) piano, trombone, violin, recorder and I sing. I also own a flute, clarinet, guitar, bass… I’m a sucker for a musical instrument. I love folk and traditional music but will also always go for a good bass line, cheesy pop or a decent ‘hook’ – my musical loves are broad and diverse.

I got drawn into FWO through Cat McGill. I’ve known Cat for many years through Folk Camps and when, a few years back, she was running short of venue managers, I volunteered. I met some fab people, had a great time and am still here. I am now heavily involved with Live to Your Living Room. Barely a week goes by when I’m not found, sitting in a Zoom room, watching artists and muting the unruly. I live a lot of my life ‘online’ – so social media, techy computer stuff and general gophering are particular specialities. I am also a Learning and Development professional with a sideline in Inclusion, so I’d love to bring some of that to the table.