Catalysts : Hannah Martin (Edgelarks)

Edgelarks are one of the British Isles most accomplished folk duos, bringing together exquisite instrumentation and voice, musical inventiveness and a poetic lyrical depth.

Anyone who witnessed their lock down live streams (still available here) would be struck by how Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin manage to create a sense of communion across a hardwired digital connection. Their talents were recognised by BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 'BestDuo' Award in 2014, and two further nominations since.

Edgelarks last album, Feather, was recorded after an inspirational retreat to West Cumbria - the songs it contains are rich in natural imagery, the music offers a place of solace and stillness. They were a natural pick when we were looking for musicians willing to describe some of their own formative cultural experiences, and we were pleased when Hannah Martin agreed to take the task on.

The trio she settled on hint at the deep cultural hinterland informing Edgelarks' songs; they are detailed below in Hannah's own words, with links wherever possible.

Hannah's first choice was If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie : "A book that connects environmental issues with our sense of folkloric identity, a guide to the importance of developing a personal relationship with our own myths and legends."

A fascinating and illuminating pick; Sharon Blackie is an internationally recognised writer and teacher, deeply versed in narrative psychology, who works at the shared borders of psychology, mythology and ecology. You can discover the breadth of her work here - and read the first chapter of If Women Rose Rooted here.

Next she alighted on Flit by Martin Green : "A visionary fusion of folk music, electronica, supreme songwriting, storytelling, stagecraft and animation. For me, the show opened new possibilities for innovative combinations of art forms to convey a powerful and important message. It also pushed the boundaries of the folk genre in a wonderful and inspiring way."

Flit was an experimental live project - explained and reviewed in a 2016 Guardian review - the accompanying album featured Aiden Moffat, Adam Holmes, Becky Unthank and John Smith - and is poetic, strange and enthralling in equal measure. It can be found on Bandcamp.

Finally, Hannah reached back in her memory to recall playing at Vancouver Island Music Festival four years ago : "We had the privilege of playing this amazing event in 2016. It was an eye opening window into what a festival could look like if women, indigenous peoples, and BAME people were fully and equally represented on stage. It was also musically mind blowing, and one of the friendliest events we’ve ever been to."

Edgelarks continue to provide spellbinding online performances during what is increasingly a cultural lockdown - follow them on Twitter to keep up to date.


EDGELARKS I Feather