Back in February I had a chat with Kathryn Roberts, due to play The Civic with her partner Sean Lakemen in March. Little did we know what was in store over the following weeks and months ahead.
Like the majority of our Spring programme, the pair’s gig was postponed. Fast forward the closure of our building, national lockdown, most of the team on furlough and our gradual reopening, here we find ourselves with Kathryn and Sean taking to the stage as our first live, socially distanced performance which is open to the public (November 20th in case you were wondering – I am even going to share a link to the tickets – here).
2020 was always going to be a significant year for the pair; it marks 25 years of them working together. Kathryn explains how this underpinned the concept of the tour: “We thought we really ought to make something of it really.” It feels fitting for us all then that we can celebrate the re-birth of live performance with something positive about 2020 and what it means to this greatly celebrated folk duo.
On Reflection is a celebration of their 25 years: “Rather than record an album of completely new stuff, we thought it would be really nice to do a retrospective and really look back over everything we have done in that time.” An interesting part of the creative process itself where they realised that some songs worked really well, but some were, as Kathryn worded it, “more difficult to make sit again.”
Both their musical endeavours outside of the traditional folk scene where they started out also played a role in changing and re-developing the songs. They have both gained a myriad of experience, playing in rock bands, working with different studios and producers; Sean has even produced punk bands. All that oozed into the re-imagining of their songs: “It is not necessarily a conscious thing, it is where we are at the moment, the years of experience and what kind of seeps in by osmosis.”
Playing and working with the person you are married to is not always going to be a recipe for success, but Kathryn assured me that it really aids their creativity: “We know each other so well there is never any fear that you might say the wrong thing, or upset the other person. If we are working on a song and it’s not going well, I won’t take offence if Sean will say that the piano part is not right and he won’t take offence if I say I don’t like what you’re doing there. It’s quite easy the way we work together and it’s amazing because it means I get to go on tour with my best mate.”
Celebrating alongside them this year will be an audience of loyal supporters, some of who go back the full 25 years, especially in Barnsley. Having grown up in the town, Kathryn retains very well-established connections to it and its people.
We discuss the strong musical tradition in the town, which has also laid the foundation for a thriving folk scene. From the Barnsley Concert Band, to Barnsley Music Service which her Dad used to work for and even the well-reputable Barnsley Longsword scene. She summarises: “I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why it should be so fertile if you like, but there does seem to be something about it which produces lots of music and I think it’s brilliant. She admits she watches with “great pride” Barnsley Youth Choir and “the next generation that is keeping it all going.”
Playing at The Civic also brings back memories: “I remember playing at The Civic with the town concert band when I was about 13 or 14, before it was all done out. I still find it peculiar now to walk in and try to imagine where the hall was and what everything looked like. I can’t quite get my head around it, but it’s a lovely space to play and everyone is really nice and really friendly. We both really enjoy it, and you know it is still a home gig for me, even though I don’t live in Barnsley anymore.”
We look forward to giving them both a warm welcome this November!