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Bellowhead was an English contemporary folk band, active from 2004 to 2016 The eleven-piece act played traditional dance tunes, folk songs and shanties, with arrangements drawing inspiration from a wide diversity of musical styles and influences The band included percussion and a four-piece brass section, and was known for its energetic live performances

All successful musicians in their own right, Bellowhead's bandmembers played more than 20 instruments between them; whilst all performers provided vocals

Their third album, Hedonism 2010, is the highest selling independently released folk album of all time, having sold over 60,000 copies and earning the band a silver disk

The band parted after their final gig at Oxford Town Hall in May 2016


  • 1 History
    • 11 Early years and Burlesque: 2004-2007
    • 12 Matachin: 2008-2009
    • 13 Hedonism: 2010-11
    • 14 Broadside: 2012-13
    • 15 Tenth anniversary, Revival and separation: 2014-2016
  • 2 Band members
  • 3 Discography
    • 31 Studio albums
    • 32 Live albums
    • 33 Singles
    • 34 Extended plays
    • 35 DVDs
    • 36 Other works
  • 4 Awards and nominations
    • 41 At BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links
    • 61 Video clips


Early years and Burlesque: 2004-2007

The idea for the band came to Spiers and Boden while the duo were in a traffic jam on tour The longer they sat in traffic, the more friends they thought to invite to join This led to the formation of a ten-piece band, with Benji Kirkpatrick, Rachael McShane, Paul Sartin, Pete Flood, Brendan Kelly, Justin Thurgur, Andy Mellon and Giles Lewin completing the initial line-up

Before they had time to rehearse, the fledgling band were invited to play the first Oxford Folk Festival in April 2004, earning critical approval

In 2004, the band independently released a five-track EP, publicised as "English World Music", called EPOnymous, which generated positive reviews

In 2006 Gideon Juckes joined the band, primarily playing the tuba, and they released their first full-length album, Burlesque, featuring material from the Napoleonic Wars, the American minstrel movement and sea-shanties from Brazil

Towards the end of 2007 they became Artists in Residence at the Southbank Centre, making their inaugural appearance with a Christmas Revels event

Matachin: 2008-2009

In 2008 Bellowhead released their second album Matachin, and a live performance at the Proms followed, which was broadcast live on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3 Sam Sweeney joined the band on fiddles and bagpipes following the departure of Giles Lewin The following year in August the band were approached about recording music for a 20th anniversary episode of The Simpsons

Hedonism: 2010-11

In 2010, Ed Neuhauser replaced Gideon Juckes on helicon and sousaphone

In October 2010, Bellowhead released their third studio album, Hedonism, which had been recorded in Abbey Road Studios The album was produced by John Leckie In honour of the new album, the band developed a new ale also named "Hedonism," with several band members being involved in the brewing process

Broadcast from April 2011, The Archers spin-off Ambridge Extra featured a revised version of Archers theme tune "Barwick Green," arranged and performed by Bellowhead

In May 2011, at the 02 Academy in Bournemouth, the band recorded a DVD, Hedonism Live, which was released in late November

Broadside: 2012-13

The band recorded a new album, Broadside, in March 2012 at Rockfield Studios with John Leckie which was released mid-October 2012 The album generated generally positive reviews and went straight to number 16 in the UK official album charts and number 1 in the UK independent album charts

In early 2012 the band undertook a European tour and in November 2012 toured the UK In early 2013 the band toured the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium

In October 2013 they recorded a jingle for the flagship BBC Radio 2 folk music show The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe

During 2013 they recorded a double A-sided single, Christmas Bells / Jingle Bells which was released on 1 December in digital-only format

Tenth anniversary, Revival and separation: 2014-2016

In 2014 the band celebrated ten years performing together with two 'Bel10whead' performances in April: Bridgewater Hall and the Royal Albert Hall A new studio album, Revival, followed, released on 30 June 2014 by Island Records

Bellowhead headlined the concert in July 2015 to celebrate the opening of the refurbished Cardigan Castle

The band announced their intention to go their separate ways following a decision by Jon Boden to step down as frontman Bellowhead played their final gig at Oxford Town Hall, also the venue for their first concert twelve years earlier, on 1 May 2016

Band members

From left to right: John Spiers, Ed Neuhauser, Benji Kirkpatrick, Jon Boden From left to right: Rachael McShane, Sam Sweeney, Paul Sartin
  • Jon Boden - lead vocals, fiddle, tambourine, shaky egg, thunder tube, kazoo, whistle
  • John Spiers - melodeons, Anglo concertina, Claviola, kazoo, vocals, tambourine
  • Benji Kirkpatrick - guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, tenor banjo, vocals, kazoo
  • Rachael McShane - cello, fiddle, kazoo, vocals
  • Paul Sartin - fiddle, oboe, slide whistle, kazoo, vocals
  • Giles Lewin 2004–2008 - fiddle, bagpipes
  • Sam Sweeney 2008-2016 - fiddle, English bagpipes, kazoo, vocals, whistle
  • Pete Flood - percussion including frying pan, glockenspiel, knives and forks, clockwork toys, megaphone scratching, stomp box, coal scuttle, party blowers, broomsticks, ratchet, Casio VL-tone, shakers and tambourine, vocals
  • Gideon Juckes 2006–2010 - sousaphone, helicon, tuba
  • Ed Neuhauser 2010-2016 - sousaphone, helicon, tuba, vocals
  • Brendan Kelly - saxophone, bass clarinet, vocals
  • Justin Thurgur - trombone, vocals
  • Andy Mellon - trumpet, vocals


Studio albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
sales thresholds
2008 Matachin
  • Released: 22 September 2008
  • Label: Navigator Records
2010 Hedonism
  • Released: 4 October 2010
  • Label: Navigator Records
  • UK: Silver
2012 Broadside
  • Released: 15 October 2012
  • Label: Navigator Records
  • UK: Silver
2014 Revival
  • Released: 30 June 2014
  • Label: Island

Live albums

  • Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour 2016


  • New York Girls 2010
  • Cold Blows The Wind 2010
  • 10,000 Miles Away September, 2012
  • Roll The Woodpile Down February, 2013
  • Betsy Baker July, 2013
  • Christmas Bells / Jingle Bells December, 2013
  • Gosport Nancy 16 June 2014
  • Let Her Run / I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight 22 September 2014
  • Roll Alabama 20 April 2015

Extended plays

  • EPOnymous 2004


  • Live at Shepherds Bush Empire 2009
  • Hedonism Live November, 2011
  • Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour 2016

Other works

  • Umbrellowhead 2009
  • Pandemonium - The Essential Bellowhead 2015

Awards and nominations

At BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards are an annual awards ceremony held to celebrate achievement among folk artists that year During their 12 years together, Bellowhead won eight of these awards, including Best Live Act on five occasions

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2014 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
2013 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Broadside Best Album Won
2012 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Nominated
Bellowhead Best Group Won
Best Live Act Won
Hedonism Best Album Nominated
New York Girls Best Traditional Track Nominated
2010 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Won
Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Nominated
Fakenham Fair Best Traditional Track Nominated
2008 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Won
2007 Bellowhead Best Group Won
Best Live Act Won
2006 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Nominated
2005 Bellowhead Best Group Nominated
Best Live Act Won


  1. ^ Hodgkinson, Will 19 September 2008 "Folk has a new sex appeal" The Guardian Retrieved 5 January 2011 
  2. ^ a b Spencer, Neil 14 September 2008 "Folk review: Bellowhead, Matachin" The Observer The Guardian Retrieved 5 January 2011 
  3. ^ Prom 5: Folk Day 2 and Ceilidh Retrieved 2008-07-24
  4. ^ "Intro to The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special" YouTube 2010-01-11 Retrieved 2011-07-26 
  5. ^ Lewis, John 4 October 2010 "Bellowhead's Sam on recording at Abbey Road" BBC Archived from the original on 14 February 2011 Retrieved 5 January 2011 
  6. ^ Smith, Casper Llewellyn 2010-09-26 "Bellowhead: 'We're a party band with serious intellectual pretensions'" The Observer The Guardian Archived from the original on 29 September 2010 Retrieved 2010-09-27 
  7. ^ "Bellowhead In Ambridge… » Properganda" Propergandaonlinecom 2011-04-05 Retrieved 2011-07-26 
  8. ^ Anita Singh 5 April 2011 "Folk-rock Archers theme tune fails to charm listeners" The Daily Telegraph 
  9. ^ iWeb "Bellowhead - Hedonism Live DVD at propermusiccom" 
  10. ^ "November Tour 2012" 
  11. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100 - Official Charts Company" 
  12. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50 - Official Charts Company" 
  13. ^ "Bellowhead releasing Christmas single" 4 November 2013 
  14. ^ "Archived copy" Archived from the original on 4 October 2015 Retrieved 2014-02-26 
  15. ^ "Festival favourites Bellowhead to headline Cardigan Castle opening concert" Tivyside Advertiser 25 March 2015 Retrieved 28 March 2015 
  16. ^ "THAT'S ALL FOLKS!" 
  17. ^ "Chart Stats - Bellowhead" theofficialchartscom Retrieved 2011-11-12 
  18. ^ a b "Certified Awards Search" British Phonographic Industry Retrieved on 2011-11-12 Note: User needs to scroll down and enter "Bellowhead" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history

External links

  • Bellowhead website
  • Bellowhead forum
  • Bellowhead Interview - Folk Radio UK

Video clips

  • Official YouTube Channel

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