Q&A: Willie Kelly

Name: Willie Kelly

Company: Midnight Mango UK // Sligo Live Festival, Ireland

Title: Live Booking Agent // Festival co-producer & programmer

Based in: Sligo, Ireland

What was your purpose for participating at Folk Spot 2023?

To learn about the Danish Folk Music scene and to discover new music, as well connecting with other delegates in attendance.

What trends and tendencies do you see in folk music right now?

With regards to work, there’s definitely an upwards trend in the amount of Folk Festivals happening in Europe & UK over the past number of years. It’s particularly evident to me in the regions I work in most, Ireland & UK, where many new folk festivals have emerged alongside the more established festivals that we all know, like Cambridge Folk Fest or Celtic Connections etc.
With regards to music, my own opinion or personal experience would suggest that the acts with songs, vocals and lyrics are the most in demand. Probably those with a slight commercial or pop edge being most en vogue.

What is your impression of the Danish folk scene versus folk music in Ireland? (Differences and similarities)

From what I experienced at Folk Spot during Tønder Festival, I would say that the Danish scene seems very rooted in the traditional folk market. Very similar to the Irish Traditional Folk music scene. I find that the acts that are very traditional are becoming somewhat niche and the acts with a slightly more modern or contemporary style are the ones that are in the most demand right now. 

Did you make some new contacts relevant for your future work?

Yes, I met several very useful new contacts that will be very relevant to future work and I also met several contacts that I knew already but never had the opportunity to meet in person. This was a very enjoyable aspect to the Folk Spot programme and I thought the Folk Spot team managed all of this in a lovely friendly way, for example changing seats during dinner etc. That was really a lot of fun.

What were the best musical experiences during Folk Spot Denmark and Tønder Festival?

Overall, I thought the musicianship in the shows was outstanding, every band without fail were beautiful musicians. I enjoyed that very much. On a personal level, I tend to favour the more commercial or contemporary sounding acts, I suppose because I work in that area really. The acts that stood out to me personally were Sylfide, Azur Azur, Erlend Viken Trio and Optur from the Folk Spot lineup, and from the Tønder Festival programme it was Nikle Creek, Sarah Jarosz, Graham Nash, Jim Lauderdale, Joshua Ray Walker, Kiła and Tarantino Band.