Salt and Light #19

On Air at Festival Radio and Crossing the Solent!


What Can a Song do to You? is a poem written by Molly Drake, the mother of late folk musician Nick Drake, set to music by The Unthanks who sang at Shrewsbury Folk Festival this bank holiday weekend. Under a starlit sky, the audience was spellbound. “Can it make with each note such an ache in your throat?” asks Molly. Certainly this was my experience listening to Judy Collins on the main stage on the last day of the festival. As she opened her set with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ a woman rushed over to me and asked me if I was ok! She must have seen the tears welling up in my eyes. I later heard that a woman wept for the whole hour of Judy’s performance. A butterfly landed on me, and then flew onto the stage almost kissing Judy’s guitar, as she sang, “Before another summer ends, we can catch the outbound zephyr, we can travel like the wind.” Molly’s poem says; “Every smile, every tear, every pleasure, and a song is the key to the door.” The songs I have heard this weekend have opened new doors; new doors of conversations, worlds, and cultures, dreams and visions. I have been in my element broadcasting for Shrewsbury Folk Festival Radio onsite from a porta cabin every afternoon between 3 and 6pm, playing my favourite records, and with each song recounting a story, a memory, a feeling. I met a young singer from Zimbabwe, who lived close to the Victoria Falls. It was her first time in the UK. She sings and dances in the acapella group, Black Umfolosi, a traditional South African band, specializing in imbube music, and the gumboot dance of the Zulu tradition. The guitarist, Giuliano Moderelli, who performed in Ludlow just last week, with West African kora player Kadialy Kayoute, happened to be playing at the festival with a singer from Zambia, called Namvula! The weekend was full of connections, reconnections, crossing cultures and borders, and weaving golden threads of magical moments, all in a sunburnt field in rural Shropshire!


I’ll be setting sail across the Solent tomorrow to sing for a concert at St Agnes Church in Freshwater, Isle of Wight, a short walk from the poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson’s former house, where he wrote the famous poem, Maud. On the very same day I will also be bridesmaid in another church in Freshwater for a very close friend who has recently moved to the island from Malvern! I’m singing at her wedding – and she will be playing harp at my concert! This was not foreplanned, just an amazing synchronicity, where love and music and the stars align! Local singer-songwriter Beth Brookfield who recently performed on the main stage of the Isle of Wight festival will also be a special guest at the concert. Read the press article here, and for tickets please contact 01983 730930.

Magic always happens on this island. I first met Judy Collins when I performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2009. While speaking with Judy I also met island resident Rebecca Fitzgerald, owner of Tennyson’s former home, Farringford. She introduced me to Vic King, who runs a small music agency on the island, and since then I have returned most years to perform at festivals, in beautiful churches – and at Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s once holiday home, with Judy Collins, the Queen of folk! Much of my song inspiration has come from the bohemian poets and painters that used to frequent Freshwater Bay in the Victorian era. I can’t wait to return, see friends and get some sea air!

Judy Collins, Deborah Rose at Isle of Wight Festival, 2009


Save the date! Broadway is coming to Ludlow! On Saturday October 22nd in partnership with Athena Greek Taverna, there will be an evening of ‘Songs from the Shows’ featuring West End and Opera singer Charlotte Page (Phantom of the Opera/Follies), and other special guests! Martin Riley, who is fresh back from a concert with Alfie Boe will be playing piano – and expect a few surprises too! Arrive from 6pm for a pre-show supper at Athena, before the show starts at 7.30pm in the main chandelier hall at The Mascall Centre. To book tickets please contact 07739319371 or 01584 875023, email me at or pop into Athena in Ludlow.


Thank you to everyone who came to support the second night of RASCALS! in Ludlow. It was a beautiful evening with kora player Kadialy Kayoute and his band – and a great privilege to sing with such gracious, talented musicians from Senegal, and Giuliano from Italy. Kadialy’s music was enchanting, telling stories from the West African Griot repertoire, inspired by his life experience and ancestry. I was invited to sing in Mandinka, a song about Freedom called Kuno, and the band joined me on my songs ‘Anam Cara’ and ‘Basket of Roses.’ I have sang with Kadialy on a number of occasions in Worcestershire and London – he performed with me at my very first album launch over a decade ago, alongside tabla player Mendi Singh. He has performed all over the world, and toured extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The audience were wonderful, and gave a very warm welcome to Kadialy and his musicians. Here is some footage from the concert on Youtube

Thanks to Athena Greek Taverna for the plentiful Greek Mezze before the show which received rave reviews and for the after show party! £100 was also raised for our local MOT garage, who are raising funds to build a women’s hospital in Tanzania. What I love about holding these evenings is the conversations that continue afterwards. My lovely neighbours from Baton Rouge and Florida shared this fascinating article with me, ‘The Monks Who Took the Kora to Church,’ which explores the kora as a sacred practice of worship. “People must pray to God as they are, through their languages and instruments,” says one monk to The New Yorker.


A few weeks ago I met with the Bishop of Tanzania, Bishop James from Masasi, at the Bishop’s Palace in Hereford. I couldn’t believe it when I was gifted a beautiful solid wood footstool, handcrafted from Africa – especially as a few days earlier I had literally prayed for a footstool, metaphorically speaking! But I did use that word in my prayer. I prayed for this because I found myself in a tricky situation and it reminded me of a passage in scripture where we can use challenges as springboards for spiritual growth. I was trying to remember the specific word in the bible when faced with even small challenges, if we ask, God will lift and raise us up. Footstool was the word I was searching for … and a footstool I got! The gold cross that I wear was blessed by a Bishop from Tanzania over 50 years ago. The mother of my late second cousin Deborah Ann Rickard, who I was named after, gave it to me. She was born in Dar Es Salam, Tanzania, meaning haven of peace. She died of leukemia when she was in her thirties, but lived more than a decade longer than doctors had predicted. I love days like this when we are reminded that people we love live on through us.


I held a songwriting workshop with Emily Wingfield, senior lecturer in English Literature, from Birmingham University as a pilot study to take into women’s prisons as part of an arts and rehabilitation programme. Emily approached me with this idea several years ago and it was wonderful for it to be brought to fruition last month, following Emily winning a bid to secure funding for the first stage. 7 women took part and I was amazed and moved by the way our small group responded to Mary Queen of Scots’ poetry and wrote poems and songs to tell Mary’s story or their own. We performed them at a small concert at the end of an intense three day workshop in front of family and friends at The Ludlow Mascall Centre. A variety of pieces ranging from punk to prose, funny poems and ballads were created and performed. We also wrote a group anthem called ‘Thread the Needle’, inspired by Mary’s words and embroideries, and performed it as the finale. Thanks to Sound therapist Roise for our ’Sound Bath’, to hand pan player, Sheena Wieckowicz, and Athena Greek Taverna & Cafe for catering for us throughout. It’s been wonderful to hear and read poems and songs written by participants after the course. It made me vey happy to know that people felt inspired and were continuing to write. Keep them coming!

If you are interested in knowing more about songwriting in prisons and the impact of music and creativity for wellbeing and rehabilitation, here is a link to a couple of short films and an album of songs I have recorded in a men’s prison in Wolverhampton and a women’s prison in Staffordshire.


I attended a service at St Giles Church, in Ludlow a few weeks ago where they were celebrating the works of Beatrix Potter with a Peter Rabbit exhibition. The Reverend spoke about the privilege of reading to children – which felt very relevant to me as I have the pleasure of reading with a young girl with Down Syndrome as part of my weekly job. As well as teaching Suki Marie singing, I now spend time reading books to her – and her to me – from her international library. I was struck by her choice this week – a beautiful book by a German author, ‘Mother Earth and her Children,’ which I recognized from Eva Cassidy’s paintings. When I stayed in Eva’s room in Maryland I was enchanted by these particular paintings and always wondered where they came from. Eva’s mother is from Germany, so now I understand it’s likely she read those books to Eva as a child

The church service was very atmospheric – a few bats flew in, a torrential downpour temporarily stopped the hymns, and the CD player kept skipping, but not when Judy Collins was singing ‘Morning has Broken’! The Reverend referenced a Jewish Doctor, in relation to Judaism and healing on the Sabbath. Following the service the congregation sat outside for tea and cake. A couple of tourists from London arrived to see the Peter Rabbit exhibition, and as we got chatting, a man told me he was a Jewish doctor, and was currently studying the relationship between Judaism and healing on the Sabbath! Coincidence?? Or simply a sign of the Holy Spirit moving through. Great is the mystery of faith!

RECOMMENDATIONS – Festival Highlights!

I’m buzzing from Shrewsbury Folk Festival with lots of new world and folk music to indulge in! Here are a few of the artists I saw, and loved .. many with brand new albums out!

Dig in deep, and check out these website links:




THEA GILMORE (formerly known as! – now ‘Afterlight’):



Peace and love,