The good, the bad and The Rochdale Cowboy
Folk musician, storyteller, author and radio presenter, the often overlooked Mike Harding is back with a new tour. He talks to Chris Bond.
IT’S interesting that multitalented chaps like Stephen Fry and Simon Callow are referred to in gushing terms as “renaissance” men, while others are regarded, less flatteringly, as jacks of all trades.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics, or perhaps it’s old fashioned snobbery, but Mike Harding’s name doesn’t often find itself sharing a sentence with the word “renaissance”.
Which is a shame, because his talents cover just as broad a palette as those of Messrs Fry and Callow.
With the exception of films, Harding has turned his creative hand to just about everything. As a folk musician for more than 40 years he has toured all over the world and worked with the likes of George Melly and Ralph Mctell, while his weekly BBC Radio 2 show has become essential listening for fans of folk, roots and acoustic music.
He has written poetry, short stories, travel, humour and children’s books and won several awards including the Signal Prize For Children’s Literature. Most people though probably know him for his music and he has just started his first major tour in more than 15 years.
That’s a long hiatus, especially for someone whose tour schedule at one time could have rivalled Bob Dylan’s.
“I ended up doing lots of other things,” he says. “I went trekking in India, Pakistan and Nepal and I was living out of my rucksack for three months. I’d been touring all my working life but there was so much going on I didn’t have the time so I put it on the back burner and it went cold.” Then last year a friend asked him to play the Ingleton Folk Festival, where he went down well and he followed this up with a couple of small gigs, including one at the Georgian Theatre, in Richmond.
“I walked out on stage and the wave of human warmth that greeted me was really moving. It wasn’t just clapping, it was something else. I’m not saying it was spiritual but there was a genuine human connection and appreciation as I stepped out into the footlights.”
His new tour – Me, a guitar and some more daft stuff – is heading across the country with shows in Doncaster, Huddersfield, Leeds, Wakefield and Scarborough