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Friends Remembered

The Saltburn Folk Festival has been running since 1997, having previously been based in Redcar from 1968. During those years, many people have enjoyed the festival, helped to organise it, or performed on our stages.

In recent years we have lost two of the absolute stalwarts of the festival. In 2017 it was Vin Garbutt OBE, the festival Patron and frequent headline performer. Then in 2018 - John Taylor, one of the founders and festival organiser, passed. Both are hugely missed.

There is a bench in Saltburn near the Anchor Garden at the top of Saltburn Bank which commemorates some of those we have lost, and we recorded the passing of more of our friends in the 2022 programme.

We began this website page in 2023 to continue the Festival “Friends Remembered” tradition.

John Rankin

11th May 1948 - 27th March 2023

Many of the regular visitors and volunteers to Saltburn Folk Festival will remember the great friendly smile and gentle manner of John Rankin. Some of you will remember his distinctive singing in the Festival’s many singarounds.
John was a supporter of Saltburn Folk Festival for 20 years, first as a steward, then as a Festival guest. With Colin Wilson, he looked after Singer-songwriter Competition until it finished in 2018.

Originally from Louth in Lincolnshire, John spent 10 years in South Africa before settling in Sheffield with his wife, Leslie, and children Ben and Rebekah. He was well known as a singer and collector of traditional English folk songs and was a leading member of the Kiverton Park Folk Club.
We, at Saltburn Folk Festival, will miss him.

Maureen Smith

29 October 2023

Maureen (Mo) Smith was a long time supporter of Saltburn Folk Festival. In 2023, alongside her  partner Joe Nicholson, she hosted one of our opening singarounds as well as the final get together.  Mo passed away in October, only a few weeks after being among friends at Saltburn then at Whitby.  This tribute was written by the Whitby Folk Week organisers:


We are all so deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our lovely friend Maureen Smith, known to the festival as one half of Joe & Mo Nicholson, who have, for well over 30 years, run evening singarounds in Whitby. Most of those years have been in the Rifle Club, but prior to that they were in the Plough. Mo & Joe never missed a night playing host to a full room, singing their hearts out with Mo sporting her signature brandy glass with the famous rubber dolphin. She loved nothing more than to sing and would always encourage anyone to share a song. Party animal to the end, Mo, together with Joe was a regular attender at the Costa del Folk events, both in Ibiza and Portugal, and they were always amongst the last to leave the bar in the early hours. Together they attended the last one in Portugal just a few weeks ago. To say Mo will be missed is an understatement – our love and thoughts go to Joe and to the rest of the family.

Dave Brocksopp

13th Feb 1944 - 1st August 2023

A well known face and voice on the North East folk scene, and a huge supporter of the Saltburn Folk Festival. Dave will be dearly missed by many. 


Many of you will remember Dave from singarounds and as a regular visitor to The Bridge Folk Club in Newcastle, where he would perform his memorable self penned songs (including a particularly famous song about a whippet who wouldn't run!) 

Dave was always willing to share his stories, knowledge and songs with the next generation, and gave massive support to the emerging artists performing on the scene. Our directors, Elinor and Tim, want to give special thanks to Dave for his support, song books, and many a long conversation over a pale ale. 

Keith Leighton

September  2023

Geordie Keith Leighton died in September 2023 at the age of 87. He was a larger than life character, and one of the key figures who supported John Taylor in running Redcar and Saltburn Festivals for decades. Keith was well known in the Teesside folk world as a member of The South Bank Grunters with Jo and Roy Duffield, and also a unique solo performer - once heard, never forgotten! Outside of folk music, he was much loved by his family, fondly remembered by former workmates and respected for his role in restoring Tockett’s Watermill near Guisborough.

The following friends were remembered in our 2022 Souvenir Programme:

Angie Bladen

Angie Bladen was a talented concertina player with a superb singing voice, whose presence enhanced many folk clubs and festivals. Also a prolific knitter and crocheter, no doubt those involved with the Craft Fair will take a moment to remember her.

Derek Elliott

Derek Eliott, a wonderful singer and entertainer who appeared regularly at the festival from the early years in Redcar

Dave Howdon

Dave Howdon, a fine singer, highly regarded across the North East and further afield, Dave was a great supporter of the Saltburn festival.

Glen Osborne

Glen Osborne was a big character, a founder of Grimsby Morris Men and singer of mainly traditional songs. A very familiar face as an MC at our Festival.

Norma Waterson

One of the Folk World’s greats who could be spotted amongst the audience at Saltburn.

Hazel Bolton

Hazel Bolton was well known in Teesside’s folk clubs and a long time supporter of the Festival. She featured in last year’s Virtual Gathering, recording “Sea Coal” in our Saltburn 160 video just a couple of weeks before her death.

Keiran Halpin

A powerful performer communicating strong messages through his songs. Kieran made his home in Germany but was a frequent and welcome festival guest. He recorded over 20 CDs and his songs were covered by many well known artists.

Gill Jones

Gill Jones, festival regular since the days of ceilidhs at the pier ballroom in Redcar and member of Jet Set Border Morris.

Clive Pownceby

One of the Festival’s regular MCs. Described by Pete Coe as “a prince among folk club organisers. As well as singing traditional folk songs, he was a talented drummer who loved and performed all kinds of music.

Do let us know if there are others who should be commemorated here. If you'd like us to include longer tributes or links to any published obituaries, please email

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