Francis | Bennett | Hartley

Tunes, steps (and the occasional song) from the Lake District and beyond

Photo of Francis | Bennett | Hartley

Carolyn Francis, Scott Hartley and Toby Bennett share a passion for the music and step dance of Lakeland. Fiddle, step dance, border pipes, song: three artists steeped in Lakeland traditions.

Tight musical integration, intimate atmosphere and lively rhythms characterise this exciting new venture.

Carolyn has been researching and playing Lakeland tunes since 1997, and Lakeland born and bred Scott has been playing with her since 2005 when he joined the “Lakeland Fiddlers” community fiddle band, at the age of 16. Playing together ever since, they have developed a deep mutual understanding revealed in the way in which they weave in, out and through the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of the local tunes.

Westmorland Clog Dance Champion, Toby Bennett, has been step dancing since the 1980s. He met Scott and Carolyn separately and, finding that their dynamic playing brought an extra dimension to his interpretation of the Lakeland steps, has since performed widely with each of them, but rarely with both.

In 2016 Carolyn, Scott and Toby decided to explore working together as a trio featuring various combinations of fiddle, step dance, border pipes and song. That summer they spent some time in an ancient barn in the Lakes exploring directions for their collaboration. Their material is founded on tunes, steps and the occasional song collected in Cumbria, alongside other traditional material and new tunes and steps composed/choreographed by Carolyn and Toby.

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Carolyn Francis (fiddle and border pipes)

Carolyn is probably Cumbria and North Lancashire’s most well-known and respected fiddle player. In 1997 Carolyn began delving into manuscripts left by the Lakeland fiddle players of the 18th and 19th century in order to provide inspiration, and a sense of place, for her teaching and performance. She is founder of the twenty-strong ‘Lakeland Fiddlers’ community band which formed in May 2000. She has composed a number of tunes which have entered the tradition and are now widely played locally.

Carolyn has made a living from the fiddle since 1997, staying rooted in the area and developing various creative collaborations with theatre companies, musicians, and storytellers. She plays regularly with Striding Edge, the Cumbrian-rooted ceilidh Band, which will soon reach its 1000th gig in over 20 years touring.

Carolyn is currently focussing on developing methods of teaching and handing down the tradition to young people, and works with over 100 school children every week, mainly in Barrow and Carlisle.

Scott Hartley (fiddle and occasional vocals)

Cumbrian native, Scott Hartley, learnt the fiddle from the man living across the street, and old tales and songs from his grandfather. He joined Carolyn Francis’ Lakeland Fiddlers group in 2005 and developed his fiddle playing under the mentorship of its leader Carolyn Francis. He went on to study on the acclaimed traditional music program at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne where he was able to explore other styles and traditions whilst keeping the Lakeland tradition at the heart of his playing; he graduated with first class honours in the summer of 2012. Now a primary school teacher in London, Scott continues to perform both as a solo artist and with step dancer Toby Bennett.