Mrs Casey Music (MCM) was formed in 1972 by Steve Heap in response to many requests for assistance with the presentation of Folk music and dance. MCM commenced work as an agency, providing Folk dance bands to the PTA circuit, Morris dancers to village fetes, and singers to folk clubs, festivals and charity concerts. MCM soon developed into Festival organisation, taking over the running of Towersey Village Festival in 1975 (11th year), from its founder, Denis Manners.
Mrs Casey Music continued its work through the 1970s and 1980s as an agent and promoter and developed a reputation for event organisation, working on community arts festivals for Hampshire County Council, City of London and Oxfordshire County Council. The company also organised or assisted with events in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Devon and Cornwall.
Towersey Festival, in its 49th year (2013), is principally a community arts Festival, attracting approximately 10,000 people into a village of 450 residents on the edge of Thame in Oxfordshire over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
The Festival has a Folk/Roots and Acoustic music theme, through an open door policy to other branches of the arts. It attracts a mixed audience of youth, singles and family groups, some for 5 full days, for which the Festival provides camp sites. The Festival also has other visitors, mainly local people (up to 25 miles), for a few hours to a Showground or a full day to the wider Festival.
The associated organisation, The Friends of Towersey Festival is a registered charity whose purpose is to support people in their education in music, dance and song, theatre, arts and crafts. It receives funds from the Festival, individual members who wish to support its aims and donations from a variety of sources.
On invitation from the Barbican Centre in London, Mrs Casey Music organised Folk/Roots music events including two American Music Festivals. These led on to a Folk festival weekend and a new project known as Evolving Tradition encouraging young musicians and singers. These events were staged at the Barbican Centre in support of a record release on the Mrs Casey Records label.
Mrs Casey Music also has a long standing releationship with the South Bank Centre (London) and successfully ran an Autumn concert series for over 15 years, latterly known as Folk in the Fall.
In the 1980s Mrs Casey Music organised festivals for the Rank Organisation, through their Butlins Holiday Centres, over various weekends throughout the year. This contract lasted over 10 years and succesfully brought Folk music, dance and song to a much wider audience.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Mrs Casey Music was involved in either the running of or assisting with the development of a variety of festivals in particular from 1986 to 2004 ran the Sidmouth, Devon, International Festival, taking over from the EDSS as they pulled out of festival management, and re-building the event, finishing at the fiftieth Sidmouth year in 2004 with an audience of about 65,000 people. In the 1990s the well-established Beverley Folk Festival management team needed a year off and invited Mrs Casey to step in to help keep the momentum, which we did, then handing it back to Chris Wade and the Beverley Team from where it has gone on as one of the major Folk Festivals in the UK. In 2010 the Oysterband organising their Big Session Festival along with Rob Challice, Coda Agency, decided to take a year out and invited Mrs Casey Music to step in and take over the event. In 2012 we ran the Big Session Festival at Catton Hall near Burton on Trent in South Derbyshire. This will now be an occasional festival bringing together the Oysterband and friends in celebration of Big Sessions and great music.
For a period of time BBC Radio 2 invited Mrs Casey Music to organise and run the Young Folk Award, which we did successfully based in Stratford upon Avon running workshop weekend sessions and the semi-final leading up to the finals. The Young Folk Award continues to thrive now run in house by Smooth Operations, for BBC Radio 2 and continues to promote and celebrate the amazing talent of young musicians on the scene.
In 1986, the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) decided to pull out of the running of festivals and in particular, the Sidmouth International Folklore Festival. Mrs Casey Music formed a partnership, bought the rights to the festival, re-titled it Sidmouth International Festival and ran it successfully for 18 years until 2004 (Golden Jubilee), attracting over 65,000 visitors each year. Having re-established the event we left it to the new west country organisers and went on to focus on a new countrywide folk development agency - FolkArts England.
FolkArts England gained Regular Funded Organisation (RFO) status from Arts Council England up to March 2009, when FolkArts England management suggested the funding for the following two years should be handed to the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS). The MCM team now concentrates on its festivals branch, The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), without core funds. November each year sees the annual gathering of these festival organisers at the AFO Conference. This event was preceeded by a one day Folk Industry Conference, which FolkArts England had also created and established. The Association of Festival Organisers is currently supported by EFDSS and other sponsors to run the Conference as AFO continues to grow.
Mrs Casey Records
A record label (MCR) to promote in particular new young players in the Folk/Roots field was formed in 1993. Our list includes Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr, Evolving Tradition Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 and rising star Ruth Notman. 2010 brought new dynamic trio Tyde to the label and a new view of English Melodeon Players on the album Banquet of Boxes. We also released a three volume video tutor pack How to the Play English Melodeon by the master of squeeze John Kirkpatrick, now re-released as one DVD. Following the success of John Kirkpatrick, we also have a DVD tutor for Celtic Session Guitar - Alistair Russell's Celtic Session Guitar Tutorial.
MCR continues to support young artists with Ruth Notman's second album 'Life of Lily' and Tyde's second offering 'The Hidden Spoon'. Moving out of the young musicians frame the folk/rock band with a punch, Merry Hell joined the label with 'Blink and you'll miss it'. The band's second release is due in May 2013.
Music, Tickets, Merchandise
The Folk Store was our online shop selling CDs, tickets and merchandise. The one-stop shop for the very best in Folk/Roots and Acoustic music had been a key aim of Mrs Casey Music since the early days. We hope that through our various branches and events we might raise the profile of the UK's Folk/Roots, Traditional and Acoustic music, dance and song scene and proudly involve more people in these island's musical heritage. The Folk Store was successful until the banking crisis of 2010 when new regulations made it difficult to be profitable. This linked to a decline in CD sales and a move to downloads set a trend in motion that resulted in The Folk Store's closure in 2012.
Mrs Casey Music Director and Founder, Steve Heap is also active in the wider arts & events industry. He co-formed The Events Industry Forum (EIF) in 2004 and was a member of the Musicians Union Folk, Roots and Traditional Music Section for 10 years. He also speaks for Folk with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Folk Arts, Voluntary Arts Network, National Campaign for the Arts, National Music Council, PRS for Music and wherever the opportunity arises to raise the profile of this genre.
Mrs Casey Music has its roots in the Folk music of England and is proud to be one of its representatives in the arts world.