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Stockton folk group The Young'uns have come a long way from being bar room belchers

The festival favourites are in the running for Britain's best Folk Group as their new album is launched

The Young'uns who are launching their album at Sage Gateshead in April
The Young'uns who are launching their album at Sage Gateshead in April

Folk group The Young’uns have come a long way since 2004 when they took their first tentative steps into folk singing – and got their name – at the Stockton Folk Club.

Members David Eagle, Michael Hughes and Sean Cooney were regulars at The Sun Inn where it was held.

“People just started singing and everyone knew the words and joined in,” recalls Michael.

David adds: “Then someone said ‘we’ve got some young uns here, give us a song’. We only knew the chorus of a shanty, Roll The Old Chariot, so we sang that and everybody else sang the verses. It was like folk in reverse.”

They were given their first gig the following year by Ron Angel of the well- known local folk group the Teesside Fettlers and they were away.

They drew inspiration from the Wilson Family, a group of five brothers from Billingham who have been performing for over 40 years.

David says: “They go on stage with a couple of pints, have some banter with the crowd – they often talk more than they sing – then launch into amazing five-part harmonies, unaccompanied, singing about Teesside and its history.”

Michael and Sean had known each other since primary school in Stockton and were introduced to David, who went to school in Middlesbrough, via a mutual friend. They hit it off.

“We didn’t just burst into spontaneous song,” says David. However, they shared an interest in the folk tradition of songs that tell stories of everyday life.

In 2013, after eight years of mixing gigs with their day jobs, they went full-time and have been gaining the plaudits and new fans ever since.

They have become festival favourites – they were on Billy Bragg’s ‘Big Bill’s Radical line-up’ at Glastonbury last year – and have toured the world.

They are as known for their banter between songs as the quality of their singing itself.

David, in particular, if he were to choose another career, could probably do well as a stand-up comedian.

Their sets include traditional folk and their own songs, largely penned by Sean, from the waspish You Won’t Find Me on Benefits Street to the moving Streets of Lahore.

The first bridles against the stereotyping of their beloved home town by TV crews and the media while the second is about so-called honour killings.

Sean isn’t present at the interview. “He’s away saving the world,” quips David. “Him and Russell Brand.”

They are coming to the end of a tour with The Unthanks, the latest stage of a 10-year career from ‘bar room belchers’ of songs to headliners in their own right.

They have their own tour coming up and have been nominated in the best group category in the Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Meanwhile they have a new album out, Another Man’s Ground, which includes the Billy Bragg song Between The Wars, which was inspired by the miners’ strike.

David says: “It’s still relevant today, with lines like ‘And I’ll give my consent to any government/ That does not deny a man a living wage’.”

Michael adds: “When we’ve performed it we’ve had people tweeting they’ve been moved to tears.”

They launch the album at Sage Gateshead on April 25, three days after the Folk Award winners are announced. It could be quite a night.

For tickets tel. 0191 4434666 or visit www.sagegateshead.com

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