The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble: Sleepy Maggie & Summer Tour 2018

Conservatoire Folk Ensemble

Summer Tour 2018

New release, Sleepy Maggie, out 10 June 2018

It’s been a heady 12 months for The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble. Their acclaimed studio album, Painted, racked up a string of jaw-dropping reviews, and the collective also guested on Fairport Convention’s acclaimed 50:50@50 album.

Meanwhile, in their hometown of Birmingham the full band stunned commuters at Britain’s busiest railway station with a pop-up gig, and they wowed audiences at one of the biggest St Patrick’s Day celebrations outside of Ireland – for the second consecutive year.

Now the stage-shaking 50-plus ensemble is heading out for their annual summer tour (which includes the fifth edition of their very own festival, Power Folk), and are set to release a remarkable new track, Sleepy Maggie.

A four-and-a-half-minute instrumental, Sleepy Maggie perfectly encapsulates the ensemble’s richly layered and powerful sound. With sweeping strings, rolling percussion, tight brass, a fleeting guitar solo, and an unexpected Eastern vocal incursion, it’s a dramatic track, both muscular and delicate, oozing global influences.

Says band leader Joe Broughton: “Sleepy Maggie is a traditional tune which we’ve deconstructed and rearranged in typical ensemble fashion, pulling in ideas from various members of the ensemble to create something that sounds very very different from versions you might have heard before. The roots of the tune remain – which you can hear in the fiddles at the beginning – but the new arrangement heads off to some interesting and surprising places.

“It’s supposed to be deliciously over the top!”

The deconstruction continues with a series of surprising remixes and re-imaginings by various members of the ensemble that pushes Sleepy Maggie further into new musical territories.

“The idea of remixing the track is very much in keeping with the group’s approach to making music, of using what could be a straight-forward melody as the basis for a tune and seeing how that can be developed, or pushed, to create something that still acknowledges the original source, but is somehow transformed into something new and exciting,” Joe adds.

Formed in 1997 by fiddle player and arranger Joe (The Urban Folk Quartet, The Albion Band, Joss Stone), The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble’s energetic live sets are a sight to behold, featuring a 15-piece horn section, four cello players, five percussionists and four electric guitarists, plus fiddles, flutes, clarinets, euphonium, tuba, and accordion! They also all sing too.

Though rooted in traditional folk tunes, the personal influences and interests of each member shapes the set-list, pulling in everything from full-on rock grooves, to funk, jazz, hip-hop and reggae, to sounds from Eastern Europe and Asia. It’s a sound they’ve dubbed ‘Power Folk’.

In their 21 years, the band – based at the prestigious Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – have packed out the Royal Albert Hall, and played some of the biggest festivals in the UK.

2018 sees the ensemble return to Kendal Calling (with The Libertines and Run DMC) and Green Man (with The War On Drugs and Fleet Foxes), as well as bring together their full line-up for their one-day mini-festival, Power Folk 5 (10 June, Birmingham).

Says Joe: “Our main aim is to send people home a little happier than when they arrived.”

Sleepy Maggie is released on 10 June 2018 (CD, digital download, streaming via SAE Records), and the band tour from May through to July. For more information see:


Wednesday 23 May 2018
Folly Arts Theatre, Hereford College of Arts, Hereford HR1 1LT

Thursday 24 May 2018
Leek Arts Festival, Foxlowe Arts Centre, Market Place, Leek ST13 6AD
01538 386112

Saturday 26 May 2018
Huntingdon Hall, Crowngate, Worcester WR1 3LD
01905 611 427
£17.50 (£16)

Thursday 31 May 2018
Alexander’s, Rufus Court, Chester CH1 2JW
01244 401 402
£6.60 (£6)

Friday 1 June 2018
Forest Arts Centre, Old Milton Road, New Milton, Hampshire BH25 6DS
01425 619983
£15/ £14

Saturday 2 June 2018
Sutton Village Hall, 1A High Street, Sutton, Bedfordshire SG19 2NE

Friday 8 June 2018
The Bristol Folk House, 40A Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JG
0117 926 2987
£10.50/ £12.50

Sunday 10 June 2018
Power Folk 5
With guests The Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar Trio, Will Pound, Threaded, Punch The Sky, Gathering Tides, and more.
The Spotted Dog, 104 Warwick Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0NH
£15 (VIP £30)
From 3pm (doors 2pm; CFE on stage 6.30pm)

Sunday 29 July 2018
Kendal Calling Festival, Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe (nr Penrith), Cumbria CA10 2DY

Sunday 19 August 2018
Green Man Festival, nr Crickhowell, Powys, Wales NP8 1LP
£180-£225 (adult)

For more information, see:

Twitter: @Thefolkensemble



  • Members of the ensemble are available for selected interviews. Contact us for more information, requests, and media images.