The Scotsman Sessions #4: Karine Polwart

For almost 20 years, Karine Polwart has been a key figure on the Scottish traditional music scene; award-winning songwriter, musician, storyteller, and even a published essayist. In 2016, though, she turned her hand to the creation of her first solo theatre show, co-produced with the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh for that year’s Edinburgh International Festival. Wind Resistance – which was scheduled to return to the Lyceum stage this week, before all performances were cancelled – is a magnificent cycle of songs co-written by Polwart with the composer and sound designer Pippa Murphy, and linked by a narrative that resonates with a series of linked themes so profound, and so vital to the times we live in, that it often brings audience members to tears.

Karine Polwart lives in the Midlothian village of Pathhead, and loves the local landscape – including Fala moor, where she once lived in an old farm cottage – with a rare combination of curiosity, passion and profound knowledge. Wind Resistance tells the story of Will and Roberta Syme, the long-dead parents of Polwart’s old Fala neighbour Molly Kristensen; a couple who married just after the First World War, when Will returned to Fala, and whose marriage ended less than a year later with Roberta’s tragic death in childbirth.

Around this spine of narrative, though, Polwart weaves a whole range of other themes and stories, ranging from the difficult birth of her own first child, to her constant reflection on the power and beauty of the moor’s natural environment and wildlife, mirrored in this short video. Her narrative and songs encompass thoughts about war and peace, pain and healing, disco-dancing and football, and the often untold stories of women’s reproductive lives; when Polwart took this show to the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2017, women queued to talk to her afterwards about mothers, aunts and sisters long since lost in childbirth, and often mourned only in hushed whispers, because of the circumstances of their deaths.

Time and again, though, the imagery of Wind Resistance returns to our increasingly precarious relationship with the natural world that still lies so close to us, in this case just 15 miles south of Scotland’s capital city; and in particular to the idea of the skein of geese flying over Polwart’s house, on their autumn return to Fala from the north. For Polwart, the almost miraculous co-ordinated power of their flight is a defining image of the interdependence that binds human beings together in community, and also binds us into the natural world. There is an irony in the cancellation of performances of Wind Resistance because of a crisis that will place such untold pressure on the National Health Service, to which Polwart knows she – and all of us – owe so much. Yet there’s also a rich fulfilment of this show’s purpose; to remind us that we cannot and do not live alone; and that the institutions which best reflect our deep connection to the rest of humanity, are the ones which will save our lives.

The album of the show, A Pocket Of Wind Resistance, is available for purchase online at Until the end of June 2020, all income from digital sales of the album will be used to support Midlothian Food Bank. Karine Polwart is also currently supporting the Help Musicians UK fund, at

Listen to Karine’s session at: The Scotsman Sessions #4: Karine Polwart


The Hobbledehoy love Karine Polwart’s music

SAY Award 2018 Shows Support for Folk Music

Earlier this month I received a press release containing the nominations for a well-established UK-based Independent Music Awards which claimed to span the full spectrum of genres. Disappointingly, although the list of names was impressive there was a distinct absence of folk music.Then, along came the Scottish Album of the Year Award Longlist…a completely different story…With previous Longlist titles featuring hip-hop, rock, alternative, traditional, folk, classical, dubstep, reggae, pop and jazz, The SAY Award accommodates Scottish music in all its influential, inspiring and idiosyncratic glory. From mainstream platinum sellers to self-released left-field outriders, The SAY Award illuminates Scotland’s music scene with the ambition, credibility and commitment it so richly deserves.

The longlist includes 20 albums of which nearly a quarter are by artists that were covered here on Folk Radio. A sign that folk music is not only thriving well in Scotland but that Scottish Music Industry Association which produces the award is actively supporting the scene – how it should be. It’s a shame other similar awards can’t follow suit and broaden their music coverage.

The SAY Award is now in its seventh year and is Scotland’s most popular and prestigious music prize. The winning artist will pick up a £20,000 prize – provided by long-term Award partner Creative Scotland – with the nine runners-up each receiving £1,000.

Karine Polwart with Pippa Murphy — A Pocket of Wind Resistance (Hudson Records)

A previous Artist of the Month (Review | Interview). “A Pocket Of Wind Resistance isn’t so much a collection of songs, it’s theatre for the ears, but it surpasses radio drama. All the tension, the joy, the craft that’s part of the immersive experience of going to the theatre is achieved without the visual elements. Karine Polwart‘s music and poetry, with Pippa Murphy‘s exquisite settings, haven’t replicated the theatre production; it has brought Wind Resistance to a wider [ . . . ]

Continue at FRUK: SAY Award 2018 Shows Support for Folk Music | Folk Radio UK

Karine Polwart, Folk Singer of the Year


Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart won one of the top prizes at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Polwart was named Folk Singer of the Year at the ceremony in Belfast, which was presented by Radio 2 Folk Show host Mark Radcliffe and Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis.

Other winners included the Armagh Pipers Club, who were given The Good Tradition Award to recognise their contribution to the preservation, dissemination and progression of traditional music over more than 50 years and Lankum, who won best group.



Read more:

Karine Polwart: “I get filled up by space”

by Johnny Foreigner

I recently contacted Karine Polwart, requesting the Scot singer/songwriter bring her brilliant Wind Resistance to Boston or New York. Karine politely replied she is too busy being a mom, as well as performing in the UK, for a US tour. This means Johnny Foreigner must plan his return to Glasgow, perhaps for the 2018 Celtic Connections festival, followed by a chilly ramble in the Scottish highlands. I need to get “filled up with space.”

Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance

Having performed sell-out runs at Edinburgh International Festival 2016 and Celtic Connections 2017, Wind Resistance returns to The Lyceum, this time on the main stage.

★★★★★ ‘a stunning exploration of the myths and stories of the land around us’ The Telegraph

★★★★★ ‘Blissful meditation on nature from folk musician Karine Polwart’ The List

Find out more: #WindResistance @lyceumtheatre