About Fay Hield

A singer who seems to have been born knowing how to carry a tune but with the rarer gift of knowing how to go straight to the heart of a song.

Fay’s first two solo albums, Looking Glass (2010) and Orfeo (2012), were released by prestigious folk label Topic Records. They won Fay many accolades as well as a nomination for the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.  Fay’s choice of material and the delivery of it, reflect a rare sensitivity and appreciation of the tradition whilst remaining naturalistic and highly distinctive.

‘Unadorned and quite exquisite’ * * * * ~ Uncut Magazine
‘Powerful Material’ * * * * * ~ Songlines
‘Hats off, thoroughly conquered, vibrant and impresses.’ * * * * ~ The Telegraph

Where Looking Glass showcased her rich and unadorned voice, Orfeo saw Fay confidently fronting a stellar supporting cast: The Hurricane Party. Consisting of some of the finest folk musicians working today;  Andy Cutting (button accordions, melodeon), Rob Harbron (English Concertina, fiddle, vocals), Sam Sweeney (fiddle, viola, cello, nyckelharpa, vocals) and Roger Wilson (fiddle, guitar, mandolin and vocals). Plus special guests Jon Boden and Martin Simpson.

As well as her burgeoning performance career, Fay is also an academic, lecturing in Music at the University of Sheffield, specializing in the role folk music plays in the construction of communities. With her unique combination of performance and academic talents, it was perhaps inevitable that she would take the initiative with The Full English, a groundbreaking project sponsored by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. For the first time  many of the finest early 20th century folksong collections can be found in the most comprehensive searchable database of British folk songs, tunes, dances and customs in the world. To mark the launch of the project, Fay assembled The Full English Band, pulling together half a dozen of the top talents on the English folk music circuit for an evening of songs and tunes drawn from these unique collections. They include legendary players Seth Lakeman, Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and double bassist Ben Nicholls. This super group toured for 2 years including many major festivals and released a self-titled album, again on Topic Records in 2013, winning Best Group and Best Album at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and earning Fay a nomination for Folk Singer of the Year.

‘The great folk collectors honoured in The Full English would be singing rather than spinning in their graves at this fine album.’ * * * * ~The Telegraph
‘Foot-stomping, spirit-lifting warmth ensue….All human life is here.’ * * * * ~ The Daily Mirror

Following the success of The Full English, Fay moves forward as a leading proponent of traditional songs as she prepares to release a new solo album, “Old Adam”. 

This fresh and original exploration of how we use songs, stories and music to understand what it means to be human combines vision, inspiration, dedication and outstanding musicianship to draw an act of tender poignancy. 

Her longstanding band, The Hurricane Party, expands to include members of The Full English, including fiddle, concertina, banjo, guitar, percussion and bass. At times sparse and contemplative, at times with a festival stomp, the music is captivating and engaging with plenty of choruses and vibrant interaction with the audience.

Bringing new arrangements to old songs, Fay continues in her exploration of the incredible repertoire that is the English tradition pushing at the boundaries of our engagement with music.


Alongside performing, Fay is lecturer in Ethnomusicology and Music Management at the University of Sheffield. She teaches a range of undergraduate modules including ‘Music in the Community’, ‘Music Business’, ‘Ethnomusicology’ and ‘Music of the World’. She is Director of the Music Management MA and was instrumental in developing a new Distance Learning MA in Traditional Music of the British Isles. Fay also supervises PhD students including Becky Dellow’s study on 18th Century Southern English Fiddle Manuscripts.

If you are interested in researching at Masters or PhD level around traditional musics or music in the community please get in touch and explore your ideas: f.hield@shef.ac.uk

Research Interests
Musical Communities
Folk Singing Style
Composition within Tradition
Audience and Participant Development through Applied Research

Current Research Projects

Transmitting Musical Heritage: Co-produced research involving three community music groups exploring how they pass on tradition: musicalheritage.group.shef.ac.uk

Tradition in Performance: Investigating notions of tradition, composition and the editing role of the artist. Explored through The Full English, Musical Inspiration and a new project involving ‘heritage tourism’.

Folk Music Communities: Explorations of the relationships developed through the social and musical networks of the folk scene.

Audience and Participation Development: Applied research with external partners, Soundpost Community Network.

Past Projects

In conjunction with Inspiration & Co. and the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind, Fay worked with Sheffield-based producer Andy Bell and musician and folk singer Jon Boden to create a piece of music, which in her words would, “get us thinking about musical inspiration in a new way [and] communicate the way musicians think through making a musical piece…

About The Hurricane Party

Fay has played with Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron since touring her first solo album, Looking Glass.  The trio line up expanded for Orfeo in 2012 to include Andy Cutting and Roger Wilson and, for Old Adam in 2016, Ben Nicholls and Toby Kearney have been added to the mix. All the musicians sing and play a variety of instruments and they’re involved for their approach to music-making and flare for bouncing off each other as much as for what they play. Fay’s partner Jon Boden also features on the albums, and there are guest appearances from Martin Simpson.  The Hurricane Party is a movable feast, seeking to reinvigorate old songs and then take them out to reach new ears.