Folkestra Information

Age 13-19
Recommended for intermediate to advanced players who are interested in playing in a folk ensemble

Folkestra is a folk band that welcomes the best young players from across the North of England and South of Scotland. We look for young musicians who want to be part of a professional band, and enjoy rehearsing, gigging and recording!

When joining Folkestra you will be part of a friendly and welcoming band led by Ian Stephenson, a renowned folk musician, composer and educator known for his work with bands such as Kan, Baltic Crossing and 422. In the last couple of years Folkestra have recorded an album, toured the North East with Alastair Anderson and Northlands and worked with Hannah James and Amy Thatcher on their own commissioned music. They are often provided the opportunity to work with visiting musicians to Sage Gateshead, performing recently at Magnetic North, and alongside Demon Barbers, Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and Rura. Each year they take on new challenges and perform their music on new stages across the UK. We welcome applications from instrumentalists and singers aged 13-19, no previous experience of folk music required.

Folkestra was founded by Northumbrian musician Kathryn Tickell and has a long history working with some of the finest folk musicians in the country. Folkestra’s repertoire includes traditional music and members’ own compositions.

Our Young Musicians Programme is open to all children and young people, whatever their circumstances. We are keen to encourage applicants from the widest possible range of backgrounds and access a bursary where needed.

Further information on bursaries managed by Sage Gateshead and other Trusts can be found here or you can contact us on

Application and Auditions

The application process for Folkestra takes place between February and April each year, with auditions in May and June.

Candidates will be asked to:

  • prepare two contrasting pieces to perform
  • prepare a short extract on any second instrument / voice if applicable

The audition should last no more than 10 minutes in total.

Please note we are unable to provide an accompanist for your audition. You are welcome to bring your own.


Folkestra rehearse fortnightly on Sunday afternoons during term time at Sage Gateshead and the band enjoys performing in various concerts and festivals throughout the year with a residential weekend at the beginning of the year, and a further residential in February half term which helps to bond the group musically and socially. The schedule for 18/19 can be found in the downloads on the left and by following the link below.

Schedule 18/19
please note dates and times subject to change. Updates will be emailed throughout the season.

To participate fully students must be available for all the dates within each designated project as this is the only way the ensemble can reach the high standards for which it strives. If students are unavailable for any rehearsal or concert it is extremely important that the YMP team are notified at the time a place is offered so that they can plan accordingly to the benefit of all.

Folkestra Course Fees 18/19 £850 (This fee includes all residential costs)

Financial Assistance is available through Sage Gateshead’s David Goldman Programme. Means tested grants are awarded following a panel meeting each July and students can apply for these once a place in Folkestra has been offered following audition. For more information on the David Goldman programme please see the downloads on the left of this page.

Further information on bursaries managed by Sage Gateshead and other Trusts can be found here

(Younger and less advanced students may be interested in our non auditioned folk ensemble, Folkworks Saturdays)