Festive date for Kate

Barnsley folk star Kate Rusby
Barnsley folk star Kate Rusby

Barnsley folk star Kate Rusby is spreading her own home-grown brand of Christmas joy at Sheffield City Hall.

Kate, who was born in Penistone, has long been a fan of Sheffield carols and remembers being taken as a youngster to north Sheffield pubs such as The Royal in Dungworth, not realising she was taking part in such a special local tradition as she sat drinking pop and doing some colouring.

“If we are at home one Sunday, we try and get over there and take our girls. Hopefully the music will seep into them as it did for me.”

She is well known for coming from a musical family. Her parents Ann and Steve, both veteran ceilidh band players, passed on their love of folk music traditions to Kate and their other children.

Her husband, Damien O’Kane, is also a top folk musician. He plays guitars, banjo and sings in the band as well as producing their albums on their own label, Pure Records.

Kate and her band have a formidable touring schedule. They’ve just been out on the road with their latest album, Life in a Paper Boat, and have now jumped ship to do the Christmas rounds.

“We decided to leave two songs from the new album in the gig because we enjoyed playing them so much,” said Kate. “The whole of the rest of it will be the Christmas gig, mainly made up of traditional carols from the South Yorkshire area.

“It’d been a total dream of mine for a few years before I started doing the Christmas tour, which will be celebrating 25 years next year.

“I realised that people outside the area had never heard those carols. We just do the standard ones which we like.

“When we go back to places like Plymouth and Cornwall, people who have been coming for a few years are singing them back to us. It’s amazing to share them around the country and hear everybody singing Sweet Bells, a version of While Shepherds Watched.”

Kate said that’s her favourite of 30 local versions of the carol she has in her collection. She has recorded four versions of the song on her Christmas albums over the years and joked that she’ll try to record them all!

She alternates each year between recording an album of her own songs plus interpretations of traditional tunes and Christmas albums. Next year it’ll be the turn of festive songs again.

Kate said she feels very lucky to have her own studio in countryside near Oxspring, just a couple of miles down the road from home.

“Most studios are in basements and painted black. Ours is bright yellow and there is a big window where I can see the view.

“There’s only a couple of times when I’ve had to shoo the cows away because they are making too much noise!”

Life is pretty busy with live dates and their summer festival Underneath the Stars in Barnsley, so Kate and Damien’s daughters Daisy and Phoebe and even dog Doris get taken to shows and the studio. The girls occasionally appear on stage too.

Their proud mum said: “They are both fantastic singers with great voices on them. Daisy wanted a banjo for her seventh birthday, Damien plays and so does my dad, so she’s got this tiny little one. They both play the piano, it’s great.”

Kate and her band are at the City Hall next Thursday, December 6. Box office: call 0114 2789789 or go to www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk