The Living Tradition Magazine – a UK wide voice for traditional music

Who in their right mind would want to start a folk music magazine? Few, if any, folk magazines started out as serious business projects – most evolved out of some other related activity.  For The Living Tradition, now a highly respected, 68-page, bi-monthly, A4 glossy, traditional music magazine, that related activity was in folk club and festival organisation.

Pete and Heather Heywood were involved in the running of the Kilmarnock Folk Club in the seventies and, later, the Girvan Folk Festival.  By the early 1990s, Girvan was at its peak and took a lot of time to organise.  With a responsible position in ‘the day job’ also demanding attention, something had to give for Pete and he felt that he had to either concentrate fully on the day job, or decide to make a complete break.  Girvan Folk Festival was too small to have any full time management, so he set about exploring options to start a folk development agency.

Pete, along with a few others, created ‘Inform’ – called such because they thought that the best way to promote an interest in music was to point people in the direction of where they might have their own live music experience.  The magazine as we know it followed later and its roots lay in the Sandy Bells Broadsheet, ‘the newsletter of the Scottish folk scene’ which ran for a few years under the guidance of Ian Green, John Barrow and journalist Ken Thomson.  For 10 years it served its purpose but eventually Ken, John and Ian called time on their involvement.  For a period it was nurtured by Jack Foley as The Broadsheet.  A later incarnation was The Scottish Folk Gazette, run by Jock Brown and Gill Bowman.  Jock Brown eventually reached a point where he wanted to pass on the baton.  This coincided with Pete’s decision to start the development agency, and he took on the task.  So, The Living Tradition could be described as a newsletter that grew legs.

The Living Tradition developed, and became not just a Scottish magazine, but one focussing on the traditional folk music of all parts of the UK, Ireland and often further afield.  Each issue carries lots of varied articles, news from the folk scene, festival and club listings, and many reviews of CD releases and live events.  Almost 25 years later it is still a vital source of information for those interested in traditional music, and is read by subscribers all over the world.

Pete has passed on the baton himself now – his daughter Fiona and her husband Jim, musicians themselves, now co-ordinate the production of the magazine from their home in Donegal.  They remain firmly committed to continuing the work Pete and Heather started, and to pointing people in the direction of good traditional folk music.

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