JOANNA Davis speaks to Heidi Tidow of folk duo O’Hooley and Tidow, who are appearing at the Swanage Folk Festival.

Their album The Hum has received rave reviews, was named MOJO folk album of the month and the Yorkshire duo were singled out as the best act at the Cambridge Folk Festival by The Guardian.

Their star has risen so high that they were finalists in the Best Duo category of last year’s Radio 2 Folk awards. 

O’HOOLEY and Tidow have really shaken up the world of folk music.

The pair, Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, who are in a civil partnership, are like a breath of fresh air in the traditional male bastion of folk.

Unusually, their sound incorporates piano and their new album The Hum contains political commentary including a song about the jailing of Russian punk rock potest group Pussy Riot.

Heidi said: “It’s probably our least personal album and it’s our most political album.

“We felt that we had to write an album about the times we’re living in.

“I’d like to see more artists being true to themselves, playing and singing from the heart – that’s the sort of music I want to listen to.

“I like listening to something that’s heartfelt. I’d like to see a few more singers writing about these things like protest musicians used to do.”

The couple live in Golcar, a village just above the Colne Valley on the outskirts of Huddersfield.

The stunning surroundings are inspirational for songwriting, Heidi says.

“We get an idea about songs from walks on the Yorkshire Moors - it gives us a chance to look at different perspectives and do a lot of thinking.

“We’re really lucky with where we live, it’s such a rugged, beautiful area and you can’t see any civilisation.”

They’re so at ease with their surroundings that they even named their album after a low buzzing noise in their house – the result of faulty wiring.

Heidi says a lot of work has gone into getting to where O’Hooley and Tidow is today, having recorded their first album in 2010.

“It has been difficult for us to get off the ground.

“Until people have heard us they may have had some pre-judgement. Some people think we’re going to be militant feminists.

“I hope that we’ve won people over in the music scene. As women we have to work twice as hard.

“It’s a very friendly scene and we all know each other.”

O’Hooley and Tidow recently played at the Cambridge Folk Festival, where they enjoyed watching Sinead O’Connor.

“She was amazing and we love how enigmatic she is,” Heidi said.

They are now writing more material and promoting The Hum ahead of a break in Portugal next month.

Proof that folk artists mix in the same circles, Heidi and Belinda have got a busy weekend ahead when they play at the Swanage Folk Festival. They’ll be playing on the Friday night and on Sunday evening in St Mary’s Church, Swanage.

In between, they’ll be off to Oxford for fellow folkie Jackie Oates’ wedding.

The duo should be at home performing in a church, having recorded The Hum in a church.

Heidi said: “Churches really suit our music. Belinda plays piano and we both sing, I think singing in the church helps to bring out our harmonies.

“The church seems to create a special atmosphere.”


  • SWANAGE Folk Festival runs from September 5 to 7. The festival will see the resort come alive with Morris dancers and folk music lovers. 

There will be a Festival Village featuring craft and trade stalls.

Energetic festival goers can dance the Saturday night away at a ceilidh, with a top quality caller.

The line-up includes The Jurassics, Blackbeard’s Tea Party, the Urban Folk Quartet, the Lucy Ward Band, Gilmore & Roberts and Johnny Coppin & Mike Silver.