There was a time, not long ago, when folk music was about little more than sticking your finger in your ear, donning your best woolly jumper and pining for bygone times.
Not any more. A new era of young, cool, and sexy folk was given a further boost yesterday when channel Five announced it will broadcast a four-part documentary series profiling four of the genre's hottest young stars. As part of Five Culture, a partnership between Five and the Arts Council of England aimed at making viewers "engage with the arts," the channel will explore the influence of Seth Lakeman, Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy and Athena.
The programmes will be narrated by Tom Ravenscroft, son of the late John Peel, and will include contributions from Billy Bragg, Jennifer Saunders, Stewart Lee and Willy Russell. The first programme will be broadcast on Sunday 6 April.
The commission reflects a wider reinvigoration of folk music, personified by artists such as Lakeman, whose album Kitty Jay earned the singer a Mercury Music Award nomination. The revival has been largely driven by BBC Radio 2 and its highly acclaimed annual Folk Awards, which have captivated listeners for the past eight years.
The series will be made by the Proudfoot Company. Its executive producer, Michael Proudfoot, secured access to the artists being profiled. He said yesterday: "The revival of this wonderful genre is a reaction against the synthetic, profit-driven, conveyor-belt style that so typifies commercial music today.
"We want to show that a music which is deeply rooted in tradition, which draws strength from the landscape that produced it, and which conveys a sense of place and belonging, still has massive, and growing, appeal."
The series, which has been made under the My Music brand, will follow the artists through their home regions – Dartmoor, Barnsley, Nottingham and Thessaloniki in Greece, respectively – and examine how geography influences their methods.
"Television about music is collapsing into biography. What I want to show is that, if you get under the skin of these artists and feel the texture of their art, there is a process at work, and a constantly evolving one at that," Mr Proudfoot added.
"Here we have four young artists who have circumnavi-gated the demands of the music industry, who have refused to compromise on their music for commercial purposes. Ironically, that's why they're now having such commercial success."