Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Photo courtesy Steeleye Span

Photo courtesy Steeleye Span

Steeleye Span

The legendary Steeleye Span will perform at St Mary’s in the Castle on Thursday 10th December 2015.  Sean O’Shea talks with band members Liam Genockey, who lives in Hastings, and Maddy Prior about the band’s enduring popularity and some of their career highlights.

Steeleye’s career spans an astounding six decades, having played with The Who, Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention. The Current line-up is: Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp, Liam Genockey, Julian Littman, Jessie May Smart and Andrew Sinclair. They have spent 2015 touring the world, including Belgium, Holland, Spain, Canada and the USA.


Liam could you tell our readers about the origin of the band’s name?

The name Steeleye Span comes from a character in the traditional song Horkstow Grange (which they did not actually record until they released an album by that name in 1998). The song gives an account of a fight between John “Steeleye” Span and John Bowlin, neither of whom are proven to have been real people. Carthy gave Hart the idea to name the band after the song character. When the band discussed names, they decided to decide among the three suggestions “Middlemarch Wait”, “Iyubidin’s Wait”, and “Steeleye Span”. Although there were only five members in the band, six ballots appeared and “Steeleye Span” won out. Only in 1978 did Hart confess that he had voted twice. Terry Woods maintains that the members had agreed that if more than one person departed, the remaining members would select a new name, and he was upset that this did not happen when he and Gay Woods left the band. The liner notes for their first album include thanks to Carthy for the name suggestion.

What have been some of your performing highlights?

My first gig……in 1989 when I first joined. The thing is for me, I have enjoyed every gig that I have played with them……. One of the great highlights is the line up now…..and Jesse May Smart has bought so much life into the band. Also Julian Littman….the band is so great to play with….. Never played a bad gig……so always enjoyed them all.

The line up has changed over the years and people have got on with their individual  projects. How has this affected the bands style and repertoire?

Maddy and myself left the band in 1997. Then we came back for a reunion. Ken Nicholls came into the band after Bob Johnson in 2001….. Ken bought his songs in, which adds another dimension. Then Julian Littman came in and we did the Terry Pratchett project. ‘Winter smith’, is a heavier album. Certain songs on that album resulted in us being asked to do a prog rock festival. Jessie has young blood, she is 28 and the bass player Rick, is 74. Rick is such a great character in the band……he’s a great story teller and raconteur. Andrew Sinclair (electric guitar) is known as Spud……and he is brilliant.

For readers who may be new to the Steeleye experience could you give an idea of the kind of repertoire they can expect during your gig at St Mary’s in the Castle?

There will be current songs from the “Wintersmith Album”. Old songs including, All Around My Hat and an accapella song, Somewhere Along The Road, ( Written by Rick Kemp). Old songs, songs from the first album, and other songs that Maddy has brought in. Also, some new songs, for the next album which we will be recording next year.

How do you account for the enduring popularity of the band?

Sustainability and commitment. We are lovers of music and love performing. Lots of young people are coming to the gigs which is fantastic. Three generations.

The folk tradition seems to be experiencing a re-surgence with some edgy young groups appearing on the scene. How do you view the future of this tradition?

What goes round comes round. A lot of young people are into seventies music. Music does evolve. We have reached the digital stage and where do we go from here? Back to Vinyl…back to where it all started? Stevie Wonder is one of my favourite musicians.

How about your plans for the future personally/the band?

My personal plans for the future….I’m going to Italy in May for a holiday and other visits abroad. We will be recording this year and Steeleye will go on as long as we can.

Turning to you Maddy, how does it feel to be regarded as a folk diva or icon?

As everyone says who’s ever been accused of being a diva…I’m a really nice person, actually….

What have been some of your performing highlights?

I think the biggest gig Steeleye has done was in the LA Forum with Jethro Tull in the early seventies…we did 5 nights…it was a splendid tour altogether…although I honestly have enjoyed lots of tours over the years…

You performed to a packed house at St Mary’s in the Castle last Christmas with The Carnival Band’s show Carols & Capers, what’s it like coming back to Hastings?

With Hastings being the home of Liam, and Peter Knight in the past, it always has a special vibe…good to be back.


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  • Thurs 10th Dec. St Mary’s in the Castle, 7 Pelham Crescent, Hastings, Sussex TN34 3AC. Doors: 7.30pm Tickets, £19.50- £24.50 Ticket Office:




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Posted 09:49 Thursday, Nov 26, 2015 In: Music & Sound,SOS

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