8 June 1967|
Walsall, West Midlands, England
|Genres||Traditional, folk, Celtic|
|Instruments||Northumbrian smallpipes, fiddle|
|Labels||Black Crow, Park, Resilient|
Kathryn Tickell was born in Walsall, in the West Midlands, to parents who originated from Northumberland and who moved back there with the family when Kathryn was seven. Her paternal grandfather played accordion, fiddle, and organ. Her father, Mike Tickell, sang and her mother played the concertina. Her first instrument was piano when she was six. A year later, she picked up a set of Northumbrian smallpipes brought home by her father, who intended them for someone else. Frustrated by fiddle and piano, she learned that the pipes rewarded her effort. She was inspired by older musicians such as Willy Taylor, Will Atkinson, Joe Hutton, and Billy Pigg.
At thirteen, she had gained a reputation from performing in festivals and winning pipe contests. When she was seventeen, she released her first album, On Kielder Side (Saydisc, 1984), which she recorded at her parents' house. During the same year, she was named Official Piper to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, an office that had been vacant for 150 years. She formed the Kathryn Tickell Band, with Karen Tweed on accordion, bass, and guitar, and released the band's first album in 1991 on Black Crow Records. Later, the band comprised Peter Tickell on fiddle, Julian Sutton on melodeon, and Joss Clapp on guitar. In 2001, the Kathryn Tickell Band was the first band to play traditional folk music at the Promenade Concerts in London.
She formed Kathyrn Tickell and the Side, with Ruth Wall on Celtic harp, Louisa Tuck on cello, and Amy Thatcher on accordion. The group plays a combination of folk and classical music.
She recorded with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra when it was led by Simon Jeffes. She met Jeffes while she was in her teens, and he wrote the song "Organum" for her. After Jeffes's death, she played with the Orchestra again over a decade later when it was run by his son, Arthur.
Tickell has also recorded with The Chieftains, The Boys of the Lough, Jimmy Nail, Linda Thompson, Alan Parsons, and Andy Sheppard. She has performed live with Sting, who is also from Newcastle upon Tyne, and has recorded with him on his albums The Soul Cages (1991), Ten Summoner's Tales (1993), Mercury Falling (1996), Brand New Day, (1999), If on a Winter's Night (2009), and The Last Ship (2013).
Two ex-members of the North East England traditional music group the High Level Ranters have appeared on her albums: Tom Gilfellon on On Kielder Side and Alistair Anderson on Borderlands (1986). The latter album included to a tribute to the Wark football team. Several other pipers have appeared on her albums: Troy Donockley on Debatable Lands, Patrick Molard on The Gathering and Martyn Bennett on Borderlands. Debatable Lands included "Our Kate", a composition by Kathryn Tickell dedicated to Catherine Cookson.
In 1987, the early part of her career was chronicled in The Long Tradition, a TV documentary. Kathryn Tickell's Northumbria, another documentary, appeared in 2006. In 1997, Tickell founded the Young Musicians Fund of the Tyne and Wear Foundation to provide money to young people in northeastern England who wanted to learn music. She founded the Festival of the North East and from 2009-2013 was the artistic director of Folkworks.