ROWAN RHEINGANS is a fiddle player, banjoist and songwriter widely regarded as one of the foremost innovators in folk music today. Best known for her work with acclaimed bands Lady Maisery, The Rheingans Sisters and Songs of Separation, Rowan has won two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and is a five-times nominee.

Tomorrow night Rowan will premiere her ambitious and deeply personal one-woman show Dispatches on the Red Dress at The Witham in Barnard Castle.

An intimate and adventurous exploration of memory, identity, joy, sorrow, trauma-recovery, war and waltzes, Dispatches on the Red Dress tells the true story of Rowan's German grandmother's youth in 1940's Nazi Germany.

With genre-melding fluidity, Rowan weaves immersive storytelling around 10 new songs (Rowan won 'Best Original Track’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2016 for her song Mackerel) performed live with fiddle, banjo, guitar and subtly inventive use of pre-recorded sounds.

Already celebrated by music critics as a songwriter “with a fine grasp of the delicate balance of joy and pain that makes us human" (Folk Radio UK), Dispatches on the Red Dress takes Rowan’s songwriting and gift as a mesmerizing performer to another level: this is adventurous and necessary new writing that asks fundamental and troubling questions with her characteristically ‘deep emotional charge’ (Louder Than War).

At a time of deeply felt political tensions, with the rise of racism in our communities and a new nationalistic fervor gaining pace across Europe, Dispatches on the Red Dress is a highly resonant and much needed historic provocation for our current political and social climate.

Slowly revealing what is at once a warm family story and a troubling elegy on the modern human condition, Rowan explores how hope for the future may be found in the very darkest pockets of our history.

Having taken over two years to write it, Rowan describes how: “this is not just a memoir or a show about my grandparents, or even a show about history or war… I’ve been writing this material very much directly from my fears and worries about the world now. I think of it as a poetic piece or a musical essay, about how horror and beauty co-exist and about the dangers of forgetting or covering-up ‘dark history’.

With my lineage coming from both Germany and Britain, I have a lot of that! I hope sharing this particular story will spur conversations about how we can resist the rise of the far right in constructive, supportive, creative ways…”

As well as being a heartfelt yet unflinching anti-war and anti-fascist statement, the show is also an uplifting celebration of small acts of every-day resistance, speaking directly to the human capabilities of transformation and change. It is Rowan’s most courageous, most political and most personal work to date.

Developed in collaboration with Liam Hurley (Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance) the intimacy of a folk concert meets the ancient traditions of storytelling and textures of contemporary theatre in a troubling, tender and powerful one-woman show.

Rowan’s debut solo album, The Lines We Draw Together is due for release in late Summer 2019.

Not one to simply repeat but choosing instead to always innovate and challenge herself and her listeners, the forthcoming record is best thought of as a companion to the live show.

Produced by Andy Bell (Jon Boden, Karine Polwart) it is an experimental and daring debut that characteristically pushes the boundaries of genre.

Featuring Rowan in cathartic collaborations with indy, jazz, classical and electronic musicians, including bassist Michele Stoddart (The Magic Numbers) and clarinetist Jack McNeill (Propellor), it once again cements Rowan’s reputation as a relentlessly creative and seemingly unstoppable polymath.

  • Rowan Rheingans, The Whitham, Barnard Castle, Friday, June 7. Box Office: 01833 631107. Rowan is also appearing at The Sage, Gateshead on Wednesday, June 12. Go to for more information and tickets.