The race is on to win the title of folk capital of England, says Andrew Cowen and Birmingham is out in front.

In an article in Friday's Guardian, Manchester was declared England's new folk capital. While that particular newspaper regularly champions the Third City as the centre of the cultural universe, I normally dismiss it as regional prejudice.

On this occasion, however, I really must take exception.

Manchester has always been a magpie city, taking a prevailing trend and talking it up into its own creation.

Birmingham, on the other hand, is far more modest in its achievements and consequently gets overlooked.

However, the city can boast the country's first folk club at the Station near the Old Rep, started by Ian Campbell and venues like the Mac, the Red Lion and Ceol Castle regularly host nights of fantastic music.

We have our own new talent emerging in the acoustic clubs locally and nationally who draw inspiration from folk. Shady Bard, Kilbriege and Mickey Greaney are as good as anyone else.

Moseley Folk Festival is now firmly established after only two years and its supportive Lunar Society events at the Cross Bar provide a platform for new Midlands talent.

You don't need to make that awful journey up the M6 to get folked.

Now, Town Hall and Symphony Hall have joined the revolution and announced a fantastic line-up of fresh and seasoned folk singers and songwriters performing at the English Originals Weekend Festival from April 25-27 2008.

Three concerts celebrate Englishness in all its diversity, paying tribute to the strong sense of place and identity that inspires and connects folk music across the country.

Unapologetically leftwing singersongwriter Billy Bragg opens the weekend (April 25) at the Town Hall with an evening of exploration, looking at his own English roots and performing songs from his new album Mr Love and Justice. Expect some special guests appearing on stage for a night of inspired musical offerings from the Bard of Barking.

Town Hall also welcomes the fresh sound of emerging talent with an evening titled Rising Folk (April 26), featuring Seth Lakeman, hot on the heels of his double 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award success for Best Album and Singer of the Year. A former band mate of Kate Rusby and Cara Dillon and now sharing a record label with KT Tunstall and Joss Stone, Seth is one of the rising stars of English folk.

Organic shape-shifting folk-electronica collective Tunng will also be performing, twisting familiar folk soundscapes with their unique blend of experimental production, live vocals and music.

Tunng's Good Arrows was one of last year's best, their third classic in a row.

More guests will be added to the bill soon. Exploring the rich tradition of English female song and singers, the festival presents a night called Daughters of Albion at Symphony Hall on April 27.

Promising a night of dark wit, interwoven with melancholy and passion, and featuring the talents of Norma Waterson, June Tabor, Kathryn Williams, Bishi, Lou Rhodes and Lisa Knapp, this is a great opportunity to let some of the finest female voices in this country take you on an exhilarating journey through English music traditions both past and present.

* Full details available at