Young musicians make history with first Friends of Towersey Festival awards

Billy Watman, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and Bella Gaffney
Billy Watman, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and Bella Gaffney

The Friends Of Towersey Festival have revealed the three recipients of their new awards to help emerging musical talent.

These are Billy Watman, an artist well-known in and around Thame and who lives in Princes Risborough, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and Bella Gaffney.

The awards aim to recognise emerging talent, offering artists whose practice broadly embraces roots, folk, jazz, blues, world and /or acoustic music developmental support and opportunities, including main stage appearances at Towersey Festival this year, which runs from Friday, August 24 until Monday, August 27.

Billy Watman is a 17-year-old Anglo-Brazilian classical / fingerstyle instrumental guitarist, inspired by the likes of Rodrigo y Gabriela, Tommy Emmanuel, Mike Oldfield and Paco De Lucia, and has been performing since the age of six.

Birmingham-based Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne is a singer and melodeon player whose solo material is rooted in the folk music of the British Isles. He was nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2014 - as one third of Granny’s Attic - and was shortlisted for the Horizon Award at the 2018 Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Award 2016 winner Bella Gaffney is a Bradford-based guitarist and songwriter whose songs are inspired by folk traditions. As well as performing solo, Bella also performs with quartet Bric-A-Brac and with Polly Bolton, as a Celtic/ bluegrass duo.

A trustee from the Friends Of Towersey Festival said: “We’re delighted to be offering all three of these exciting young artists our first Friends awards, which will help them develop their careers over the year ahead. Billy, Bella and Cohen are all exceptional, and very different, artists who are very much ones to watch.”

The Friends Of Towersey Festival is a registered Charity which runs independently from the festival. This new award will be officially launched at the festival, with applications for next year’s programme being launched in early 2019.

Towersey Festival is one of the UK’s longest running independent music festivals. Established in 1965, the festival has a long track record of supporting local causes, from championing numerous charities, including Thames Valley Air Ambulance, to offering artists performance opportunities. To date the festival has contributed almost £300,000 to local causes and young artists, and injects over £250,000 into the local economy annually.

This year’s festival features The Proclaimers, The Shires, Richard Thompson and Beth Orton and you can find out more at