CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today CLICK HERE

Nick Hennessey - Singer, songwriter, storyteller and self-taught harpist,

PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 August 2014 | UPDATED: 14:41 22 August 2014

Harpist, Nick Hennessey

Harpist, Nick Hennessey


Bowland Bridge resident has taken an unusual route to stage success

Harpist, Nick HennesseyHarpist, Nick Hennessey

A PhD in cultural geography isn’t the obvious route to the stage of the Albert Hall but it worked for Nick Hennessey. Although he didn’t finish the course, it mapped out a very different future for Nick, who is now 46 and lives in Bowland Bridge.

Nick has produced three solo albums, has toured and performed all over the world and has worked with internationally famous names such as Maddy Prior.

‘I came to singing through folk ballads and the stories passed down through generations because they’re important,’ he says. ‘I wanted to sing stories and when I’m on stage I move between song and spoken word.

‘I grew up in Alderley Edge in Cheshire, a place awash with legends, and that’s been the touchstone that inspired me to start. The place and the story are so connected and as a child I would run around between the trees and in the landscape.

Harpist, Nick HennesseyHarpist, Nick Hennessey

‘I am interested to find out what are the stories that matter to us now. I am continually trying to uncover stories.’

His own story is one of a comfortable upbringing in leafy Cheshire, the son of a research doctor father and a mother who worked as a management trainer. He finished his schooling at a boarding school in Bristol and stayed on in the city, working at theatres there, before moving back to the North West and a job at the Grand in Blackpool.

He also worked in local radio but always had an interest in the outdoors and the next chapter of his life saw him complete a rural studies degree. ‘I am very interested in the culture of landscape and how we relate to it,’ he says.

‘I started a Phd on cultural geography but never finished it and during that process I came across storytellers and I thought they were a lot more interesting then the Phd.’

On holiday in Scotland in 1996 he heard a harp and was so entranced by the sound he bought himself one and despite not being able to read music, he taught himself to play. ‘I never anticipated being able to play it properly, I make it up as I go along,’ he laughs.

Around that time he bought a British Rail canteen vehicle which had been converted and had a kitchen, a bedroom and a shower. He would live and travel in the seven and a half ton vehicle and would try to collect stories as he went.

‘I met a group of Scottish travellers who opened up their stock of stories to me. In the 80s the Company of Story Tellers pioneered the revival of story telling in performance and started to take it to schools and village halls and arts centres. I caught the end of that in the mid- to late-90s.’

Since then he and his harp have appeared across the globe at folk, storytelling, and literature events and won the world championship in epic singing, with a performance of the Finnish national epic the Kalevala. And he has continued to harvest stories. ‘I try to stay in touch with people and their lives,’ he adds. ‘There are stories everywhere, our lives are made up of stories. They are the currency by which we exist and our natural state is to share them.’

The happy ending for Nick was two-fold – not only did he find success as a singer, songwriter and storyteller, he found love. He met fellow storyteller Emily Parrish at a story festival and the couple married last month.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Having 10,000 students on the doorstep is helping this West Lancashire town centre to thrive

Read more

In 1972, a hoard of ancient silver coins was discovered in Prestwich. These days, they’re hoping to strike gold with an unbeatable mix of community, creativity and independent shops but for one craftsperson, silver is still the way to go.

Read more
Friday, October 12, 2018

Pendle Hill is one of the most iconic landmarks in Lancashire and you can enjoy the beautiful countryside, spectacular views and fascinating from a number of starting points in the Ribble Valley.

Read more
Pendle Hill Ribble Valley Walks
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our walks expert John Lenehan plots a scenic course that also provides a little Lancashire history.

Read more

Steps are being taken to bridge the divides that have grown between communities and made Blackburn one of the most segregated towns in the country.

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

With the countryside turning stunning shades of red and gold, this is probably the best time to pull on your boots and go for a heavenly hike.

Read more
Lake District Walks Autumn

There is always something surprising in this old Lancashire village which attracts visitors from across the world

Read more
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Many youngsters their age are content to play with their toys, but a Bowness brother and sister are happiest in their walking boots.

Read more
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Britain’s biggest independent flower show attracts huge crowds and the admiration of BBC celebrities

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When it was announced The Willow Garden Project in Fleetwood was to be the recipient of BBC North West Garden created for The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Tatton Flower Show, there were cheers all round.

Read more
Friday, September 21, 2018

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Meet some of the devilishly successful people who make this glorious Ribble Valley town tick.

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

The site was designated Lancashire’s first ever ‘Local Nature Reserve’ in 1968 and is also designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A striking sculpture attracts John Lenehan to this circular walk through some oustanding scenery.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Property Search