Biography: James Bar Bowen? Who?

Acoustic folk-punk singer songwriter

Original songs to make you laugh, cry and rage

I am an acoustic folk-punk singer-songwriter, guitarist and story-teller. I have performed my songs all over the world (as far away as New Zealand, as near to home as my living room in the North of England). I play mostly my own self-penned songs, and also run songwriting and performance workshops. As a political poet and songwriter, I engage with many big political issues (migration, racism, climate change, gentrification, economic injustice) as well as more personal and individual perspectives on life, love and language. I perform with passion, humour, fury and a wry smile, always seeking to engage audiences old and new with what are essentially original and varied folksongs performed with a punk rock attitude.

This is the information I send out to prospective promoters, gig and festival organisers etc.:

“James Bar Bowen is an original acoustic folk-punk singer songwriter from the north of England. His poetic and thought-provoking songs tell personal and political stories from a variety of perspectives, with an enthusiastic (and at times even optimistic) engagement with bigger social, political and philosophical ideas.

Playing an individual guitar style (rhythmic strumming, flat-picking and finger-picking) combined with a powerful, evocative and individual voice, a James Bar Bowen concert is a striking combination of intelligently worked lyrics, engaging melodies and dynamic atmospherics (from gobsmacking to goosebumps, sensitive to singalong, heartfelt to humorous).

Deeply rooted in punkrock culture and antifascist politics as well as folk traditions of the British Isles and beyond, James Bar Bowen is a charismatic perforkes you on a journey deeper into the heart of poetic songwriting and entertaining musicianship – and there are even a few laughs to be had!”


I have been performing solo and in bands for all my adult life, concentrating in the last 15 years on solo performances (with occasional tours and gigs as a duo with Sam Bell on accordion, a trio with Sam plus Mac on fiddle, and a trio with Dave Alley (guitar) and *Lott* (double bass) in New Zealand. I have done many hundreds of gigs in bars, pubs, clubs, squats, churches, trams, trains and gardens as well as squatted trailer parks and anti-fascist benefit and anarchofolk gigs and festivals across England, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and the Balkans. In November/December 2018, I toured New Zealand for the first time since 2006, and returned to NZ again in October/November 2019 for a 20 date tour of both North and South Islands.

In June 2014 I toured the USA (Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California) with Ryan Harvey (though this was cut short by a car accident in Eastern California), and March/April 2016, I gigged in New York City, Delaware, Pittsburgh and New Jersey, USA (along with Johnny Campbell and numerous other great musicians).  Mostly based and performing in Western Europe, I am always on the lookout for interesting and unusual gig opportunities.

In June and July 2019, I was on tour solo (Sweden and Germany with Vraket, Jonas Selander and Roberto Andrés Zamora Figueroa; Germany, Czech Republic and France with Jacopo de Nicola and the JBB3 (me, Mac and Sam) among others…) And then I played at the Anarchofolkfests in Wolimierz, Poland and Dublin, Ireland

For a comprehensive list of where I have been over the last few years (since 2011):

And to see where I am going in the future:


As well as performing gigs, I run songwriting and performance workshops, believing wholeheartedly in a DIY ethic coupled with a dedicated professional attitude as a way to develop new, independent and original music and musicians beyond the confines of the throwaway and conservative music cultures so prevalent in the mainstream.


In February 2019, I finished the recording, mixing and mastering of my latest album (The Lie of the Land), which is a ten track album of band arrangements of seven of my songs (‘The Butcher’s Apron’, ‘The Irony Monger’, ‘A Pyrrhic Victory’, ‘Break My Fall’, Everything Changes’, ‘Little White Lies’ and ‘De Vloek’) plus a version of Jacopo de Nicola’s ‘Multitudes’, the late Ste Kenwright’s ‘Standing’ and a new version of ‘Bella Ciao’. You can have a listen to it here, and even buy it, if you are so inclined: It is also available to listen to on a variety of other platforms, although I would advise that if you wish to support me as an artist, just listening to my stuff on-line does not benefit me financially in anyway, as most streaming services require thousands of listens before we, the artists, receive a penny.

I have a number of older recordings, most recently a split 8-track EP Eurotour 2017 (with Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Jacopo de Nicola), “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” (2012), “Heresy and Hearsay” (2011), and EPs “Brass Tracks” (2012) (featuring the Bar Bowen Big Band), “A Normal Day” (2010) as well as radical hand-printed teatowels and upcycled t-shirts and other fairly-traded, non-plastic ‘merch’.

I have performed with many luminaries of the radical folk, DIY and punk scenes and I am always looking for new and interesting places to play for new and interesting audiences.

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