Culture vulture

10th October 2003 at 01:00
A little old-time music hits the spot for teacher and banjo player Gail Williams

Musical influences

I've been involved in folk music for about 30 years. About 10 years ago I got into American old time music, which emanates from the Appalachian mountains. It was music taken there by settlers - Irish, English and some Scots. It all got thrown in the melting pot, so there are all sorts of influences, including black music and blues.

I love the pure sound of folk music. And it's sociable: if you can join in, you join in.

Favourite listening

Mostly folk and blues, sometimes jazz. I like Iris Dement and Gillian Welch (pictured). Their style is based on old- time but they write their own songs. I play five-string banjo and I love to listen to Tom Paley. He used to play with the Lost City Ramblers in New York in the late 1950s and early 60s but now he lives and plays over here.

Reading list

I'm reading George Melly's Rum, Bum and Concertina, based on his life in the Navy. I like music books: collections of songs and pieces around how and where they collected. For escapism I read Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels.

Best on stage

I've seen MIchael Frayn's Noises Off twice. I took my husband the second time. I thought he was going to burst a blood vessel laughing.

Best on the web

Those bizarre sites where people write down the lyrics of all the songs they've ever known. I don't know where they find the time.

Festival diary

I did some ballad sessions and a concert spot at the Sidmouth Folk Festival this summer. I usually go to the Whitby Festival in August and the National Folk Festival at Loughborough in April.

Treat in store

In January I'm going to see the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet's Swan Lake at the Royal Festival Hall. I've always wanted to go to a ballet, but never got round to it.

Gail Williams, 52, is early years co-ordinator at John Scurr primary school in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. She plays banjo and sings in pubs, folk clubs and festivals and is working on an album. She was talking to Karen Gold

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