NHL - International Festival

October 26-28, 2018, the Folk House, Bristol, UK.

Some photos from previous festivals can be seen, right.

The 2018 festival webpage will gradually evolve as more details, such as the artist names, become available.


Following, once again, the huge success of last year's festival, we have organised another event packed weekend for every type and style of harmonica player. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, H2018 will be another unmissable event in Bristol with Rob Paparozzi, Susan Souter, Eddie Martin, Martin Brinsford and Mirek Salmon.

This, as always, will be a fantastic weekend with workshops, contests, shops, and an International Gala Concert. Once again the festival will be held at the very popular Folk House in Bristol with its concert room, licensed café and workshop rooms, the one drawback being its many levels and tight staircases which make it very difficult or impossible for anyone with physical disabilities.

In addition to the artists headlining the concert there will be other well-known artists taking part in activities around the festival. Some of the artists who have have been recently are Brendan Power; Gerry Ezard; Ben Hewlett; Lee Sankey; Viola Barends, Ben Bouman, Bertram Becher, Ed Hopwood, Paul Gillings, Keith Parker; and others ...

This page shows the overall organisation of the festival with details of programme, artists, shops, location, accommodation and transport. Just click the link just above to go to the desired area of the page.

It is time to book up your tickets and accommodation before the best gets taken. Remember, that previously the concert was a sell-out and some people who did not book in advance did not get in.

Introductory Video

... from the H2013 Festival Concert


Move cursor over image for details.

Pricing and Payment

  • If you want to pay by PayPal, go to the table just below and click appropriate 'Add to Cart' buttons as many times as are needed. Or you can pay by cheque by completing the application form and sending it with your cheque in £s, payable to the NHL, to David Hambley, 7 Ingleborough Way, Leyland, PR25 4ZS. Alternatively, you can reserve your tickets by contacting David Hambley so you can pay for them when you get to Bristol.
  • Please note, the PayPal 'Add to Cart' button expresses the cost as GBP which are in £.
  • The Weekend Day ticket gives entry to the Folk House and access to all the daytime activities/workshops/shops/videos etc., including watching the contest which take place on Saturday, but not the Saturday evening concert - NHL members & non-members £ 30.00 and Under-Eighteen £15.00.
  • Saturday evening festival concert - NHL members and Under-Eighteens £15.00 (Non members: £17.00).
  • Family ticket for the Sunday: £5
  • Concessions - NHL Members are entitled to pay for one additional family member/partner at the NHL Member rate.
  • The Contest entry fee is £5.00 for both NHL members and for non-members. Contestants must also purchase a Weekend Day ticket.
  • Contestants - please visit Online Contest Form to let me know the details of the music you intend to play, or alternatively, please email David Hambley details of each contest class entered, Name of Piece; Composer; Arranger; and Accompaniment wanted - the Online Contest Form is easier. Contest rules and information are on the contest webpage
  • Click here to open a new page with the festival workshops, contest and concert booking information and forms.

Educational Bursary

A part or full training bursary may be available to eligible applicants who can demonstrate that they meet specific criteria. Further details can be found by clicking here for a pdf version or here for an editable MS Word version.

Item NHL Member Non-Member Under-Eighteen PayPal Button
Contest £5.00 £5.00 £3.00
Contest Ticket
Weekend Day Ticket £30.00 £30.00 £15.00
Weekend Day Ticket
Saturday Evening Concert £15.00 £17.00 £15.00
Saturday Evening Concert Ticket
Combined Weekend/Concert £43.00 £45.00 £30.00
Combined Weekend/Concert Ticket
Sunday only - Family Ticket £5.00 £5.00 £5.00
Sunday only Ticket


NHL Member





Contest Ticket

Weekend Day Ticket

NHL Member





Weekend Day Ticket

Saturday Evening Concert

NHL Member





Saturday Evening Concert Ticket

Combined Weekend/Concert

NHL Member





Combined Weekend/Concert Ticket

Sunday only - Family Ticket

NHL Member





Sunday only Ticket


The programme can be read or downloaded here.

Friday 26th October

Folk House

  • Informal meet and greet night from about 7pm.
  • All help is greatly appreciated to ensure the festival runs as smoothly as possible so we hope as many members as possible will join us earlier to help set up the venue for the weekend activities, we will be there from early evening. Please contact David Hambley if you can help in anyway.
  • The Annual General Meeting will take place in the Music Room at 8pm. The move to a Registered Charity has increased the number of members required to be present to achieve a quorum to a greater number than we used to achieve. Any NHL member who cannot attend the AGM who would like to provide a proxy vote should contact the Secretary, David Hambley. We need your support. Dave will provide the background and answer any questions.
  • Following the AGM, at about 8:30pm, there will be jams in the Folk House - a blues jam with Phil Prowse and the Harpin' On Swing Blues Band and a free play session for chromatic players with backing tracks.
  • Come and enjoy the night, and meet the committee.

Saturday 27th October

Folk House

  • Doors open at 9.15am.
  • The contest will take place in the main hall on the Saturday, starting at 9:45am, contestants in the hall for 9:30am please. Contest forms can be found here.
  • There will be the usual wide range of workshops running through the day to provide invaluable information on all aspects of harmonica playing. Details can be found in the programme.
  • There will harmonica manufacturers with all the harmonica wares you need as well as the opportunity to pick up a bargain in the lunchtime auction.
  • The Saturday evening concert, which starts at 7:30pm and runs until 11pm, features NHL members and well-known artists Adam Gussow, Cristian Inostroza, Tom Byrne, Shima Kobayashi and Mathias Heise.
  • Sunday 28th October

    Folk House

    • Doors open for worshops commencing at 9:00am.
    • Workshops continue on Sunday morning as well as a contest in the Hall specifically for local Bristol and district children.
    • A Sunday afternoon concert follows where members, children and artists can all join in and perform.


    The views of Workshop Leaders are their own and not the responsibility of the NHL.


    We have three rooms dedicated to workshops on Saturday day and Sunday morning. The workshop topics will include the usual wide range wide of subjects to help and inspire you all! These will be for players of all ages and styles from beginner through to advanced; tuition covering all styles of playing; diatonic; tremolo; chromatic; classical; blues; melodic; jazz; and harmonica repair and maintenance. There will be a total of 26 workshops and 3 sessions covering these topics.

    The workshop programme for 2018 is in development so here is the previous, 2017, workshop schedule, which gives an idea of the workshops. Finalised details of the workshops will be included in the October/November issue of Harmonica World, due for publication in the first week of October.

    If you are a qualified workshop leader and would like to run/contribute to a workshop please talk as soon as possible to Ben Hewlett.

    H2017 Workshop Overview (contents are subject to change without notice)

    (Workshop duration is 1 hour) Click the link for full details of the Workshop schedule.

    Saturday morning

    Dave Taylor - all instruments session

    Come and play some tunes; all levels, all instruments, all styles, all welcome.

    Cathal Johnson and Maciek Zaworonek - All instruments workshop

    Learn some Irish tunes - A slow air - 'Innis Oir' in two positions and a mazurka - 'the Munster Cloak'.

    Ben Hewlett - Diatonic workshop

    Sonny Terry’s Lost John Using a recorded lesson with Sonny himself we will unlock parts of this amazing piece.

    John Cook - Diatonic maintenance workshop

    How to set up your harmonica to play just right for you. Covering just 5 simple techniques that anyone can do.

    Brendan Power - Demonstration

    For diatonic and chromatic, his latest mad harmonica inventions..

    Eddie Upton - Tremolo workshop

    English dance rhythms - traditional jigs, polkas, hornpipes and waltzes and how to make your tremolo playing rhythmic.

    Paul Gillings - Diatonic workshop

    Agility and Accuracy - improve the accuracy of your bent notes and move fluidly around the harmonica.

    Adam Glasser - Chromatic Diatonic and Tremolo workshop

    The future of Harmonica Tab.

    Lee Sankey - Diatonic workshop

    "Your Timing Sucks; Let's Fix It!" Learn to radically improve your timing using a series of exercises based on the last 4 bars of a 12 bar blues.

    Saturday afternoon

    Cristian Inostroza - Diatonic workshop

    Latin Folklore/Jazz, the workshop is about Chilean and Latin American music with a jazz approach.

    John Cook - Chromatic Maintenance workshop

    Tasks that chromatic players should be doing on a regular basis. The dos and don’ts of maintenance.

    Ben Hewlett - all instrument workshop

    Fat Tone? Do you want to sound better? Here are 27 ways to improve your tone.

    Tom Byrne - Chromatic and Diatonic potential workshop

    Simple to advanced techniques in playing traditional harmonica: breaking barriers in tune selection and execution.

    Shima Kobayashi - Chromatic workshop, TBC

    Performance preparation, come and see an 'open rehearsal' and watch how I prepare my pieces for tonight’s concert.

    Hugh Barnett - Diatonic beginners improvisation workshop

    Learn the basics of playing melodies and improvising along to blues. You need a harmonica in the key of C.

    Adam Gussow - Diatonic Workshop

    Ascending and descending, working up and down through the blues scale in two grooves, focusing on the riff for 'Checking Up on my Baby'

    Mathias Heise - Chromatic jazz improvisation workshop

    Different ways to play chords and harmonies on the chromatic harmonica.

    Dr Bertram Becher - Diatonic workshop

    Customising and setting-up blues harmonicas for advanced playing techniques like bending and over bending.

    Sunday morning

    Cristian Inostroza - Diatonic workshop

    Jazz Introduction. How you can introduce jazz techniques, theory/harmony, repertoire to diatonic harmonica.

    Shima Kobayashi - Chromatic workshop (TBC)

    Concert pieces reviewed. Come and hear me talk about the pieces I played on Saturday. I'll show you how I learned them from Tommy Reilly.

    John Cook - All instrument workshop

    Understanding Tuning. Breaking down the complex topic of tuning. What exactly is equal, just, 7 limit etc. and why is it important.

    Gerry Ezard - Chromatic workshop

    Comparing Chromatic Harmonicas.

    Marble Amps - demonstration

    Demo of the Latest Marble Amps products.

    Liam Ward - Diatonic Workshop

    Jug Band song study all levels: get tips and tricks on playing 'jug band-style' and delve into the tab for a classic track.

    Mathias Heise - Chromatic workshop

    Jazz improvisation. Different ideas of jazz improvisation including some handy 'shortcuts'.

    Dave Taylor & Chris Collis - Session

    Come and play some tunes; all levels, all instruments, all styles, all welcome.

    Tom Byrne - Chromatic and Diatonic workshop

    Learn Trad Irish Harmonica tunes with a focus on the use of standard chromatic and diatonic. Playing trad in original keys on C/C# chromatic.

    Adam Gussow - Diatonic workshop

    Overblows? Yes. Why every blues harmonica player, traditional or modern, should consider adding overblows to the toolkit.

    Dr Bertram Becher - Diatonic workshop

    Prepare for a Jam Session How you prevent nail-biting affairs on stage.

    Back to the top


    The NHL Player of the year contest in 4 solo classes (Chromatic, Jazz, Diatonic Melodic and Diatonic Blues & Rock) plus duo, trio, etc., classes takes place in the concert hall on Saturday 28th October. Contestants - please visit Online Contest Form to let me know the details of the music you intend to play, or alternatively, please email David Hambley details of each contest class entered, Name of Piece; Composer; Arranger; and Accompaniment wanted - the Online Contest Form is easier.

    Another alternative is to download a hard copy form. Click Festival Application form, for this including contest details, and Festival Information leaflet, with more details of the contest classes, can be downloaded by clicking these links.

    The contest page gives more details, including rules and names of previous winners.

    Adjudicator - we are fortunate to have an experienced adjudicator - David Beer - from the Federation of Festivals to officiate at the contest. He has a lot of experience of youth music and has been involved in a wide range of music styles, West End Theatre and touring productions. David has produced a 'Tips' sheet to give guidance in what is expected of contestants in the various classes. This can be downloaded from here. More details can be obtained from David Hambley.



    Steve Proctor of Sutherland (Hohner) and Howard Johnson from Suzuki should be showing their product range. All this is in the upstairs shopping rooms.

    Seydel will be present in force again and their room will have a full product display as well as their repair clinic, where you can check the state of your harmonica with Lars Seifert, Dr Bertram Becher and Jamie Dolan.


    Our Auctioneer will lead the very successful lunchtime auction on Saturday, so bring your cash or cheque books and pick up a bargain.

    If you have any CDs, music or equipment etc. which you would like to donate for the auction, you can always email Bren Hewlett in advance to let him know. We need your money to run events like this, so dig deep.

    Venue and Location

    The two and a half day festival will take place at the Bristol Folk House, telephone 0117 926 2987, a popular Adult Education Centre in Bristol. It is a multi-level building at 40a Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5JG, a hundred yards north of the Cathedral, in the centre of Bristol. It has a concert room, a licensed café and half a dozen workshop rooms. Liz at the Folk House café is looking forward to seeing us again. She confirmed they will be serving food throughout the weekend, and that the bar will be well stocked as usual. The main entrance is through a short passage between two shops on Park Street, a lively shopping area. There is limited on-street parking, but cheap all day parking on Saturday and Sunday in the Trenchard Street and West End multi-storey car parks.

    The Friday night Blues jam will be held in the Concert Hall and Chromatic jam in the café.

    Disabled access

    The one drawback of this otherwise excellent venue is its many levels and tight staircases which make it very difficult or impossible for anyone with physical disabilities.

    Bristol is a great location, as everyone found who attended last year's festival. It is easy to get to being adjacent the M4 and M5 motorways; it has a handy railway station on the main west coast line and has its own easily accessed airport, go to “Getting There” for more details. There are lots of things to enjoy - click here for information about Bristol for tourists. The old docks area has been refurbished and brought alive again. The new interactive "At Bristol" development complements the old streets, pubs, restaurants, churches, museums, and restored old sailing ships. There's a lot to do, even for non-harmonica players. Why not make a weekend of it?

    Getting There

    Bristol has a compact city centre and is very easy to reach by motorway (it is close to both the M4 & motorways), coach, rail and air. If travelling by train the station is 'Bristol Temple Meads'. Or why not take advantage of the cheap flights into Bristol airport from both the UK and European airports?

    Coming by train? - The buses from the station to the city centre, whether the hotel or the Folk House, are mostly from across the street at the bottom of the road, running left to right. The numbers are X39, 379, (First Bus) 349 on (abus). The Numbers 8 and 9 run to and from the Station approach about every 10 minutes, depending on the time of day. The main stop to ask for is Baldwin Street, but some of the buses go on up to College Green, which is better for the Folk House.


    Bristol has accommodation of all types to suit all budgets, but don't delay in booking as the best goes very quickly.

    For reasonably priced accommodation there is a YHA, telephone 0117 922 1659, and the Bristol Backpackers, telephone 0117 925 7900 in the city centre, both from £17 per night. The Bristol Tourist Information Centre, telephone 0906 711 2191, has details of B&Bs.

    There is a Travel Lodge, a Holiday Inn Express, and the Ibis Hotel, Harbourside in the town centre usually at £50 to £60 a night.

    Here is a great list of hotels for all budgets put together by the Folk House.

    These days you can check out the Air B&B discounted accommodation scheme, you do not have to spend a lot.

    If you want a Luxury Hotel, our suggestion is The Bristol Hotel, (was Jurys), Prince Street, Bristol BS1 4QF. They are holding some rooms for us at special prices - £ 102 B&B and a room for two adults at £ 112 B&B (twin bed or double room) - you must book by phone and quote National Harmonica League Visitor. It is about half a mile from the Folk House, telephone 0117 923 0333. This is the main festival hotel, where the artists, committee and most members meet up before and after the festival events at the Folk House.

    Walk Bristol Hotel to Folk House

    Another first class hotels with excellent facilities is the Mercure Holland House Hotel and Spa, telephone 0117 968 9900, located between Temple Meads Station and the City Centre close to the Folk House, prices from £79.

    We have also negotiated substantially discounted rates for 2016 with the Clifton Hotels. Simply quote 'NHLFEST' when booking online or over the phone at any of their 5 properties to access discounted rates. Properties in the group are: Berkeley Suites, which are a 7 min walk to The Folk House; the Berkeley Square Hotel, which is 7 min walk to The Folk House; the Clifton Hotel, which is 15 minutes walk to The Folk House; the Rodney Hotel, which is 25 minutes walk to The Folk House; and the Washington, which is 15 minutes walk to The Folk House.

    Parking is available at each of the hotels and is charged - £7.00 per night at the Berkeley Square and either £6.00 or £6.50 per night at the other three, non-reservable. As a direct booker you will receive free wifi and a discount in their restaurants.

    Remember hotel room rates can change according to demand, so you might be able to negotiate a better price.

    Back to the top