Gigspanner Big Band and Raynor Winn

"Last year I met an amazing group of musicians. Individually they have remarkable musical histories, but they’ve come together to form The Gigspanner Big Band. They had a suggestion, an idea of a collaboration. Their wonderful reimagining of traditional songs and tunes collected from the south west coast path, alongside some new words from me.

So I did what you do when faced with a big decision - I thought about it for 5 minutes, then said yes, absolutely yes. How could I turn down the chance to work with names that light up the folk music world?" Raynor Winn ~ Author of The Salt Path

The Salt Path is Raynor Winn’s Sunday Times best-selling memoir of walking the South West Coast Path in its entirety. Her walk was an impulsive response to unexpected and life changing circumstances.

The Salt Path has sold over a million copies worldwide, winning global praise for its 'against all odds' uplifting message and frank exploration of the reality of homelessness, facing up to terminal illness and also for Raynor's stunningly beautiful descriptions of the natural world.

Whilst walking a stretch of the South West Coast Path, it occurred to Deborah Knight, Manager of the Gigspanner Big Band, that such a well-trodden path must hold many more stories of loss, love and the natural world. Perhaps these stories could be found in the form of traditional songs and tunes that have been left behind and saved for us due to the diligence of song collectors such as Cecil Sharp (1859 to 1924) co-founder of the English Folk Dance & Song Society and Sabine Baring Gould.

Her hunch was correct, and research has thrown up a multitude of songs from this beautiful geographical location. It has proved to be a rich seam of songs to be mined.

This seed of an idea developed into an exciting collaboration between Raynor Winn and The Gigspanner Big Band, and the resulting Prose and Music performance SALTLINES has recently completed its debut tour of venues around the route of the South West Coast Path. It has without question been a resounding triumph, with standing ovations following every performance and a deluge of messages from people who were moved and inspired by the power of the performance.

Saltlines is far more than a contemplation of the beauty of the South West Coast touches on issues that face not only coastal communities but the world at large. It is a modern piece, thoughtfully and creatively delivered. In the words of one review:

"The music, the poetry, swirl around each other, sometimes one unaccompanied by the other, sometimes alongside each other. The emotion and passion raised by both is great. Many times I found myself thinking about what I'd heard. It's not a performance that either pulls its punches or telegraphs them. Life can be a bitch and it can be a celebration, that's what makes it such an adventure.

Coming in two halves the show really brings emotion into play, creating a rollercoaster of thoughts and feelings, with hope being the one that you feel you are carrying the most when it's time to head home. This is a show that has real impact, if you get the chance, take it. "Saltlines" definitely hits that nail on the head. This is a blend of music and prose people will be talking about for years." Fatea Magazine

In the wake of the debut tour, there was an outpouring of emotion from many people who had been profoundly moved by this  extraordinary piece of performance art. Here are just a selected handful of those...

"Simply perfect. Unbelievably emotional. One hell of an evening"

"Sublime; what an evening. We were taken on a journey through sound and words which wove a kind of magic around the auditorium. Crashing waves and quiet ripples, you could almost smell the sea"

"Quite simply one of the most exquisite, breathtaking, hauntingly beautiful and life-affirming performances I've ever seen. Thank you all so much."

"Powerful, thought provoking, seamless and blessed with the flow of brilliance. Libretto perfect, musicianship perfect. Quite astonishing".

"A truly magical experience, it will live with me for a long time. Thank you all"

"An extraordinary gig at The Minack Theatre. It just might have made a grown man cry"

"SALTINES was truly off the scale. Completely carried away by the beauty, sensitivity and pure artistic genius of the whole performance"

"Quite simply one of the most exquisite, breathtaking, hauntingly beautiful and life-affirming performances I've ever seen. Thank you all so much."

"It was a phenomenal performance - I can feel tears just at the thought of High Tide. I feel so privileged to have experienced Saltlines in Lyme Regis. Congratulations to you all and I will definitely book for later in the year"

"We were at the Ilfracombe concert where every moment instantly opened the heart and spirit to the wonders and beauty around us, no matter what burden we carry. These are exceptional concerts, with exceptional people. Music I've waited all my life to hear.... THANK YOU"

"Saw Saltlines last night. It was utterly sensational. I was in floods of tears throughout"

"I cried for the first 10 minutes and I've no idea why. Thanks to all of the Saltlines ensemble for making my year"

SALTLINES is now poised for its October walkabout of eleven theatres beyond the South West Coast Path, a tour which will celebrate the release of a double album of the entire show, recorded during the debut tour in July.

Tour Dates:

Pre-order the Saltlines Album:

The Gigspanner Big Band are a unique force in British folk music...

Their high-energy, virtuosic performances appeal equally to traditionalists and to those looking for something more experimental, and they have garnered praise from publications as varied as fRoots, The Telegraph and The Wire, where they were described as ‘melodically folk-rooted yet open and innovative beyond the constraints of genre’

Beginning life as a trio - with legendary Steeleye Span fiddle player Peter Knight being joined by percussionist Sacha Trochet and guitarist Roger Flack - the line-up has been expanded to form the Gigspanner Big Band, with acclaimed multi-instrumental duo Edgelarks (Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin - BBC Folk Awards 'Best Duo') and Bellowhead co-founder and melodeon player extraordinaire, John Spiers, joining the fray.

As collaborations go, it doesn't get much more mouth-watering than this.

While Peter Knight, as part of Steeleye Span’s classic 1970s line-up, helped invent a brand of folk rock that is still influential today, John Spiers has had an equally profound impact on the landscape of traditional music over the last two decades.

Characterised by riotous inventiveness, technically gifted individual playing and subtle collaborative interaction, this coming together of several of the biggest names on the folk-roots scene, combines a deep knowledge of roots traditions with a ceaselessly boundary pushing approach. 

Taking self-penned material along with music rooted in the British Isles and beyond, with the flick of a bow, a finely chosen chord or slip of a beat, they produce richly atmospheric arrangements layered within a wealth of subliminal musical influences “with notes seemingly plucked from the stars and rhythms from the equator” Spiral Earth.

Unsurprisingly, the superlatives have come thick and fast...

"With the Gigspanner Big Band, Peter Knight has assembled a group of musicians intent on making some of the most important and exhilarating art ever to sit under the banner of folk music"


"True creativity speaks to the heart and entertains the mind with fresh ideas and images, and what brilliant entertainment this is. Knight has a knack for identifying the essence of a tune or song, pulling it apart and presenting it back to you in a way that surprises and refreshes. Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry simply make sublime music that has an otherworld of undercurrents and motifs woven through it. Put them all together and some alchemical magic occurs”

Spiral Earth

"What a fabulous team they make, together producing a startlingly new musical form with few, if any, antecedents, even within the hallowed world of prog and folk-rock. The flights of musical fancy are staggering in their natural invention"

Fatea Magazine

Raynor Winn

Raynor Winn

Raynor Winn is a long-distance walker and writer; her first book The Salt Path was a Sunday Times bestseller in 2018.

Winn and her husband Moth, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness called corticobasal degeneration, became homeless after a bad investment, and decided to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path.

The Salt Path was shortlisted for the 2018 Wainwright Prize, and the 2018 Costa Book Awards in the biography category. The judges described it as "An absolutely brilliant story that needs to be told about the human capacity to endure and keep putting one foot in front of another."

In May 2019 The Salt Path won the inaugural RSL Christopher Bland Prize. In September 2019 it was the number one bestselling book in UK independent bookstores.

Winn also writes about nature, homelessness and wild camping. Her second book Wild Silence was published by Michael Joseph in September 2020, and also became a Sunday Times bestseller.

The Tour Dates

October 2022

October 19th Truro, Hall for Cornwall

October 20th Plymouth, Quad Theatre

October 21st Winchester, Theatre Royal

October 23rd Tunbridge Wells, Trinity Theatre

October 25th Hastings, St Mary in the Castle

October 26th Maidenhead, Norden Farm Centre for the Arts

October 27th Yeovil, The Octagon Theatre

October 28th Farnham, Farnham Maltings

October 29th Teddington, The Landmark Theatre

October 30th Aldeburgh, Jubilee Hall

October 31st Milton Keynes, The Stables Theatre

Get Involved: Sign up for the latest news and updates

Loading... Updating page...