Up on Cragside - turning energy into song

Singer, songwriter

Blair Dunlop - Singer, songwriter

Songwriter, singer and guitarist BBC Folk Award winner Blair Dunlop tells us what he loves about Cragside, which has a modern hydro system, and what drives him to care about the environment.

Nelly's Moss Lake, Cragside in Northumberland

How does a modern-day folk singer like you come to write a song about a Victorian Industrialist, and a National Trust site?

My mum volunteers at a National Trust property in Derbyshire; when I took her away for her birthday we headed north for our outing, and passed Cragside on the way. We only meant to stop there for some tea and cakes, but we ended up staying for hours.

It was amazing to learn about the history of the place. Sustainability is top of the menu even today, and Cragside was created by a Victorian Industrialist who had the same values, 150 years earlier.

Have you always been interested in the environment, and helping to protect it using green energy?

I’ve always been fascinated by it, but it doesn’t rule my life. Like lots of others though, I am absolutely concerned with the direction it is taking.

I never intended this song to be a political statement either. There are a lot of other songs of mine that are more socially charged. But I’ve always liked getting inspired by quite random, unusual things, and to find beauty in simple things. You never know what ends up inspiring you.

I had no idea that my visit to Cragside would lead to a song.  I love a good story though, and this one when I found it was a bit of a no-brainer for me. It is great that a story like that is shared and people know about it – there is so much to be really proud of about our heritage sites.

It’s great that you love Cragside; it’s a really unique site – any other places you love to visit?

I love Cragside yes, but I also really love the history of Chatsworth House; these places really fill me with pride. So together with Cragside, that property’s probably my favourite!

I’m doing a lot of travelling in Europe, and end up playing in these lovely, old locations with great history behind them. To be able to get to play in these really ancient places is just absolutely amazing. There is such great ambiance to them – it’s so important to keep and look after historic places like that.