A recipient of the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists in 2021, Rowan Rheingans is a composer and theatre-maker widely regarded as one of the foremost innovators in UK folk music today.
Best known for her work with acclaimed bands Lady Maisery and The Rheingans Sisters, Rowan has won two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (‘Best Original Track’ in 2016 & ‘Best Album’ in 2017) and is a six-times nominee. Her duo The Rheingans Sisters were nominated for ‘Best Group’ at the the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Dispatches on the Red Dress, Rowan’s debut theatre production, won a Scotsman 'Fringe First' Award at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as nominations in two other categories (The Filipa Braganca Award for Best Emerging Female Artist and the Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh’ Award).
An intimate and adventurous exploration of memory, identity, joy, sorrow, trauma-recovery, war and waltzes, Dispatches on the Red Dress tells the true story of Rowan's German grandmother's youth in 1940's Germany. With genre-melding fluidity, Rowan weaves immersive storytelling around 10 new songs (Rowan won 'Best Original Track’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2016 for her song Mackerel) performed live with fiddle, banjo, guitar and subtly inventive use of pre-recorded sounds.
In the current time of deeply felt political tensions and nationalistic fervour gaining pace across Europe, Dispatches on the Red Dress is a highly resonant and much needed historic provocation for our current political and social climate. Slowly revealing what is at once a warm family story and a troubling elegy on the modern human condition, Rowan explores how hope for the future may be found in the very darkest pockets of our history. It is Rowan’s most courageous, most political and most personal work to date.
Directed, produced and performed by herself, Rowan describes what show means to her personally:
“Hidden in the folds of my own grandmother’s story, there is a profound darkness alongside a deeply hopeful message about humanity’s capacity for transformation. It feels important, in our current social and political climate of half-truths and fake news, that sometimes feels akin to a dangerous forgetting or mis-remembering of history, to share my family’s story. It is about the peace-making potential of stories…"
Already celebrated by music critics as “an excellent songwriter with a fine grasp of the delicate balance of joy and pain that makes us human" (Folk Radio UK), Dispatches on the Red Dress takes Rowan’s songwriting and gift as a mesmerising performer to another level. This is adventurous and necessary new writing that asks fundamental and troubling questions with her characteristically ‘deep emotional charge’ (Louder Than War).
Developed in collaboration with dramaturg Liam Hurley (Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance) the live show brings the intimacy of a concert to meet the ancient traditions of storytelling and textures of contemporary theatre in a troubling, tender and powerful performance.
Rowan’s debut solo album, The Lines We Draw Together, is a companion to the live show and was released in August 2019, fast garnering critical acclaim from the folk and world music press. Songlines gave it the much coveted ‘Top of the World’ award while Folk Radio UK hailed it as “the pinnacle of her musical journey to date”. It was Folk Album of the Month at The Guardian, who called it “a handsome album, muscular... strangely powerful”.
“Classy anti-fascist art” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ — Edinburgh Festivals Magazine
“Sublime… celebrates family, nature and the ties that bind and goes on to pack a fierce political punch” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ — The Guardian
“Utterly spellbinding... and as the red dress’ true origin unfolds, the revelation will leave you quietly breathless” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ — The Scotsman
“vivid songwriting and composing… spectacularly beautiful" — Mark Radcliffe, Radio 2